Wednesday, April 24, 2013

How NOT to transfer a site to a new hosting

As part of my freelance work I build and maintain a few websites. Drupel, Wordpress, etc.

Yesterday evening the content editor to one of the sites called me and said they are moving to a new hosting and the new server guy (which I later found out I knew from previous work) told her "The server is empty and she needs to copy the data. How do I do that?"
This was the first I heard of the switch, or even that the client was unhappy with his former hosting.
A quick conference call brought the following alarming details to my understanding:

A) The company decided to move hosting.
B) They already chose a new hosting, server type and everything without consulting me.
C) They already moved the domain to the new server.
Yes, when I went to the address of their site it showed an empty server page.


Since the server was empty, and they of course have no regular backup for the site, I had to go get all the info from the previous server.
I was assured things were ended well with the previous hosting company and they will be more than happy to give me a file and database dump so I can hastily push it to the new server, maybe even push it by themselves via their fast internet connection. However, a call to the company made me understand that not only things didn't end well. Things didn't end at all! The previous server guy wasn't even aware that they moved to a new hosting and took the domain away!

He was not a happy camper after that.

I understood that the only way to get all the site's data was download all the files by FTP and do an mySQL dump by phpMyAdmin.
I tried to login to the server, but the url was no longer pointing to the old server, but the new one. And since the old server switched IPs a little while ago I did not have the new IP. So it was impossible to get the data out. At that moment the previous server guy decided to close his phone so no IP for me.

I started uploading an old backup I had, just so the site would have something, but since it was by FTP it took a few hours during the night to upload. At the morning the previous server guy decided to answer, he gave me another mouthful about how we unjustly dumped him without notification (I agree with him, it was a nasty thing that the company did, and I made sure they apologized afterwards) and the correct IP. So while I was working at another place FileZilla spent the better part of the morning downloading the data from the old server, and when I got home it spent the better part of the evening uploading the files to the new server.

Now all is well, after the site being down 2 days.
I just hope the company learned how not to make such a switch in the future.

* In case you were wondering, the RIGHT way is: Setup new hosting (without switching domains). Setup site on new hosting. Use hosts file to make things as identical as possible. Freeze any new changes on old site. Make sure new site is updated with old site's changes. Switch domains. Check (don't forget to revert hosts file).


  1. It surprises me just how many guys there are with quality blogs like yours that just seem to have zero posts from the world wide web? wtf is going on?
    Makes me even wonder if it is worthwhile starting a blog where I can appear as unimportant as I really am?
    My point is, thanks for these tips to look out for, although I would not do a thing as stupid as the said company in this post (nor would have such little amount of people skills and only half a brain cell). If anything your read proved to be entertaining. Its healthy to read that I am not the only one that is met by sheer stupidity on a daily basis. Thanks

  2. Thanks for the comment Jarmez, the lack feedback does indeed get frustrating from time to time. But every once in a while a comment will come that will make it worth it :)

    Regarding starting your own blog, I highly recommend it. Even just as a notepad for your thoughts and experiences. I referred to some of my posts many times when I encountered a problem I didn't remember the solution but I remembered posting about.