Monday, August 3, 2009

Data Miration Requires Careful Planning

Website Migration:

Movin' On

Unless you’re a fully-registered chiphead, chances are you don’t have a clue about moving your site from one web host to another. So, despite shoddy service, unacceptable downtimes and the fact that you’ve been hacked twice, you stay with your current web host. Why?

Because the prospect of site migration has all the appeal of a root canal. So many things can go wrong. It’s going to hurt. You’ll get stressed out. You’ve heard the horror stories (web myths) of sites simply disappearing from Google SERPs, or disappearing altogether, floating somewhere out in the ether.

Well, migrating an active, fully-functioning, income producing business from one web host to another is a serious step and yes, there can be “problems.” Compatibility issues, connectivity issues, even editorial issues. Some web hosting companies refuse to take business from the “adult entertainment” industry, for example. So yes, there are concerns about migrating a site and yes, you should be concerned.

Dissecting a Website

If you’ve been up and running for a while, and you sit down each morning and log on to your administrator’s console, you may have lost sight of the fact that a commercial website is actually a collection of different “modules” designed to work in sync.

So, you have a database. MySQL perhaps? That’s one component. You have a shopping cart and secure checkout like osCommerce. That’s another component. You maintain an active blog. Yet another component. And syncing up all of these modules, so sales are automatically recorded in the database, for example, has been a generational process. No doubt, you’ve added features, changed the look and maintained other iterations of your current site, but it all happened gradually – over a period of months and even years.

To migrate your site successfully, you want three things:

- seamless transitioning from one web host server to another

- complete and accurate functionality

- a strategy

A Seamless Transition

The objective is a seamless transition from one web host server to your new host’s server. It should happen in the blink of an eye. Unfortunately, if you haven’t checked for software and services compatibility, your site may be down for a day or two. Maybe a week or two while you switch over to software compatible with your new host.

If this is your business, any down time is wasted time. Okay, if you’re down for a day, no biggie, right?

But if your site is off the radar for a couple of weeks you’re going to lose sales, future sales and, if you happen to get spidered while your site is down, you’re likely to get slammed by search engines. In one case a page 1 Google link dropped to page 32 of the search engine’s results pages because it was down for two days so a seamless transition isn’t a luxury. It’s a must have.

Complete and Accurate Functionality

In developing your migration strategy, provide time for complete testing of your site on the new server. Glitches may be found that require some adjustment to the underlying HTML code, or the presentation layer. You want to discover all of these problems before you launch through your new web host.

A Strategy

To ensure the seamless, fully-functional site you have now remains fully-functional and looking good, use the resources of the web host. What, the host doesn’t offer assistance with site migration? Then, this is not the web host you want. The better web hosting companies will not only help you develop your migration strategy, they’ll actually help you affect the migration when you’re ready to throw the switch.

A Couple of Obvious But Critical Points

  • Always consult with client services at your new web host. Be prepared to describe the components currently in place.

  • Back up your entire site six ways from Sunday.

  • The data in your database will have to be moved. Back up this data separately.

  • Keep your current site active during this planning stage.

  • Recreate your site on the new host server and test for everything from browser compatibility to server access though the new administrator’s dashboard. Stress test the new site.

  • Once you’ve determined that all systems are go with your new provider, throw the switch. Take your original site off-line as you bring your new site online.

Work with the professionals at your new web hosting company to ensure that all data is transferred and properly secured at the server level, and to ensure that the migration of even the busiest commercial site is seamless, delivers 100% functionality right out of the gate and that all potential migration problems have been identified and mitigated before the launch of the new site.

Quality hosting is based on the premise that if your online business is successful, the web hosting compnay will become successful as its ever-expanding client base remains on line and profitable. So, these web hosts WANT to help you be successful.

Sure, site migration is fraught with potential dangers if handled in a slipshod fashion. But, if you work with the techs at your new host – experts who should be more than happy to provide all the hand holding and technical assistance required to enable that seamless transition – it can be virtually painless.

Consider the service you receive now from your provider. If it doesn’t exceed expectations, don’t let site migration web lore put you off. Working with client support, you should expect and receive that seamless, fully-functional migration and never miss a beat with customers or search engines.

Just starting out? Looking to change hosting services? NP. Drop me a line and let's do this the smart way.

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