How to transfer your website to Websavers

This guide will show you how to transfer your website to a Websavers shared hosting plan or one of our Canadian VPS with Plesk. While certain parts of it may apply specifically to the configurations used by Websavers, the guide should work for any other web host using Plesk 12 or newer.

Want to save yourself some time? Check out our SiteMigrator service!

Transferring your website can be a lengthy process, and although we suggest trying it out, if any of the following is confusing to you or you’d rather simply save yourself some time, check out the Websavers SiteMigrator service! Simply order SiteMigrator and we’ll take care of ensuring your website is transferred so you don’t have to. SiteMigrator is even included for free with some of our hosting plans! Details here.

Things you will need:

  1. FTP and control panel (often Plesk or cPanel) login details for your old host. If you cannot find your FTP login details and your old host uses Plesk you can reset your FTP password by following these directions. Alternatively you should check with your old host’s control panel and/or knowledgebase to learn how to create a new FTP account for use during this transfer.
  2. The login details for your domain name registrar (e.g: GoDaddy, Gandi, Network Solutions)
  3. You may require an FTP app for your computer. Check out our guide for help selecting an FTP application. Although you can transfer some web apps without using an FTP app, even in those instances it can be handy to use a local app to confirm certain settings.
  4. Your destination web root (on our end). If your primary domain (the domain you selected during your order) isn’t the one you are transferring, you should Login to Plesk and add the domain. When you add the domain, it will indicate what your web root folder is called — keep an eye out for this! If you will be transferring content to your primary domain, then the web root in Plesk on our end is called “httpdocs” — this is important to know.

Step 1: Website Hosting

Start by determining what website content you will require. If your site uses a web application that is found within our 1-click web apps utility (like WordPress) then proceed with Option A. Otherwise, skip to the manual transfer steps: Option B.

Option A: I use a web app like WordPress

If you will be transferring a website built on WordPress, Magento, Joomla, or another web app that is available within our 1-click web apps utility, proceed to our guide that will show you how to automatically transfer a WordPress site. (It works for other web apps too!)

That guide will show you how to use our 1-click web apps utility to take care of transferring the website files and database for you. Although the guide shows you how to do this with WordPress, the steps should be quite similar for any other application found within Installatron. Once you’ve completed the transfer using our 1-click web apps utility, you can move on to the “Preview your site” section below.

Option B: I will be transferring manually

It’s OK if you’re not using a web application found in our 1-click web apps utility (Installatron) to power your site, but that does mean you’ll need to copy over the content manually. Your website content will consist of either just files or files and a database. There’s two good ways to find out if you’ll need to copy a database as well:

  1. Check your current host’s control panel and look for a list of databases you might have. Although it’s possible you have databases in the panel that aren’t in use, you may still want them for historical data, so copying over any databases you see there may be beneficial. That said, if you have multiple websites, those databases might be for other sites that you’re not copying.
  2. Transfer the site files, then use one of our methods of previewing your site to see if it works. If you require a database, it will likely be providing a database error.

Website Files

First you need to find your web root — the location of your website’s files at your current host. With cPanel hosts, this is usually the “public_html” folder and with Plesk hosts this is often a folder named “httpdocs“. The web root can be different for each web host and certainly for each website you have under your account, so you might need to check in your control panel to find the location where each website’s web root resides. Usually wherever your domains are listed, it will show you the web root.

  1. Login to your current host using FTP or SFTP, navigate to the web root, and download the files to your computer.
  2. Login to your current host’s control panel and use the File Manager utility, navigate to the web root, then compress/zip/archive your website content into a single zip file and download that to your computer.

To upload your files to your hosting with us, you should first make sure the destination folder / web root (at the destination this time) is empty or your site might not appear to work since our hosting panel puts in a friendly placeholder page when an account is created.

Then you can upload your files in one of two ways:

  1. Use your FTP client to connect to your new hosting account and upload your files into the web root folder. If you’re not sure how to do this, take a read over our guide to FTP here.
  2. Alternatively you can use the Plesk File Manager to upload your files! No FTP app necessary. Simply log in to Plesk, choose “File Manager” then click on your web root folder in the list on the left. If you don’t already have all of your website files on your computer within a zip archive, you should zip them up, then drag and drop the zip file into the webroot. After uploading the zip, choose the option to unzip the file from within the file manager to extract all files within.

Website Database(s)

If your website is running on WordPress, Joomla or just about any other web application, or if your website was custom developed on a framework like Boostrap, most of the actual content of your website will be stored in a database and you will need to be sure to obtain a ‘dump’ (backup) of this database if you wish to transfer it over.

To obtain the database, login to your current host’s control panel and look for a utility called phpMyAdmin, DB Web Admin, or more generally anything that indicates it will do a database backup or dump for you. Once you’re within the backup tool (or phpMyAdmin), look for a Backup or Export option and save it as an SQL file or a compressed file (sql.tgz or sql.tar.gz).

More detailed instructions on exporting databases, particularly from Plesk, can be found here.


To upload your database to Plesk on our end, we have a handy knowledgebase article to help you import your database dumpfile right here! Just follow the directions within and your database will be set up on your Websavers account.

Although it mentions this in the KB article already, it bears worth mentioning again. If your database name, username or password have changed during the transfer, you will need to update your website files to ‘inform’ it of the change. Wherever the application stores the database connection information, you will need to update it to the new details. For example, WordPress stores this information in the wp-config.php file and Joomla stores it in the configuration.php file. Most applications will use a similarly named file with the word config in the filename.

Preview your site

Now that you’ve completed the website transfer, check over your website to ensure it’s working well using one of the options found in our website preview guide. If all is well, proceed with updating your DNS A record to ensure the website becomes live with us.

Website A record (DNS)

This step describes changing singular DNS records that apply only to your website and not email.

It’s important to do this as soon after the website content has been transferred as possible, particularly if you have a site that changes frequently (comments, eCommerce orders, blog posts, etc). If you do not do this immediately after the transfer, the content on your site may become out of sync and you’ll likely be forced to re-transfer everything.

Section B, Part 1 of this guide to pointing your domain name to your Websavers hosting describes how to do this.

In the following cases you can skip this part and move directly to Step 3 (which will update *all* DNS records at once):

  1. If you plan to keep your email hosted where it is
  2. If you do not operate email addresses *@yourdomain.com
  3. If you have already archived/saved your email to your computer, you can skip this step and head directly to Step 3.

Step 2: Email Hosting

 If you prefer to keep your email hosted with your current provider, or if you do not host any email accounts on the domain you are transferring, you can skip over this section and proceed with Step 3

Creating Accounts

Start by creating each of your email accounts in Plesk. You will want to set up a new mailname for each account you had on the old server. You can also set up as many aliases as you like. For example, you can have a mailname like john@websavers.ca as well as aliases like johnny@websavers.ca, jon@websavers.ca, etc. so that they are all delivered to the same box.

If you wish to use a mail app on your computer, phone, or tablet, you can configure that now. Use the matching guide for your mail app or our email configuration reference guide to learn how to do this. If you already had your email account set up on your device(s), add the new account and either label it NEW or label the existing one OLD so you can easily differentiate between them. Once Step 3 is completed below, you will need to remove the OLD mail account from all devices.

Saving Emails

Email stored on the server cannot be easily transferred directly to your new hosting account, so instead we’re going to show you how to save the messages to your computer.

If you’re already using a mail application on your computer to access your email (not webmail), determine whether you’re using POP or IMAP to access your emails by checking the account settings within your mail application. It should show an “Account Type” or “Connectivity” option somewhere where it will say IMAP, POP, or POP3 (the latter two are the same thing).

If you’re not currently using a mail application on your computer to access your email, you should consult your current email hosting provider’s mail configuration documentation and use that to set up an email application like Apple Mail or Thunderbird. If you store all of your emails in your inbox, then it’s simplest to use a POP connection to save your emails to your computer. If you wish to save mail folders as well, then you should add the account using an IMAP connection, assuming your mail host supports it.

Saving Emails Using POP

If your email app is using POP to retreive your email then your mail application has always been downloading a copy of all messages to your computer rather than synchronizing them with the server. This means that you only need to ensure the latest messages have been downloaded from the server by cliking the ‘Get Mail’ or ‘Send/Receive’ button in your mail app. Then head directly to Step 3 to complete the necessary DNS changes to make your domain live with us.

Saving Emails Using IMAP

Use our guide to arching mail locally to learn how to identify server-side folders, create local mail folders, and save your server-side messages to the local folders. Rather than only archiving older emails, you will want to select all emails in each folder and drag and drop them to local folders.

If you wish to preserve the same folder structure rather than dumping all messages into a single “Archive” folder, you can create a new matching folder under your local storage for each server-side folder, then select all messages from the server-side folder and drag and drop them to the local folder. Repeat this process for each server-side folder that you see such as the Inbox, the Sent folder, Drafts folder, etc.

Once you have downloaded all email to your computer, you’re ready to proceed!

Step 3: DNS Hosting

 If you opted to keep your email where it is (perhaps with your old host, or possibly with Google or Microsoft), you will need to both disable mail and adjust the DNS mail (MX) records within Plesk to ensure they continue pointing to the current email hosting provider. Here’s a handy guide on how this is done if your email is hosted by Google / Gmail. For other mail providers, if you’re not sure how to do this, just let us know who your current mail host is and we can provide you with instructions.

Currently all requests for your domain name are being handled by the old host’s server. Since you have moved over your website and saved a copy of all emails, it’s now safe to tell your registrar to point all those requests to your new Websavers account instead. Changing the name servers is the simplest way to accomplish this. Our guide to pointing your domain to Websavers will show you how to do this under either Section A or Section B part 2.

If you opted to move your email hosting to us, now is the time to remove the OLD email account from your computers, tablets, and phones.

Step 4: Domain Name Transfer

Transferring your domain name registration is optional, however by having your domain with us you will take advantage of better support and having just one control panel to manage your entire web presence.

Details on transferring your domain can be found here.

Having trouble with a particular portion of the transfer?

No problem! Open up a support request through the Client Centre with the details of your difficulties and we’ll be sure to answer as best we can. Make sure you include the link to this article, the step you’re having trouble with, any errors you are receiving and a description of what you were expecting to happen that did not occur. We won’t complete the transfer for you unless you’ve purchased our SiteMigrator service, but we can certainly give you some tips if you’re having trouble.

Jordan is a computer, security, and network systems expert and a lover of all things web and tech. Jordan consults with project management for software companies. Jordan is a founder and managing partner at Websavers Inc.