How to transfer your website to Websavers

This guide will show you how to transfer your website to a Websavers hosting plan. While certain parts of it may apply specifically to the configurations used by Websavers, the guide should work well 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 recommend trying it out, if any of the following is confusing to you or you’d rather simply save 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.

WordPress (and other web apps): If you will be transferring a website built on WordPress (not a WordPress.com blog, but from another web host) or another application that is available within our 1-click web apps utility, be sure to check out our guide to automatically transferring WordPress installations. Our 1-click web apps utility, powered by Installatron, will take care of a lot of the heavy lifting for you! Once you’ve completed the transfer using our 1-click web apps utility, come on back and proceed through just the “EMAIL” portions of this guide if you wish to move your email hosting to us as well.

Things you will need:

  1. Your FTP and control panel (often Plesk or cPanel) login details for your old host. If you cannot find your FTP login details, you can reset your FTP password by following these directions.
  2. The login details for your domain name registrar (e.g: GoDaddy, Gandi, Network Solutions)
  3. An S/FTP Application. Check out our guide for help selecting an FTP application.

Step 1: Gathering all content on your computer

Start by gathering your content from the old server and storing it on your computer. There are usually three types of data you will need to complete the transfer; files, databases, and email. Feel free to skip over email if you don’t wish to transfer email hosting to us.

FILES

To save your website files, login to your current host using FTP or SFTP and download the files to your computer. Often you will find these files within a “public_html” folder or a folder named “httpdocs”, which, regardless of the literal name, is referred to as the web root.

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.

DATABASES

If your website is running on WordPress, Joomla or just about any other web application, 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.

EMAIL

If your wish to keep your email hosted with your current provider, you can skip over this section

Email stored on the server is the one type of data that cannot be easily transferred to your new hosting account, instead it can be backed up to your computer. The simplest way to save it is through POP, but there are options for IMAP users as well.

If you’re not sure if you’re currently using POP or IMAP, check 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).

Currently using POP?

If your email account(s) are already configured to use POP 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 prior to making the final DNS changes described below.

Simply click the ‘Get Mail’ or ‘Send/Receive’ button in your mail app before proceeding with the DNS changes to make your new account live, and the latest emails will be downloaded to your computer.

Currently using IMAP?

Firstly, you will need to identify which mail folders are stored on the server and which are stored on your computer. Check within your Mail application’s sidebar, where it lists your accounts and folders. You should see something like [account name] followed by some folders and [on my computer] or [local folders] followed by a list of folders. All folders under [account name] are usually stored on the server as IMAP folders (called server-side storage) and all folders under [on my computer] or [local folders] are stored locally (called local storage) on your computer’s hard drive.

Complete the following steps to save all your email to your computer:

  1. Drag and drop your server-side mail folders (all folders under [account name]) to local storage. If your mail program does not allow copying entire folders, then you will need to instead repeat step 2 for each of your mail folders.
  2. Create a new folder under your local storage called “Old Inbox”. Go to your actual inbox where all new mail is delivered (under the server-side storage), select all mail within the folder and drag and drop them to your local storage “Old Inbox” folder that you just created. Repeat this process for the Sent folder and Drafts folder if you wish to save them as well. If you were unable to complete step 1 above, then you will want to do this for all other server-side storage mail folders as well.

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

Note: the exact instructions for saving your email locally differ for every mail application, so I’m afraid we are unable to provide a precise guide for doing this.

Step 2: Uploading Content to your new account

FILES

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!

To upload your files to your hosting with us, you can:

  1. Make sure the destination folder is empty or your site might not appear to work; our hosting panel puts in a friendly placeholder page when an account is created.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

DATABASES

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 application that makes use of this database.

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.

EMAIL

If your wish to keep your email hosted with your current provider, you can skip over this section

Login to Plesk and choose “Mail”. From here you can add new mail accounts. 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.

Once the name servers for your domain are updated (as shown in the next step), your email applications will need to be updated to connect to the new server by applying the email configuration for your Websavers hosting to your mail account.

Step 3: Complete the Transfer / update Name Servers

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 pointed to the old host’s server. Since we’ve 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. Here’s how:

  1. Login to your registrar’s control panel.
  2. Look for an option called “Name Servers” that will have a minimum of 2 fields. Typically there are 4-5, but they could extend all the way up to 10.
  3. Remove all entries you see in name server fields and fill in the Websavers name servers as shown in your Client Centre account. (Login and choose Manage beside the hosting plan that you added the domain to). For example, those hosted on the server Basil will use ns1.websaversdns.com and ns2.websaversdns.com

The name server changes can take as long as 48 hours to complete in all locations, so you’ll need to be patient! Once the name server changes have updated everywhere, visiting your website should result in the exact same site as on the old server, but being hosted from your new Websavers account.

If you want to test to be sure you’re seeing the site on the new server, upload a test.txt file to your httpdocs folder with something in it like “We’re live on the new account!” and visit yourdomain.com/test.txt in your browser. If you see the welcome message, then you’re now reaching the website on your Websavers account, if not, then your local DNS hasn’t updated just yet. Give it a bit more time!

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 company 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.