The introduction of WordPress (and other CMS’s) in the early aught’s really started to narrow the accessibility gap that was keeping non-techie laypeople from building and maintaining their own website. With WordPress’s famous 5 Minute Install (back in the day), combined with server management interfaces like cPanel, Plesk, or HSphere, even a luddite could install, configure, and maintain a WordPress website with relative ease. And it’s even easier today with software like Softalicious offering automated installations of CMS’s like WordPress.
These types of usability evolutions often have a lot of benefits. One of the obvious benefits of our march towards the over-simplifying of web technologies is that it gives more control to those who would otherwise have to pay someone to build them a robust, functioning website. Small businesses, non-profits, and other such organizations and individuals don’t have to drop a couple thousand on a website designer. For less than $100 in hosting and other fees and little to no technological know-how, anyone can build an attractive, templated WordPress website and get on to the important task of running a business or whatever. That’s Great! …. until it’s not.
The Ever-Looming Potential For Folly
This is also potentially catastrophic for those who don’t know that what they think they know they don’t really know. The deceptively techie process of sitting at your computer and clicking some buttons, filling in some fields, watching progress bars, clicking some more buttons, and installing some plugins often leaves the uninitiated layperson feeling pretty geeky, like they have just rewritten the Linux kernel. And while the accomplishment of learning an inherently scary task like something technological is well worth your time, it is always important to realize that for every button you click, there are a thousand processes happening that you don’t see. And the less you know about Internet processes, the greater the chance you can cause irreparable damage to your website.
Never is this lesson put in sharper focus than when dealing with something like migrating your WordPress website from one host to another. Even with spectacular plugins like All-In-One WP Migration, there is lots of room for headache, heartache, and failure. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t attempt to do something like this on your own. Failure is the stepping stone to great accomplishment and I am a champion of everyone accomplishing great things. But, if you are thinking of migrating your WordPress website to a new host on your own and you are not a Internet professional, there are 2 golden rules you need to know.
The Two Web Migration Golden Rules
When migrating your website to a new host, these two rules are absolutely crucial, and the first one is the cornerstone to every technology task you ever perform.
- Always Backup
- Always Leave A Way Out
Backing Up Data is really THE MOST IMPORTANT thing any tech pro can do. No matter what you’re doing, no matter what your working on, no matter how long you’ve been in tech, and not matter how certain you feel, backing up and keeping multiple copies of versions of data is gospel. BACKUP BACKUP BACKUP BACKUP BACKUP!
As it pertains to migrating a WordPress website you should obviously do a complete backup of the WordPress core files, posts, pages, comments, plugins, themes, etc. prior to migration. Basically everything that is contained within WordPress including your entire database. You should also backup your entire web folder. Server panels like cPanel usually have a directory backup function.
Always Leave A Way Out. Have you ever heard the saying, “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry”? No matter how much you plan for a migration you should always safeguard the original state of the website in case you have to back off and start again.
There are 2 things that you should do that will allow you to easily regress to your original server account if something goes catastrophically wrong with the migration. First, and most importantly, DON’T DELETE YOUR OLD ACCOUNT. It sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised. Even after a migration is complete, things can go wrong. Keep your old account accessible for a few weeks after a migration so you can easily change DNS back if need be.
Second, lower the TTL on your DNS record to 10 minutes (If you don’t know what TTL is, then you’ll need to ask your DNS host, they should be able to help). Lowering your TTL ensures that if something goes horribly wrong then it only takes 10 minutes for your DNS to switch back to your old site, thus minimizing your downtime. Default TTL times are usually set somewhere between 3 and 24 hours.
Did I Mention Backup?
While it is almost always my suggestion to hire a pro when you’re dealing with something like Internet tech, especially if your website if crucial to your operation, I certainly understand the need to conserve finances. If you go it alone just remember that the most fundamental safeguard against calamity is to have a complete backup of your data.