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4 Tips to Avoid a Disastrous Website Migration

Posted on by Andrej Walilko | Updated:
Home > Blog > Migrations > 4 Tips to Avoid a Disastrous Website Migration

If you run an online business, at some point you may need to migrate your website and data to a new server – a daunting process for some. However, migrations don’t have to be difficult or painful and properly preparing for a migration is the first step toward success.

With Liquid Web, our Managed Hosting can take the load off your back and make life easier by assisting you during your migration every step of the way.

There are many reasons why you might need a server migration. Some of the most common reasons people migrate to a new host include:

  • Increasing and Fluctuating Web Traffic: This might require you to make the move from a traditional dedicated server to a more scalable cloud dedicated environment.
  • A Need for a More Trustworthy and Reliable Support Team: Having someone at your hosting provider available 24/7/365 for any issues or questions is critical during a migration.
  • Downtime: There’s few things more harmful to your web business than your website being down.

No matter why you’re migrating, preparation is key. Migrations can be complicated and, if not done correctly, they can result in a significant loss of traffic to your site during the migration process.

Getting ready for a website migration? Download Your Complete Migration Checklist.

The below data migration process has been recommended by our highly specialized Support Team and will help make the process as smooth as possible.

migration steps must include the initial sync, testing, and final sync phases for a complete data migration

1. Understand the Data Migration Process

Our expert team has nearly two decades of experience with website migrations; we know that migrating your website and data from one server to another is an extremely involved and delicate process.

To combat this, we’ve developed a set of thorough, time-tested procedures specifically to prevent data from being lost or overlooked.

The three main phases in our migration process are: the initial sync phase, the testing phase, and the final sync phase.

Initial Sync Phase

During the initial sync, our team will access your ‘source server’ (the old server that you are migrating away from) to check and compare software versions between the two servers, identify data that needs to be collected and moved, and move it to the ‘destination server' (your new server) once any necessary changes to the server environment are made.

In this phase, DNS records (the files that relate your domain name to a particular IP address) are identified and TTL values are lowered.

TTL stands for “time to live”, which dictates how long to save a particular DNS record and how soon it should be updated. Low TTL values, i.e. 300 seconds, will assure that traffic to your domain name will be redirected quickly and properly to the new IP address once the final sync is complete.

Testing Phase

This testing phase is vitally important. Before the migration is finalized, you have the opportunity to view your data as it will appear on your new server.

It’s important to look through your entire website(s) comprehensively to verify that everything looks and behaves as it should.”

The technicians assisting with your migration will certainly do their own testing, but because you are the most familiar with how the website should operate, you will be the person most likely to spot any errors that need to be fixed and issues that need to be addressed.

Final Sync Phase

In the final phase, our technicians will re-sync your data from the source server to the destination server again, in case any data has changed since the initial sync.

We take steps to make sure that any data that may have been willfully changed on the destination server, in order for the website to function properly on the new server, will not be replaced.

During this phase, DNS records will be updated to officially make your new server live. The DNS change might need to be completed by you, depending on who controls the DNS and has access to the registrar. This is something our technicians will work with you to confirm during the initial sync and testing phase.

Keep in mind that during the migration, the technicians will need root-level access to both the source server and the destination server, as well as any control panels such as cPanel or Plesk.

The average data migration process takes between 2 and 5 days from a server with cPanel to another server with cPanel if the user completes the testing phase quickly and assuredly.”

This time frame can vary widely based on:

  • The amount of websites being migrated
  • The data being migrated
  • The link speed between the two servers
  • Issues found during the testing phase
  • Overall complexity of the migration

It will take longer, for example, if one of the servers isn’t cPanel and websites need to be moved off cPanel or onto cPanel. Having similar setups as well as up-to-date software will help keep the migration time to a minimum.

Migrations can be lengthy, but with our thorough procedures and attention to detail, we can ensure a successful migration.

data migration process must include backups

2. Back Up Your Data

Before beginning any sort of migration, be sure to create and save backups of your entire site configuration to an offsite location.

While problems aren’t likely to arise, you’ll sleep well knowing that you can easily and quickly restore your site from a backup in the event of an issue during the migration. This is especially important if you’re migrating due to instability on your old server.

Having secure backups are guaranteed to make the whole process a lot smoother and give everyone peace of mind. Of course, we recommend regularly backing up your data even if you’re not about to go through the data migration process.

Be sure to follow our best practices for data backups!

3. Know Your Server

It’s important to be well-versed in your website and server prior to a migration.

Audit your server content to uncover any duplicated files or outdated information that you may not need to move. In addition, you should take this time to identify the most valuable aspects of your website and any unusual configurations. Because migrations are so complex, identifying which parts of your server are the most important to your business can help the technician ensure a successful move.

Parts of your server that you will want to call attention to include any third-party apps or software that aren’t part of a standard web server setup. Third party apps can be difficult for technicians to find when performing migrations.

Letting technicians know of these third-party apps or software ahead of time can eliminate potential problems that would otherwise cause major issues.”

You may provide this integration information to the technician via a form that will be sent to you prior to the migration. This form will also ask for other important information such as source server login information, target server configuration, current and desired nameservers, and any extra information or special requests.

data migration process must include testing to ensure accuracy and working correctly

4. Testing During and After Migration

Continued testing is an important part of any migration. Testing will occur both during the migration process and after it is completed.

Issues found during the migration will be fixed as they are discovered, which may delay the estimated completion time for the migration. This is normal and to be expected and it is especially important that you carefully and thoroughly test your website or application in addition to the testing the technicians will do.

Only you know exactly how all aspects of your website should look and behave and this insider knowledge will give our technicians a leg up on the migration process if you are able to test and identify problematic areas.

Testing is one of the most important phases of a server migration. There aren't any foolproof methods or shortcuts for preventing issues and errors. Testing should occur both before the final sync and after to double and triple check everything is correct and working properly.

Migrations Can Be Painless and Smooth

Migrations are notorious for being both complex and fraught with potential problems, but with the Most Helpful Humans in Hosting, we can help make this a smooth and painless process. With our collective years of experience and highly skilled technicians, we can help you avoid a disastrous migration and get your website(s) up and running on your new server as quickly as possible.

Download Your Complete Migration Checklist.
Datasheet - Migration Checklist
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About the Author

Andrej Walilko

Andrej Walilko (RHCE6) is a seasoned Linux Administrator, and he is a Migration Project Manager at Liquid Web, developing specialized processes for complex migration types. He enjoys doing woodworking, home improvement, and playing piano in his free time.

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