You`ve heard the horror stories, and lived through your own: web hosting providers that didn`t live up to your expectations. Reasons often stated for switching hosting companies include - additional features not available, technical support not able to quickly solve problems, billing irregularities or over billing, and most importantly for the majority of web hosting customers: poor email performance.
If you have had it with your current hosting provider, and you`re ready to transfer hosting companies - here are a few things to think about to make the transition a smooth one.
1. Backup EVERYTHING you want to take with you - I know that you already perform regular backups of all your site data, right? Right? (Sigh) - well at the very least, you absolutely MUST back up everything that you expect to have access to after you drop your hosting service.
Do not make the mistake of forgetting to copy some files, designs, graphics, databases, or emails prior to discontinuing your current hosting service. Otherwise you will find that once you are no longer a customer, all of your data is wiped clean to make room for paying accounts.
2. Make certain that your new host supports all your current software and services - Many customers switch web hosting providers in order to gain access to enhanced features or software. Even so, you need to put together a checklist of core software and services that you must have to keep your site running smoothly. If you are running any scripts or calls that are written in a certain version of software, make sure your new provider carries that version. At the very least, make absolutely certain that critical systems such as shopping carts, merchant accounts, payment gateways, ecommerce software, and databases are fully compatible with you new provider`s systems.
3. Research your DNS settings ahead of the transfer - One fundamental step in transferring your site to a new web hosting provider is going to be to change name servers for your domain. Don`t wait until the last minute to investigate and understand this process. It is a change that must be made with your registrar of record. It is common to change hosting providers, but much less common to change registrars. Therefore, it is possible that your DNS changes will be made with a registrar account that you rarely access or have reason to administrate.
Therefore, be sure you know where your domain name is registered before moving the account. If you`re not sure, find out where your domain is registered by doing a `whois` lookup prior to switching. A great site for looking up your domain`s information is www.whois.sc. This lookup will tell you where your domain is registered, and where your name servers are currently pointed.
Access your domain registration account prior to moving and read up on the process to change your DNS. Also investigate on your new host`s site - and find out where you will need to point your DNS to resolve to your new hosting provider. Both of these pieces are absolutely critical for transferring your web site.
4. Perform an online background check on your top candidates - You would never hire a new employee without checking their references and background. It should be the same for a new web hosting company. Use online resources like www.Google.com to research potential new web hosting services. Type in search terms like `problems with newwebhostname` or `technical support problems with newwebhostname`. You can also refer to online review and ratings sites like www.HostSearch.com which contains a searchable database of web hosting companies, or www.WebSiteHostDirectory.com which sorts top hosting companies into categories for easy analysis.
5. Mystery shop your new hosts` technical support - It`s a fact that every web hosting provider lists as one of their core competencies "top level technical support". So if every company claims to have great, fast, available, expert support - how do you know if they can really deliver? Why not try calling their support line? You can see how long it takes for someone to actually get on the line with you. You can also have a tricky pre-sales question or two ready to ask. Possibly you can ask if they support the latest versions of the software you`re using. I would even suggest calling the support numbers at different times of the day - once during peak hours, and once during a slow time like the middle of the night. Make certain that you`re comfortable with both the courtesy and the technical competency of the support staff - because they`re the ones that you`ll be talking to if you ever really need help with your web site.
6. Look for a money-back guarantee - Many hosts are currently offering a free trial period or a money-back guarantee. This is your assurance that you can get out of the deal if your hosting company doesn`t perform. Be certain to actually read the terms of the guarantee before you sign up. Some hosts require that you request your refund after you drop the service - your money is not automatically sent back to you.
7. Ask for a special offer - In the highly competitive business of web hosting services, each customer sign up is precious. You will often see special offers listed on the company`s web site or in advertisements. Unknown to each buyer is the fact that sales people are often given "extra special offers" to close sales of customers that are right on the edge of buying, but are resisting. The special offers are designed to close the sale.
Make sure that you ask for each and every special offer they can give you. You have nothing to lose, and you may find that the offer that`s being given today is fairly generous. But you won`t know unless you ask. Don`t be shy about getting the best possible deal - it could save you real money over the long haul.
The decision to transfer your web hosting can be a difficult one - but once you`ve decided that a change is in order, take the steps to ensure a successful transfer. You`re transition to your new web host will be easier, you`ll experience less site down time, and hopefully you won`t have to make another web hosting change for a long, long time!