The Art of Website Migrations

website migrations
As a web hosting company we move around tons of websites all the time. The most challenging migrations happen when physical datacenter locations are changed. On such occasions we transfer upwards of 300TB of data. It usually travels over the wire, but we have also physically moved server machines and literally transported websites by the truckload!

Another massive migration event is when we update our infrastructure, and move all our customers to a new platform (for example when we introduced the LXC infrastructure last year). We do this every other year, so that all our users’ websites can always take advantage of the most innovative solutions.

Yet there is another kind of website migrations, that seems more humble at the surface, but is actually extremely important for us, because it has been happening every single day since we started our company. This is the transfer of new customer websites that come from another host. We believe that this “welcome transfer” is an art of itself and here I will share how we have mastered it.

Practice Makes Perfect

We provide free website transfers as part of our onboarding service since day one of our company. Currently we receive more than 3000 migration requests each month. The accumulated experience is tremendous and you can bet that our team has come across and solved (almost) any possible problem that can appear during a website transfer.

We know the pitfalls of the process of all the popular hosting providers, from which we see incoming users. For example, sometimes even the otherwise straightforward cPanel transfers can be made tricky by hosts that use a specific file structure. Being aware about such issues, we always manually go over the accounts of these users, and fix several things so that the website can start working flawlessly on our infrastructure.

We also have an extensive list of important things to be checked for all popular applications like WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, etc. when they are being moved to a new server. For example, some of the hosts that accommodate WordPress only, make crucial changes to the wp-config.php files of their users, which, if not reverted, may prevent the website from functioning on another platform. These include adding custom rules that will not work on a new environment, or including a closing php tag at the end of the file. Another thing we always check are the file and folder permissions. If they are not set right, this can result in an error on the front page of the website. The MySQL connection settings are also very important, and we check them with extra caution, so that the site does not continue to try to use the previous server MySQL, after the transfer.

One Procedure to Rule Them All

The things mentioned above are just a small fraction of what we do when a website is being transferred. There are multiple other things that should be done and checked, depending on the particular host from which we make the move, the availability of a cPanel backup, whether we have SSH access or FTP only, if the transferred site is WordPress or another application, etc. To make sure all customers receive the same high quality of the transfer service, we have created an extensive procedure that is followed by all our transfer specialists and is being continuously updated. It also includes the activation of our own cool systems like application autoupdater, SuperCacher, etc. And to add a classy finishing touch, we even scan each website we transfer for malware as part of the procedure.

Because a Good Start Matters

We want the best for the start of your journey at SiteGround, so we’ve worked hard to make our onboarding process quick and hassle free. While the above is just a summary of the magic that goes on behind the site migration, in essence it’s what leads us to the sweetest moment, when we can finally say - Welcome to SiteGround.

Marketing Director

I have been with SiteGround since it was born and it has always amazed me to watch this company grow and develop its unique personality. My rewarding and challenging job is to help SiteGround communicate its strengths in the best way possible, learn from its mistakes and become a better person, oops, I meant a better brand!

50 Comments

  1. Reply September 8, 2016 / 06:32 PaulSiteGround Team

    Very cool insight into some of the backend systems and approaches you guys use. 3000 migration requests per month! Wow - and it all looks so smooth from here at the front 🙂

    Keep up the really great work - I always recommend SiteGround as the top host to anyone who asks. Thank you for being so good!

    • Reply September 9, 2016 / 01:09 Hristo PandjarovSiteGround Team

      Thanks Paul! Glad that you're happy with our services!

  2. Reply September 8, 2016 / 09:16 Jaswinder KaurSiteGround Team

    Glad to know that Lilyana Yakimova, you're with siteground, since it started and now it is growing with wings!!

    I am happy my site Ease Bedding is with Siteground , means safe and secure.

    • Reply September 9, 2016 / 01:17 Lilyana YakimovaSiteGround Team

      We are glad to have you here, Janswinder!

  3. Reply September 8, 2016 / 09:40 JohnSiteGround Team

    Hello, I keep getting this promotional email, however when I asked your colleagues regarding domain transfer, I've been told that I'm not eligible, due to fact, that I'm not a new customer... And today I got this promotional email once again.

    • Reply September 9, 2016 / 02:23 Kiril HristovSiteGround Team

      Hi John,

      The email states that with every new account you get the promotion benefits. As an existing customer, you can purchase new accounts from your User Area and until the September 11th deadline, they will get the promo benefits. Accounts purchased outside of the promotion run dates do not receive the benefits. Thanks!

  4. Reply September 8, 2016 / 10:40 AlvinSiteGround Team

    I noticed that after the migration completed, it appears that the whole sql database file from previous host is kept/saved in the root of the website. I would strongly encourage SiteGround to keep this backup database file into an unique folder to prevent any exploits.

    • Reply September 9, 2016 / 01:29 Hristo PandjarovSiteGround Team

      Hey Alvin,

      We always delete all dump and content data or leave it in a transfer folder outside the document root directory for backup / check purpouses. It seems that this was a leftover missed in the clean up process. Thanks for pointing this, we'll do everything possible to avoid this from happening in the future.

  5. Reply September 8, 2016 / 12:13 ValentinSiteGround Team

    Are you also considering to redesign your logo? (the written part). Serif or even handwritten Fonts are not 'state of the art' in modern webdesign. Also Google changed his logo after using the previous one over years. Sure that there is a long tradition and values associated with the current one. But anyway a new font could symbolize values such as clarity, transparency, clear structure e.g.

    • Reply September 9, 2016 / 01:27 Lilyana YakimovaSiteGround Team

      Hi Valentin,

      thanks for sharing your thoughts on our logo! You are right that there is a reason, why we use this handwritten font. It has been created by our own designer and is in line with one of our main values -- that we have the attitude of old time craftsmen in a highly technological industry, and we do a lot of things ourselves. This is a very unique thing about our company, and that is why this font was chosen.

  6. Reply September 8, 2016 / 16:58 John CameronSiteGround Team

    I have been with Siteground for a long time and I am a big fan.

    However, I do use one other hosting company and I would like to move off them so that everything is hosted by Siteground. In the past, the two things that have stopped me migrating off that other host are:

    1. my historical emails - which are very important to me and I don't want to lose.
    2. my Subversion repository which is located on the host

    You don't specifically mention either of those above.

    • Reply September 9, 2016 / 01:14 Hristo PandjarovSiteGround Team

      Hey John,

      If your other hosting account is cPanel based we will be able to do a full transfer of your emails too. Otherwise, you will have to re-create the email boxes on our end and sync them through your application for example.

      As to your other question, we support GIT on our shared servers but not svn.

  7. Reply September 8, 2016 / 21:01 Stephen PazyraSiteGround Team

    We have moved our corporate site 1-800-bakery over to you last year with no problems. So now we are going to move my retail site La Patisserie Bakery over also.

    • Reply September 9, 2016 / 01:31 Hristo PandjarovSiteGround Team

      That's great Stephen! We will be happy to host all the sweet stuff you have for us 🙂

  8. Reply September 8, 2016 / 21:22 John TitiSiteGround Team

    Hi,

    I have a website hosted in Joomla 1.5 with Yahoo Web Hosting. If you migrate, will you be also upgrading the CMS from Joomla 1.5 to Joomla 2 or Joomla 3? Please reply.

    • Reply September 9, 2016 / 01:11 Hristo PandjarovSiteGround Team

      I am afraid you will have to get a developer for this task since it's not an upgrade but more of a migration because of the big differences in the versions.

  9. Reply September 8, 2016 / 22:09 UsamaSiteGround Team

    I love SiteGround and I will always recommend you, folks!

    • Reply September 9, 2016 / 01:31 Hristo PandjarovSiteGround Team

      Glad you're happy with us!

  10. Reply September 14, 2016 / 07:33 Michael H ChaseSiteGround Team

    I also always recommend SiteGround to all my students and clients. And you are right, Migration is a art!

  11. Reply September 14, 2016 / 08:51 Friedrich-Carl SassSiteGround Team

    I love you service. The day you will comply with German and European data protection laws, I will be glad to run my wordpress customer projects on your servers. For the time being I use siteground as my prefered development environment.

    • Reply September 15, 2016 / 02:09 Angelina MichevaSiteGround Team

      We really appreciate your high remarks for our service because they are coming from a development professional. We will be happy to address your concerns about compliance with German and European laws if you provide specific details in a ticket via out help desk system.

  12. Reply September 14, 2016 / 11:24 RubenSiteGround Team

    Hi!
    Do you just migrate websites or other type of platforms too? Like E-commerce sites (PrestaShop, Magento, etc...) or CRM systems (Like Vtiger)?

    • Reply September 15, 2016 / 01:37 Daniel KanchevSiteGround Team

      Hi, Ruben. We do migrate all types of applications including PrestaShop, Magento and vTiger. Please note that according to our terms a website migration is the process of moving a website from one server to another. If you want us to move your data from vTiger to WordPress for example I am afraid that we'll not be able to do this for you.

  13. Reply September 14, 2016 / 13:05 Craig BassSiteGround Team

    Love you guys! I'm so glad that the instructor of a class I took in community college recommended you (and it wasn't Michael H. Chase, so you know that there are other instructors who also recommend you)!

  14. Reply September 14, 2016 / 13:14 Will MontgomerySiteGround Team

    My clients have hosting packages with many different companies. While I've seen a few companies with decent service, none of them compare to SiteGround's service and hosting speed for WordPress. Especially with advanced sites with videos in a portfolio area...SiteGround is much faster.

    When I use SiteGround for my staging platform, clients love it, but when they move to their own hosting sometimes they're disappointed with the other company's speed. I have to tell them they should have used SiteGround!

    I've also found that for migrating WordPress sites, using the All-In-One Migration plug-in is a life saver. It takes care of all the little changes required automatically. Also upgrading to the Dropbox option is well worth it because you don't have to download and re-upload to the new site (upload is generally where I'd have issues.)

  15. Reply September 14, 2016 / 13:30 PaulSiteGround Team

    Hi, First I like your logo! Also your support is great especially when I deleted 99% of my shopping cart products!

    With migration do you do Magento 1.9 to Magento 2

    And

    Would you do a migration of an announce running a custom shopping cart written in perl using PGP encryption from another hosting company to yours?

    Thanks

    • Reply September 15, 2016 / 01:35 Daniel KanchevSiteGround Team

      Hi, Paul.

      A migration according to our website migration terms is the process of moving a website from one server to another server. Upgrading a Magento 1.9 site to Magento 2 is not part of our services. My advice is to check the official documentation for more information how to upgrade your existing Magento site:

      http://devdocs.magento.com/guides/v2.0/migration/bk-migration-guide.html

      We also do not offer development services and we'll not be able to migrate your custom shopping cart written in Perl to Magento. However, we'll be glad to host your site once you manage to migrate the data!

  16. Reply September 14, 2016 / 16:37 Becca MornSiteGround Team

    SiteGround is a little on the pricey side, but so very much worth it. Over the years and even decades, I'd had websites and domains scattered all over the web. After some very bad experiences with my last hosting provider, I needed to find a new home for my online data. Finally, I have nearly everything under one roof.

    The migration process couldn't have been smoother, too. Saved me a ton of time and effort. Only suggestion I can make is it'd be nice if there were more promotional offers, including for us existing customers -- like 'renew now for X years and get an extra year free' or similar.

    • Reply September 15, 2016 / 00:55 Angelina MichevaSiteGround Team

      Thank you for the great comments and the suggestion for future promotional offers.

  17. Reply September 14, 2016 / 17:27 LindaSiteGround Team

    I am always recommending that my clients use SiteGround and they have all followed my advice - I love reading this post and it will help me to explain even better to my clients why they should migrate their sites to your service! Thank you!

  18. Reply September 14, 2016 / 23:26 Peter HaggstromSiteGround Team

    I have been with Siteground for over 10 years and it has worked flawlessly all that time as far as I am concerned. I was originally recommended to Siteground by an IT specialist who worked with me in a global asset management business and I have never looked back. I regularly recommend Siteground as a real deal provider of service. Keep up the good work as you have built a good franchise.

    • Reply September 15, 2016 / 00:59 Angelina MichevaSiteGround Team

      Thank you for being such a loyal customer! We appreciate your high evaluation of our service

  19. Reply September 15, 2016 / 03:10 David BroderickSiteGround Team

    I transferred my website to SiteGround a few months ago after a very difficult time at my precious host who had frequent downtime and once lost my website and restored it with a five week old version. I am very happy with your company and how you deal with customers, and I am glad my friend (who is also with SiteGround) recommended that I transfer to you.

    • Reply September 15, 2016 / 04:20 Angelina MichevaSiteGround Team

      Thank you for sharing your experience with us, David! We're pleased you are a happy client after the switch.

  20. Reply September 15, 2016 / 05:49 David StoltzSiteGround Team

    I've transferred many of my clients to Siteground due to poor customer support and too many technical issues at my previous host. I've had such a positive experience, not only with the transfers, but the Siteground customer support is absolutely stellar! I will continue to migrate my clients to your hosting and I recommend you to all my friends! Keep up the great work - your customers appreciate it! (more than you know!)

    • Reply September 15, 2016 / 06:53 Angelina MichevaSiteGround Team

      Thanks for recommending us! We appreciate you spread the word about your positive client experience.

  21. Reply September 15, 2016 / 18:37 Lee KendrickSiteGround Team

    How do you transfer a site built on 1 domain to a new domain... with the same host?
    And also how can I transfer a site from a different domain (also at a different host)... to SiteGround on a different domain?

    I've built a site with all the graphics & everything in mind to swap to a new domain, but I can't wrap my head around how to do this easily. Can you shed some light on this, because I think it's an everyday occurrence.

    • Reply September 16, 2016 / 01:10 Daniel KanchevSiteGround Team

      Hi, Lee. Thanks for the question. Transferring a website from one domain name to another could be tricky because the site may rely on a certain domain name in order to work as expected. Generally speaking all you need to do is:

      1. Create a backup of the site's files and database.
      2. Restore the backup on the new hosting server/account.
      3. Replace all occurrences of the old domain name with the new domain name.

      The following article in our KB provides some more information about how to do this:

      https://www.siteground.com/kb/how_to_transfer_your_website_to_another_host/

      • September 16, 2016 / 14:13 Lee KendrickSiteGround Team

        Is there an easy sitewide domain name replacement tool... that makes all the changes at once?
        I kind of guessed that would have to be done, but wondered if there was a way that would allow me to avoid going into each image redirect, link redirect, page files, etc.
        Do you have an easy button recommendation for this task?

      • September 17, 2016 / 01:34 Daniel KanchevSiteGround Team

        I am afraid that there is no tool which will automatically do this for you and replace the domain name both in the database and in your PHP/CSS/HTML code. We often use the following tool to replace data in a MySQL SQL dump file:

        https://interconnectit.com/products/search-and-replace-for-wordpress-databases/

        If you are migrating a WordPress site for example there are many backup-restore plugins which will handle the domain name substitution for you.

  22. Reply September 16, 2016 / 17:09 Peter ReckSiteGround Team

    All I can say, and I am saying it often: SiteGround is *the Best*, hands down, in hosting and especially customer support!!! - the speed, and effectiveness is unmatched, and the people that help me are always friendly and very competent!

  23. Reply September 20, 2016 / 07:13 GlenSiteGround Team

    Reading the above, it looks like iv'e made a good decision in changing my hosting company. Of course Google is driving me insane with it's page speed insights, anyway that's something else. What i really wanted to say, how splendid it is to have a hosting company where you run your business from quite refreshing.

    • Reply September 26, 2016 / 11:06 Hristo PandjarovSiteGround Team

      Thank you for the kind words!

  24. Reply September 21, 2016 / 05:09 JoSiteGround Team

    I'm considering switching my ecommerce site from my current provider to SiteGround. Was having a chat with your customer services rep and he said that he would require my password to access the current provider's dashboard. Is that right? Sounds a bit odd as I've move providers in the past, but don't recall giving access with passwords to anyone.

    • Reply September 26, 2016 / 11:06 Hristo PandjarovSiteGround Team

      Yes, that's a standard procedure when we do transfers. Basically, it's easier for us to take a look at what services you currently require and what you're using at your hosting provider at the moment so it's easier for us to recommend you the proper plan.

  25. Reply September 21, 2016 / 19:38 ColinSiteGround Team

    Awesome work guys! We use SiteGround at terminusagency.com for all our hosted clients and we've loved our experience while migrating to the new Cloud Hosted servers. You guys are just fantastic!

  26. Reply October 1, 2016 / 09:19 isakSiteGround Team

    I have a website under another host that includes thousands of photos -- there are all the thumbnails adding to the bulk. Recently, my website crashed and tech support was unable to restore it. Because of the size -- greater than 10 gb -- there was no backup. So I had to rebuild the website. Then I upgraded my account with that host. Since then, I am receiving my emails sporadically and/or not at all. Tech support has again not been able to help. Does this sound like a problem I would have with Siteground? Do you have someone who would handle the transfer. And if so, how much would that cost? Do you think your GoGeek package could handle this load?

    • Reply October 3, 2016 / 00:21 Hristo PandjarovSiteGround Team

      Hey,

      If your domain MX records are pointed correctly, there shouldn't be any issues with mail delivery. However, we can only move the actual email messages if you're currently on a cPanel host. Otherwise, you will need to migrate your messages by yourself. It's easiest to do it through your local mail app. Now about the photos, the GoGeek accoutn should be enough to fit that amount of data. However, make sure you check the account usage, traffic and generally all the resources your site needs, because disk space isn't everything. Our team can move the content for you but note that due to the size of your files it may take some additional time.

  27. Reply October 3, 2016 / 09:55 André JansensSiteGround Team

    Hello Siteground,
    I have a cloud account on SG with some diferent domains.
    I want to keep most of these domains on this account but would like to transfer one to a new GroBig account because this client would like to maintain the site himself from now on. I asked him to do so because he takes too much traffic that I need for my cloud account.
    When I do the setup for this new GroBig account, does Siteground make the transfer also for the domain and 3 subdomains.

    • Reply October 5, 2016 / 02:10 Angelina MichevaSiteGround Team

      Andre,
      When the new hosting account under a GrowBig plan is purchased you can request the site migration via ticket. We can transfer for free 1 website or 1 full cPanel account. In case the domain and subdomains you want migrated are hosted within the same cPanel we will be able to transfer them. If you have more questions we can assist you with contact our team directly via the help desk system.

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