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The secret of a successful website migration is doing a Predictive Fuckup Assessment (Tweet This!), where you try to predict what could go wrong and how to solve it in a matter of minutes.

Site migration is a serious business where time is everything. Any downtime is bad and, depending on the type of business you run, you can actually end up losing money by the minute. The best solution is to get your act together, do the migration with as little damage as possible, and keep any downtime to a minimum.

Site migration is a serious business where time is everything.

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When a few weeks ago we migrated our new Systemato website, we had bet on a few fuckups over a glass of Japanese single malt whisky. Luckily everything went according to plan, apart from an unexpected visit by the Legion of Mary trying to lend us some holy statues.

If you’re planning on moving your website to a new web server, consider the following checklist and pray for divine guidance. (Or just get an expert to follow you step by step like we did.)

1. Backing up everything is a must

When moving a WordPress site there are plenty of small pieces that can break from one moment to another, so it’s important to backup all folders and databases belonging to the old and the new site (in case you need to restore them ASAP to prevent huge downtimes). Download everything on your computer and make sure you can restore them quickly if things go belly up.

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2. Complete your move before cancelling your old hosting account

It’s very important to keep your old hosting account active until you’ve finalised the migration since too many dependencies are in play, which could result in loss of files and unwanted downtime. Most providers won’t hesitate to cut you off minutes after you’ve announced farewell, so we suggest keeping the migration hush-hush until it’s almost ready.

3. Make the transfer

That’s when the air fills with suspense and you start getting ready for the first planned (or unplanned) fuckups. Thousands of files are being uploaded by your favourite FTP client at this point, and your only hope is to pray that you don’t get connection timeouts or end up kicked out from the network by the server for clogging the bandwidth.

Providers won’t hesitate to cut you off minutes after you’ve announced your farewell, so we suggest keeping the migration hush-hush until it’s almost ready.

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4. Switching the Nameservers

This is the actual part where you need a good tech guy to back you up. All the files and database have been transferred, and now you need your domain name to point to the new server so that whoever types your URL will get there safely.

You’ll also need to make sure to check MX records to keep your emails flowing in case you’re using an external mail client such as Gmail.

Set your sub domains, CNAMES, AAA, NS if necessary and then wait… Yes, you’ll have to wait some more unfortunately, because nameservers propagation takes time to be effective – sometimes up to 48 hours. If you did your homework properly and you can see your new website, you can finally move to step 5.

5. Debugging checklist

Only if you are really, really lucky this step won’t be necessary and you can skip ahead to the next step, otherwise the predictive fuckup assessment will bring you down to earth:

Were files broken during the transfer?

Try to upload them as a single compressed folder and uncompress it directly on the server.

Fix any broken URLs and permalinks

We suggest using highly rated third party software that let you find and replace incorrect entries in your database. (Remember to back up everything first!)

Test incoming/outgoing emails from the website

Check all API connections, subdomains, and authorization tokens from third parties.

Get your content is indexed on Google

Try refreshing their crawlers to speed up the indexing process.

Run a speed test

To improve loading times, make sure to minify scripts and style sheets, activate caching, compress all images and avoid hot-linking them from your old site.

Browse every single page

Click on every link and make sure that everything works properly.

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It’s also best practice to duplicate your website in a staged environment in order to test anything (from a new third party plug-in to any update) before sending it live. This also helps avoid excessive downtime spent restoring the old backup in case something goes wrong.

By following these top-line tips you can make sure that should anything goes wrong while migrating your WordPress site, your data will remain safe and intact.

6. Celebrate

Massimiliano Aiuppa

Author Massimiliano Aiuppa

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