Occasionally I am asked by potential customers how they can transfer their website to our web hosting. There seems to be a lot of confusion as to how to go about doing this, so I figure this would make a good how to article. The first thing you need to do is decide what web hosting package you will need. Once you decided on a package you can begin to do the following steps:
In order to move your site you will need to change DNS Servers. It is not necessary to transfer your domain to your web host, but if your previous host is also your registrar, you might want to move your domain registration to a third party registrar to avoid conflicts with your previous host. It is never a good idea to move a domain that expires in less than a month, so always renew your domain at your current registrar and then move it. This way you do not risk losing your domain due to expiration.
Purchase Hosting Package
Your next step is to purchase the hosting package you want. This way you can have access to your new account via the IP address, right away. You want to get the new hosting account ahead of time. Most hosts expect you to renew before your account expires, so if you know you are moving your hosting, it is best to get the new account three to two weeks ahead of time, so you have plenty of time.
Transferring Your Files
There are multiple ways to move your files over to the new account. If your current host is a standard cPanel web host, cPanel’s Backup Panel offers the best possible way of moving your site. In the Backup Panel you can do two types of backups: Full backups and Home Directory backups. A full backup file can only be restored on your new host by your web host. For most small sites, a Home Directory backup is good enough. You can download the Home Directory backup to your own home computer. You will want to make sure that the backup file is less than 50 megabytes. It is best to have a 15 megabyte backup file, because large backup files will timeout when you try to restore them. If you have a large gallery or directory with image files, it is best to FTP these down to your home computer and remove them before creating a backup. This way your backup file is smaller. Once you have your backup file, you will need to connect to the new cPanel account by IP address and in the Backup panel, restore your backup file. It is important to note, that it is best to use the same username on your new account, this way setting files will not need to be changed. If your username is different you will run into some unexpected problems. If you are using any databases, these databases must be backed up individually and restored individually on the new account as well. Lastly if you have any subdomains these cannot be added in your new account until your old account is deleted, so you must wait to set these up.
If you are not transferring between cPanel host accounts, then the default way to transfer files is via FTP. Download all your files down from your current host and then transfer them via the IP address of your new account through FTP. Databases will still have to be backed up and restored individually.
You should add database usernames, so that your web site scripts can access their respective databases.
Changing DNS Servers
Now that you have moved your site files over, you need to change DNS Servers. This is done at your Domain Registrar. Each registrar uses their own custom site panel, so all I can say, is you need to find out how to do this exactly. It is best to change the DNS Servers overnight, so initiate the change in the evening hours and let the changes propagate around the Internet overnight.
Delete Your Old Account
At this point all that is left is to delete your data from the old account and notify the host that you are canceling the account. Once your account is removed from your old host the new account will show up immediately since DNS was already changed.
Once your new site is up, you just need to verify that all your website scripts work, that all pages are accessible, and that there are no errors. You can now also setup your subdomains and any email accounts you had. Once you are satisfied that everything is working, it is a good idea to make a backup.
Many people often ask me about eCommerce and how to setup their own online store, and the first thing I tell them that unlike a personal site, an eCommerce site requires planning and adequate funding. While there is no definitive book that I can point you to and say read this…, there is a variety of online resources that can prove helpful. I believe that the nature of business is that if you truly desire to be successful, then you have to put in the effort. Small business is all about outsmarting your competition and for this reason I think there are not a lot of comprehensive guides on how to put together an online business. Then there is the fact that eCommerce can encompass so many things depending on what your business is.
In my view, there are three components to an online site, the technical, the financial, and the legal details. We will focus mostly on the technical.
The Online Store
Before starting your business, you should already have a solid business plan and have done some planning into what you want your business site to look like. You should have set aside proper funding for launching your online venture. A minimal site, may require around $500, but if your online business is going to be your only source of income, you will definitely need to invest a substantial amount.
- Webhosting: The first thing to consider is how much the webhosting or web server is going to cost. While a part-time home business might make due with a reliable shared-webhosting account, most businesses will want to setup their own web server. Whichever you choose, webhosting or your own server, make sure that it can be reliable and maintained. The last thing you want is for your 24-hour online business to be down for any significant amount of time.
- Shopping Cart: The face of your store and backend is provided by software, usually referred to as a shopping cart. A good shopping cart will provide you with your exact business needs. This can include everything from adding new items to your site, to offering discounts, tracking payments, and helping you ship items. The shopping cart will need to be maintained and because it is the heart of your online business, it is the most important choice you make when starting out. There are many shopping cart scripts. You will want to evaluate multiple carts and pick the one that can grow with your business and which is compatible with your webhosting. Some popular carts are: OSCommerce, ZenCart, X-Cart, CS-Cart, 3DCart, ShopSite, and ASPDotNetStorefront.
- SSL Certificate: In order to process transactions securely your business will need a Secure Socket Layer certificate installed on the web server. This is what encryts communications between the web browser and web server. SSL certs are traditionally expensive and can cost around $100 or more per year, but they are a necessity if you want customers to feel safe while conducting business on your site.
- Payment Gateway: Your shopping cart will integrate with multiple payment gateways and allow you to take credit card information. However, you will need to sign-up with these gateways or acquire a merchant account from your bank or third party processor. Although this is more of a business decision than a technical one, because the fees vary widely you will need to shop around for the best rates. Most eCommerce sites can take a variety of payment options and so you will want to offer your customers at least a couple of choices of payment. The most popular are credit card processing and PayPal.
Accounting & Marketing
No business can survive very long without solid business decisions. These decisions need to based an accurate information. Keeping track of how much your business is spending and how much it is taking in is important. For this task, most business rely on their accounting package. This usually means Quickbooks Pro or some equally professional accounting software. Something to keep in mind is how well your shopping cart software can integrate with your accounting software.
For new online businesses, marketing is going to be very important. Your domain name for your site should reflect what you sell and should be easy for your clients to remember. The next step is to bring potential clients to your site. This can mean having a search engine friendly site, an AdWords campaign, or traditional print advertising. Don’t forget word-of-mouth advertising either! The simple business card is still one of the best forms of marketing around.
Privacy And Trust
The internet offers plenty of information, but most of it is pretty generic and not localized to your state or county. It is best to always consult with professionals in your local area who can advise you on the business issues that you need help with, and use the Internet for general assistance. WebmasterWorld is an excellent source of general information like in this eCommerce 101 post.
I’m not sure why, but the more I surf the Web, the more annoyed I get at web sites who do not change their favicon. Every forum software package comes with a default favicon and many webmasters that install the forum software, never ever change the default favicon. What makes this more annoying is that many of these sites are actually major sites which already have a logo for their company. In the cases where the forum is the entire site, not changing the favicon just looks bad.
My advice is that if you have a website, make sure you either use a blank GIF file or take the time to actually make a proper favicon. And never ever leave the default favicon out there.
The easiest method to make a favicon is to take your logo and zoom it down to 16×16 pixels. On Windows, IrfanView is the easiest way to convert the image file to .ico format. For Mac OS X, GraphicConverter is the best image manipulation program.
Once you have the favicon.ico file, just upload it to the root of your hosting directory. You can then add the following code to your html header:
<link rel="icon" href="http://domain_name/favicon.ico" type="image/x-icon" />
If your forum software already has a favicon.ico, just replace it with the new one you created.
One of the first steps to making a website is of course creating it, and not every webmaster starting out knows HTML and CSS. Yes, it may surprise you but many web sites are actually made by non-programmers. Mostly I think because, programmers do not always write good content, so a competent writer can output plenty of good content, but he or she does not know how to design the web site. This is where web authoring software comes in. This allows people who can make great content, publish it easier. Although the web site that comes out of web authoring software may not be as polished or as pixel perfect as a manually coded web site, it still is a web site and it is the content that matters in the end.
There are today a variety of web authoring packages that can give you a website in a very little time. For the most part they can be divided into either one of these categories: applications and scripts.
Dreamweaver and Nvu
Applications were once the only way to make a website for non-coders. The most popular application being Macromedia’s Dreamweaver. This expensive piece of software can help you design a website in less time and has extra features for more skilled webmasters that can help with programming languages like PHP and ASP. Of course, if you can’t afford Dreamweaver, then Nvu is probably the application for you. Nvu is based on the old Netscape Composer module and does most of the basic things that Dreamweaver can do. In between Dreamweaver and Nvu are all sorts of other applications, many are HTML editors that are for intermediate webmasters.
Web Blogs & Scripts
Scripts are programs that can create entire web sites for you, once you install them and add your content. The web blog is the most famous type of script program that webmasters use. A web blog is made up of two interfaces, a backend system that allows a webmaster to administrate and add content to the blog and a front end which is the rendered web site. Even though web blogs help organize content and make easy to publish it, you still have to install and setup the weblog software to start out with. That was until services like Blogger came around, that allowed anyone to setup their own blog without needing to install anything.
Most other scripts that are not web blogs, are multiple user based. Meaning they can handle multiple authors or administrators. These scripts are usually called Content Management Systems or CMS for short. For a while the CMS was very popular, but the rise of web blogging scripts like WordPress and MovableType have made content management systems less desired by webmasters who only want to publish personal sites.
Choosing Between The Web Blog or Static Web Site
Web blogs have the advantage of easy publishing, but many webmasters still choose to use Dreamweaver to put up sites, because Dreamweaver outputs actual files that they can backup and change. Web blogs are in fact complicated and if you make a mistake and mess up their configuration, it usually means the entire site is down until you fix it. Static files from Dreamweaver won’t have that problem. Using a web blog service too has its downsides. If you depend on a free web blog service, your site may disappear overnight without explanation. Your content may be lost or unreachable in the process. It is important to note that if you value your content, you are better off setting up a proper web host and domain for your web blog. This way you have more control over your content and down times.
Macintosh based applications:
It seems like every month, I notice a new search engine bot crawling my web sites and aggressively using up a lot of my bandwidth. Google’s own bot can easily take a gigabyte of bandwidth a month, if you have a decent size website with at least 300 pages of content. But AWStats does not identify all bots, so you have to look at the Hosts section and see how much bandwidth your top hosts are taking. An aggressive spider will appear at the top of the list. This will let you know the IP address of the host. Most spiders though use multiple IP addresses, so what you really want to know is the actual agent name. An easy way to track down this is to look at the actual webserver logs and search for the IP address you have listed in AWStats. In cPanel, there is the Latest Visitors script (under Web/FTP Stats) which gives you the last 300 visitors to your site. Once you find the agent name, then do a search on Google for it.
Most spiders will be documented by the sites that own them. In general it is a good idea to let spiders search your site, but if they take too much bandwidth or are making your site slower than usual, then you have to take some action to either slow them down or ban them from specific areas of your site or entirely. Depending on the spider’s documentation, you might be able to deter or reduce crawling requests using the robots.txt file. Some spiders obey only the meta tags in the html header. It is best to use the robots.txt file since this change is easier to do than editing all your html files.
If all else fails, you are left with blocking the entire IP range that the bot uses. This is a last resort option and you should be extra careful in figuring out the exact IP addresses to block since this will make your site unreachable to any of those IP addresses.
In Finding Deleted Domains, I talked about using WhoIs.net to search for expired domains, but this is not exactly the best way to get a valueable domain. For a high quality domain, you probably have to go with one the auction services, like Snap.com. You should be prepared to pay more as the bidding process can be quite costly, but cheaper than directly dealing with a domain owner who wants thousands of dollars for their domain name.
Before jumping in with the bidding process, read How to Snatch an Expiring Domain, which is a thorough and interesting look into the way registrars are retaining deleted domains and making it harder for the rest of us to actually catch an expired domain.