Category: Web Site Basics

How to Transfer Your Web Site

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:

Domain Registrar

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.

Final Changes

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.

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eCommerce Basics

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

Today privacy is still the most debated argument of an online world. Successful businesses are trustworthy businesses. Your eCommerce site should put consumers at ease by having clear and published policies. The common privacy policy and terms of use pages need to be quickly accessible and easy to comprehend. Since eCommerce deals with goods and services, consumers also need to know about return policies, shipping methods, and other customer service assistance provided. Make sure that your customers have all this readily available to them. For some policies you should consult a lawyer, who can verify that you are following all the necessary rules of whatever type of commerce you are doing. Legal consultation beforehand is always cheaper then later.

Additional Resources

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.

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The Favicon

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.

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