Web migration: The Hostess with the Mostess

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This article takes some of the mystery and anxiety out of the moving your website and hosting process.
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Taoti Creative

Taoti is a creative agency hell-bent on using its 20 years in the game developing strategies, websites and apps to help organizations do what they do, but better. Reach out…

Moving Your Website and Hosting

When Taoti builds or redesigns a website, we typically also host it. If you had a website up before, that means we need to transfer your web hosting from your current provider to ours. The process is actually very simple, but it’s technical, and as a result, it often causes confusion. This article (hopefully) takes some of the mystery and anxiety out of this process.

Firstly, let’s establish some vocabulary:

Web hosting: the act of making your website available to the world.

Email hosting: same thing, but for email. It’s noteworthy that for 90% of the world, the web and email hosting go hand in hand. To change one is to change the other. We’ll come back to that point.

Server: This is simply a computer (typically sitting in a highly secured, redundant, data center) that runs the software that does the actual web and email hosting (and an array of other important functions that we needn’t get into right now.) Note that for our purposes, the terms ‘server’ and ‘host’ can be interchanged. In other words, your ‘web host’ is your ‘server.’

DNS: This stands for “domain name server.” The DNS information is what tells the rest of the world where your web and email hosting is located.

Registrar: This is the company you bought your domain name from (often Godaddy or Network Solutions.) This company also holds the domain name information. So when someone types in in their web browser, that request goes out to the internet where the registrar responds with the location of the server where your DNS information is stored.  That DNS information is how the world knows where to find your specific web and email servers.

Changing Web Hosting

When you change web hosting, what you’re actually doing telling the world that instead of your website being at location X, you’re now going to be at location Y. It’s a lot like moving houses. You notify the post office (in our analogy, the post office would be the ‘registrar’) that you are moving. This is known as ‘changing name servers’ (which would be synonymous with ‘changing DNS’). Once you do that, all the web/email traffic that was being routed to your old host is now being routed to your new host. Note that there is a delay, called the propagation period, between when you change your DNS and when the world actually gets re-routed to your new host. This delay can be between 1 and 48 hours (typically less than 4 hours.) And it will be different at different geographic locations. That’s just how the internet works.

While your registrar gives you the ability to change your DNS information yourself, Taoti includes this service for you by default. If you give us your registrar login information, we’ll be happy to take care of this for you. (Note: if you’re not sure who your registrar is, we can find that out for you. Just ask your account manager. You can also go to to perform your own query. But if you don’t know your login information, you’ll have to contact your registrar directly to get that information, as we have no authority (or ability) to request that information on your behalf.)

Email Considerations

Before we can change over your web hosting, we need to make sure we address email issues. Again, since email and web traffic work much the same way as far as the internet is concerned, to change your web host is also to change your email host (typically speaking. But it’s worth noting here that it is possible to separate your email and web hosting services. This is commonly done if you decide to host your own email internally or if you use some other third party email provider, such as a Microsoft Exchange provider. We’re not going to deal with third party email hosting in this article other than to say that if you are in fact using a third party email service that is not tied to your web hosting service, please make sure we’re aware of it before we we do any hosting changes. Otherwise, your email service may be interrupted.)

Assuming your mail and web services are run from the same server, it will be necessary for Taoti to recreate your email accounts on our servers before we change over your web hosting. So we’ll need a list of all your email accounts that you currently have set up. We’ll need to give these accounts passwords too, so you can either specify what they should be, or we can make the up for you and you can change them later on. Other than the passwords, it’s typically not necessary to change any other email settings (though that varies on a case by case basis, depending on how your old server was configured.)

VERY IMPORTANT: Before we change any hosting services, we need to ensure that you are using POP3 email and that you are downloading mail to your computer (as opposed to storing it on your server). This is the default setting for the vast majority of people. However, if you are using MS Exchange, Webmail, or IMAP mail, please be sure to let us know that before we do anything. We can migrate mail either way, but if you are using a server-based mail storage system, we’ll need to discuss it with you in more detail.

Assuming you’re using a computer-based email storage system (ie. POP3 email), the process is pretty painless. Once we make the DNS changes, you’ll be getting your mail from our server instead of your previous server. But aside from probably having to re-enter your password, nothing else should change. You won’t lose any mail from before. Your email address will stay the same. And no mail will be lost in the process.

Starting the Process

Ready to switch your hosting? Here are the steps to take and the information you’ll need to get in advance:

1. Ensure that you (and everyone with a company email address) are using POP3 email and that you are not storing mail on the server. If you’re not sure, you can contact your current email/web hosting provider and ask them this question. If you have some sort of welcome kit or introductory email from them, that will probably tell us as well (just forward to your project manager.) You can also go into your Outlook account settings and look to see if POP3 is specified.

2. Figure out who your registrar is and make sure you have the login information to that website. Again, your registrar is whomever you purchased your domain name from.

3. Collect a list of all your company email addresses (and specify their passwords if you so choose).

4. Send the list of emails/passwords as well as the registrar login information to your account manager. We should be able to take it from there.