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How to Switch Website Hosts

There are many reasons you might be looking to switch website hosts: slow load times, bad neighbors on your existing server, poor customer support, or other technical limitations that you encounter.

Here’s what you need to know to make sure your transition from one web host to another goes smoothly! This advice applies to all AccessAlly sites, and can prevent errors like double payments for your customers or faulty access permissions.

When planning a webhost migration, make sure that you set aside enough time to do the migration and that you’re not planning to do it during a busy time (like a launch)… since your site will not be able to take new payments and you don’t want to impact people’s access for a long time.

#1 Enable Maintenance Mode to Pause New and Recurring Orders in AccessAlly

If you’re using AccessAlly’s order forms and payment system, you’ll want to make sure that you don’t double-charge your customers… if you have your current site running and you make a copy of it on your new webhost, it means there will be two versions of AccessAlly that could charge recurring payments.

This also applies when using a staging site, and you can read more about staging sites here. For doing a webhost migration, you’ll want to do two things under:

AccessAlly -> General Settings -> Initial Setup -> Developer Tools:

Screenshot of the AccessAlly Settings for Duplicate sites

1. Enter Your Site’s Address

What you’ll want to put in this input box is your AccessAlly site’s domain or subdomain, like: https://youraccess.mydomain.com

What this will do is handle the “time in-between” when you’re transferring hosts, so that once you start pointing to the new server it will begin making payments there instead of on the old site.

2. Enable “Maintenance Mode” Checkbox

To make sure that no payments will be charged and no new clients try to purchase during your site migration, make sure to enable this maintenance mode box.

This will make sure that you don’t double charge any payments, so it’s really important!

#2 (Optional) Make a Backup of Your Site

Next you can make a backup of your website, just in case things don’t go as planned or you need to revert back at some point. We won’t be using this file when doing the migration, but it’s good to have a local backup just in case.

You have a few options when it comes to making a backup copy of your entire site (including theme files, plugins, users, content, and database).

The one you choose will depend on what your current host offers, since taking advantage of the backups they might create for you will be the easiest. Here are some common backup solutions:

Keep these files safe, it’s really just for you in case anything happens during the migration and you need to revert.

#3 Do the Migration

Now we’re going to make a copy of the site on your new web host.

We highly recommend WPEngine, it’s the host we use, we’re proud affiliates, and it’s a great reliable company! They also have a great process to help migrate your site for you.

If you’re migrating to WPEngine, use their Hassle-Free Migration plugin and install it on your AccessAlly site. This will do the migration for you and bring over all the content, themes, members, and settings from your previous host.

Another solid host that has a Migration Guru plugin to help make the move easier is Kinsta (also an affiliate link).

If you’re migrating to a different host, they might have another process to get your content migrated over – get in touch with their support if you run into any issues copying the site over.

#4 Pre-Transition Checkpoint: Make Sure Everything Transferred Properly

Now that you’ve copied the WordPress site over to your new webhost, we’re going to check a few things to make sure the migration worked before we switch domains to point to the new host.

At this point, your domain should still be pointing to your old host and your new site will have a funky URL like “https://sitename.wpengine.com”.

Navigate to this new version of your site:

  • Make sure you can login as an admin (same username and password as before)
  • Click around the pages and make sure that themes and pages look right
  • Make sure that the “Maintenance Mode” checkbox is still enabled

Next, add your domain to WPEngine’s (or your new host’s) domain settings in preparation to update the DNS settings.

Screenshot of WPEngine Domain Settings Page

#5 Update DNS To Have Your Domain Point to the New Host

Login to your domain registrar and update the DNS settings to point to your new host.

Follow the instructions specific to changing your DNS settings in your Domain Registrar since each domain registrar has a different process.

It can take up to 24 hours for the changes to propagate all over the world.

For WPEngine, you can check that you’ve set it up right or ask them to refresh to make sure it’s updating like this:

Screenshot of WPEngine Domain Refresh

Now when you go to your domain or subdomain, you’ll know that you’re on the migrated site when you see the “WPEngine” section in the left hand sidebar of your WordPress back end like this:

Screenshot of the WPEngine section on WordPress site

At this point, your migration is complete – but please follow the next few steps to make sure your site gets back into fully operational mode.

#6 Turn Off Maintenance Mode on the New Site

Now that you’ve made sure everything is working on the new site, you should immediately turn off the “Maintenance Mode” that prevents orders and subscriptions from being charged.

Screenshot of Settings to Turn off Maintenance Mode

You’ll want to keep the URL for your AccessAlly site in the first box, but turn off the checkbox for Maintenance Mode.

Now you’ll be able to take payments and recurring payments will continue to be charged on schedule.

#7 Delete Old Site or Disable AccessAlly

Now you’ll want to go back to your old hosting provider and do one of these:

  • Delete your old WordPress installation
  • Cancel your hosting and have them delete your files
  • Disable AccessAlly entirely

The reason you want to do this is because you don’t want your AccessAlly site to continue to run payments accidentally. It shouldn’t happen while Maintenance Mode is still enabled on this old site, but just to be safe it’s best not to have another copy of the site running.

#8 Test CRM Webhooks

Finally, you’ll want to make sure that your email marketing platform can successfully send webhooks to your new host.

You can test this by adding a new test user to your CRM, and adding them to a campaign with a webhook that runs immediately.

Then you can make sure that the webhook ran by seeing the new test user in your AccessAlly site, or visiting this page under General Settings -> Maintenance -> Detailed Logs:

Screenshot of AccessAlly Maintance Log

You should see your webhook here. If you don’t see anything here, then you can read this troubleshooting guide or get in touch with our support so we can help get things working.

Updated on December 11, 2019

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