Migrating a website from one host to another has turned into a nightmare for many developers around the world so many times. Especially if the website was built on custom codes, there are a variety of unforeseen conditions that have to be taken care of.
Gladly, if you’re reading this, you are using WordPress, and migrations are not painful for WordPress if you are doing it the right way.
A WordPress site can be moved from one host to another in either two ways.
- Manually back up the site and upload it to the new host
- Use plugins for migration
The conventional way that most developers used to follow is to download the WordPress files and upload them to the new host. This is a time-consuming task, especially if you are on slow internet.
The role of plugins is one of the reasons why WordPress has become popular among web designers. Gladly, there is a plugin available for each custom functionality required, the same is the case for migration.
In this article, you will learn:
Understanding the behind-the-scenes of WordPress
Even though plugins will work with a few clicks of operations, the behind the scenes could help you in case there are unforeseen troubles.
A WordPress installation on a server has two components.
- The core files
- The database
WordPress is so neatly structured that everything is organized into folders. When we take a back up of a WordPress site, we are copying all the files and the database from the old host.
So what does WordPress migration plugins do? They take a copy of all the files and database, turn it into a package which can be moved to the new host. This backup is then restored by the plugins itself on the new host.
How to migrate WordPress websites using plugins
There are tons of WordPress migration plugins. The user interfaces of each plugin may vary, but they all help to achieve one thing. The process is as follows:
- Take a back up of your WordPress site using the plugin
- Download the backup to your computer (Or use a cloud platform such as dropbox to store the backup files. Some plugins support this feature so that you don’t have to download and upload the files. Helpful if your internet is slow.)
- Do a fresh installation of WordPress on your new server
- Install the same plugin that you used to take the backup, in the new server
- Go to the plugin restore option and upload your backup files
- Restore your site on the new server
Top WordPress Migration Plugins
UpdraftPlus has currently over 2 million installations. It is one of those plugins that can move a website backup directly to a cloud storage platform. This feature makes the whole migration easier. Some of the cloud storage plugins supported by UpdraftPlus are Dropbox, Google Drive, Amazon S3. It can even connect to your server via an FTP connection.
UpdraftPlus can also help you set up scheduled backup so that you never have to worry about having a copy of your website.
The paid version of UpdraftPlus has website duplicator support, multisite support, and more storage options.
Duplicator has both free and paid versions. The free version is fully capable of WordPress migration, however, the pro version comes with some nice features as well.
The duplicator plugin created a package that contains all the essential files and databases of the WordPress installation such as plugins, themes, content folder, etc.
This package can be used to move the site to anywhere the user wishes. It could be another server, a local environment or just to keep as a backup.
An interesting feature of Duplicator is that WordPress doesn’t have to be installed on the new environment since the copy of the site comes with the whole installation files as well.
The pro version of Duplicator can make your life easier with automatic scheduled backups, backup storage to cloud platforms, the ability to install a subsite of a multisite as a standalone website, email notification, and support.
All-in-One WP Migration is a fully mobile device compatible migration plugin to move your WordPress site. The plugin can be used to export all the files and database and then import it into the new host.
All-in-One WP Migration uses filesize of less than 2 MB for uploading the backup files, hence bypassing the server upload size restrictions to provide a hassle-free migration experience.
Migrate Guru claims to have the capability to clone a website in under 30 minutes. Interestingly, the migration process takes place via Migrate Guru’s servers, reducing the load on your server. This could potentially be a lifesaver if your bandwidth and storage space is limited.
Migrate Guru can handle websites of all sizes. What they don’t support is migration from local environments and migration of a subsite from a multi-site environment to a fresh new domain.
The process for migration is as simple as installing WordPress on the new host, install the plugin on both installations, choose a destination and click Migrate. This process bypasses a lot of other manual work such as configuring third-party cloud storage and/or downloading and uploading backup files to and from your computer.
Backup Guard can be used for taking a backup of your website as well as migrating it. The backup options are highly customizable and let you choose specific folders and database tables to backup and to exclude from the backup.
The backup taken can either be downloaded to your computer or can be moved directly to the new host via storage solutions such as Dropbox.
The pro version of the plugin has one-click automatic migration and a scheduled backup feature. A large number of cloud storage platforms are supported in the pro version. Other pro version features are mail notification, backup alerts, background backup mode and more.
There is also a 24 hours emergency support in case something goes wrong during migration.
BackWPup is a WordPress backup plugin that can not only take a backup of your websites but can push the backup files directly into storage services such as Dropbox and S3.
The plugin automatically checks, repairs, and optimizes the database. The backup is generated in a compressed file that can be kept in various places such as server directory, FTP, Azure, and more. The pro version supports Amazon Glacier and Google Drive as well.
Encrypted backups are an additional feature of the pro version.
WPvivid is a one-click solution for website migration, scheduled automatic backup, backup upload, and one-click restore.
The plugin can be used to migrate WordPress sites from and to various environments such as staging, dev, and live.
WPvivid can also be used to create a copy of your website on an existing live server to use as a staging copy.
WPvivid supports cloud storage such as Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, Amazon S3 and more.
To migrate a website, the plugin has to be installed on both old and new hosts. After generating a site key, the same has to be provided to the old host to start the migration process.
WPBackItUp can create a backup of a WordPress site in a compressed zip format regardless of the size of the website. It helps to backup and restores a website for those who are not familiar with the complex configurations of FTP, cPanel, MySQL, etc.
The free version of the plugin is good enough for the migration process. However, the premium version of WPBackItUp supports scheduled backups, backup import, website cloning, priority support, and many more features.
WP Time Capsule has all the features of a WordPress backup and migration plugins such as real-time backups, staging environment creation, automatic backup, website cloning and more.
What’s interesting is the screenshot comparison feature that automatically captures a screenshot of the website before an update and compares it with the version post changes. If there is anything out of place visually, the plugin will send an email to notify you about it.
The backup created by WP Time Capsule will only contain the database and files that went through any sort of changes, saving a lot of disk space. The backup files are stored in storage services such as Amazon S3, Dropbox, and Google Drive.
Migrating to a new host doesn’t stop at just backup and restore of your files. The domain has to be pointed to the new server so that the website will be shown by fetching files from the new server.
To do this, you can go to your domain registrar, go to the nameserver settings and update the nameservers with that from your new host.
It’ll take some time for DNS propagation, after which your website will start loading from your new server.
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Author – Abhijith VM
Abhijith leads the digital marketing team at ClaySys Technologies. He loves to research and write about SEO, Google Ads and modern web building practices and platforms.