I work with a lot of WordPress websites, and recently I’ve had to migrate off a bunch of sites I can no longer host. There’s lots of considerations to think about when moving even the smallest site, so I wanted to make a few notes here, to help both me as a reminder, and maybe you too. This isn’t a full guide, it’s the bits I don’t often see written often about in the myriad of amazing guides you can find online. This is probably the best although there’s another handy guide here which is written far better than I could ever write it
I always prepare by firstly ensuring I can log into the site itself – sounds simple but it’s amazing how many times users (quite rightly) change the admin password and remove my account. I’ll perform a back up using both a 3rd party plugin and manually via cPanel through WHM. I’ll also most likely FTP off the root server folder knowing worst case scenario I can manually rebuild. I’ll then extract the mySQL databases and I’ll also dig around WP-Options & WP-Users using PHPMyAdmin just to remind myself of strings, config options, users, and anything else I may have forgotten since the time I built them. Nothing like a good old-fashioned screen shot or two in case things go pear shaped. I’m not proud.
A note on backup & Migration plugins
There are quite a few good plugins which will for 80 percent of the time, make migrating a WP website pretty easy. They are generally wizard based, and hassle free. For smaller WP sites they almost always work, although you have to make sure your target location has the correct dependencies in particular, cURL. You also need to make sure your PHP file upload limit is above the size of your WP website too. The two plugins I mainly use are;
There are other plugins here which I thoroughly recommend you review, and PURCHASE something decent. Stop being an urchin and doing this on the cheap!
I use this as a ‘first attempt’ clone. If I can move the site using one of these plugins, then I can give myself a pat on the back, go and get a coffee & tell the client it’s done. If they don’t work, I’ve not created any new problems and then I know I need to move onto a more technical migration solution.
With regards to the files these plugins create, remember, they are often creating backups on the webserver itself. So, if you have a 1000MB website, and you back up you typically create a second 1000MB back up file (certainly in the case of WP Clone) which then gives you an additional 1000MB to transfer. Bare this in mind and delete your old backups before you start moving your site around – it’ll give you an easier job especially if you’re doing everything in browser & are suffering time out problems. You also want to ensure you have the disk space before you start making automated backups. Nothing worse than bringing your site tumbling down because you’ve gone over your allotted disk space allocation & nothing works anymore.
The other thing I check is the target location’s version of PHP to ensure it matches the site I’m moving’s PHP. These migration tools often fall over if say you’re migrating a WP site running version 7x of PHP into a target location which has a base install of PHP5x for example. So ensure your dependencies match & are all up to date before you consider the move. Especially if you’re going to be manually migrating databases.
I ALWAYS have a dummy URL available for the migration to bind the target location to before I do any migration. So, I’ll never live migrate a website and move the primary domain simultaneously. This is so important. You need base URLs to be available during the transfer so move your domain last. Once it’s migrated, you can change the base URL’s in the target location WP install but never before.
WP Site content
Any bad planning and client management (or lack thereof) will bite you about now when it comes to moving the site. Certainly, some of my clients used WP with wanton abandon with no understanding of the cost of disk space, large file sizes or just bashing out posts without thinking of the responsibility needed when creating content. And now you have to move them. All those large unoptimized images, all those additional files the client decided to store on the WordPress storage using the file uploader (for safe keeping). I even had one client uploading all her holiday photos (nothing to do with her blog) into her WordPress install thinking she could use this as long term storage. I mean seriously!?
Ultimately this behaviour is my fault though, for either picking the wrong clients, or not educating them enough in the early stages.
Outsource to India
At this stage and as an aside, and I have to say I’m staggered at the quality of the people on sites such as Fiverr who for really a negliable amount of money will often do this work quicker and more efficiently than I ever could. For a few pounds, they’ll do this work and often, when time is stretched I’ll write a careful brief, re-gen all the passwords at account level for one-time access and get one of these guys to do it. I’ve had almost no problems at all with outsourcing although I do think the quality of the briefing really helps. So I often balance between how long it’ll take me to write the brief, to how long it’ll actually take me to do the work & whether the time spent is worth it. Etc. You have to work this out on a case by case, site by site basis I think. But Fiverr, go check them out. #gigeconomyforthewin