Get Movin’: Migrate Your Website with Shipper WordPress Migration Plugin

Get Movin’: Migrate Your Website with Shipper WordPress Migration Plugin

Moving can be stressful. You’re packing up all of your belongings, cleaning, tying up loose ends, and doing everything you can to ensure the move will go smoothly.

That goes for moving to a new home, office, or host. Luckily, migrating from host to host in WordPress can be an easy process. And you don’t even need to hire movers or rent a van.

In this article, pack your bags, because I’ll be moving you through the process of migrating to a new host.

Dev Man migrating from host to host.
This was the scene when WPMU DEV started hosting. Dev Man quickly left the old one.

We’ll be going over why to migrate in the first place, prepping for a move, the steps during the moving process, and more.

By the time you trek through this post, you’ll be ready to move your WordPress site into its new host home.

Every hosting company is different, so in this article, I’ll show you how our Shipper WordPress migration plugin can really help simplify this process through automation.

I’ll also explain the process of migrating a site to our WPMU DEV hosting using our built-in WordPress migration tool.

Even if you don’t host with WPMU DEV, the tips provided in this article apply to most hosting providers. This includes knowing what specific hosting information they’ll need to provide you with (which I’ll cover later) so you can complete the move.

Why It’s Great to Migrate

There are many reasons to consider migrating to a new host. Some of these might not be so obvious.

For example, let’s say you sign up for a web hosting company that promises the world in bandwidth, space, and support.

As time goes on, you see the service wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be. Your online traffic is picking up but your hosting can’t handle your users.

You need certain applications to run on your server but your host won’t allow it unless you upgrade to a more expensive plan. You have questions that support can’t answer, or aren’t answering promptly.

Meanwhile, the problem hasn’t gone away.

All this can impact your business and cost you time and money. All you wanted was to get your site up and running and get on with your business. Now you’re dealing with technical issues you don’t understand and getting frustrated and impatient.

Or, maybe you’re starting fresh (a first-time homeowner). You’ve just developed a site locally and it needs a fresh new home.

It’s not technically migrating from host to host but you’re migrating to a new site, now that it’s ready to launch.

Sometimes price or ease of use is a factor. Sometimes, you need a hosting company that offers way more than just hosting.

Like support, for example. Or access to hosting management features that put you in complete control of your site.

[Shameless plug: check out why WPMU DEV offers the best hosting on the planet. Seriously.]

The point being, you want your website to have a good hosting home. You want it to be reliable, practical, and dependable.

So, it basically boils down to — if you’re not happy with your hosting, or you’ve outgrown it, it’s time to move.

Ship Ahoy! Easy Site Migration With Shipper

If you’re a WPMU DEV member and you’re not hosting with us (yet), our Shipper Pro plugin is a great way to migrate your WordPress site from host to host. Plus, he just got an extreme makeover that you can read all about here.

Shipper Pro download.
Never fear, Shipper is here! Shipper makes moving yer WordPress site to yer new host smooth sailing!

Shipper Pro handles the moving of WordPress sites with a smile. He’ll also handle moving local to production, development to live — without using FTP or SFTP. It’s an easy option for migration.

Let me show you a brief tutorial on how it’s done.

To get started you’ll need:

  • One destination site
  • One source site
  • Both sites connected to The Hub
  • Shipper installed on both websites

After all four of these points are checked off, you’ll be ready to don your eyepatch and get a shippin’.

When you have Shipper downloaded and activated, you have direct access to Shipper’s Dashboard:

Shipper Dashboard.
Here, you can do it all.

The dashboard has everything ready to go for you, including Package Migration, API Migration, Tools, and Settings.

Let’s start with export in the API Migration section. API transfers everything directly to your new site using a very secure API in only a few clicks.

To start, you click Begin Migration.

Begin migration in Shipper.
Where you’ll start a migration.

Once you do that, you’ll confirm your WordPress password and pick a destination.

Destination for a website.
Where you’ll pick a destination website.

As I mentioned in the bullet points, the site that you want to export to needs to be connected in The Hub.

If it is, your site will appear in a dropdown menu. Choose the website you’d like to export to from the list.

After this, click the blue arrow to continue.

Note: By default, Shipper is set up to export the entire website. However, you don’t have to migrate every file associated with your site.

For example, if you’re moving from a subsite to its own domain, you may want to do some configuring.

Shipper migration filters.
Use the Shipper migration filters to exclude files, folders, or database tables from your package.

In the Migration Filters area, you can easily exclude areas and adjust however you’d like for migration.

Pre-Flight Check

When the Migration Filters area is ready to go, click Next, and get ready for boarding.

A screen will appear to let you know if you have any pre-flight issues.

Pre-flight Issues screen.
Pre-flight Issues screen.

In this example, there’s a server difference. One of the sites is a multisite and the other one isn’t.

Shipper tells you exactly what is wrong. In this case, I can currently only migrate between the same installation types, so I will have to resolve this issue before moving forward.

Thanks for letting me know, mate!

If you have any issues that may or may not cause export issues, it would be indicated with a yellow exclamation point. If it’s good to go, you’ll get a green checkmark.

Until issues are resolved, the Continue Anyway option is greyed out.

If you have no issues or when you get your issue(s) fixed, you’ll be taken to the Destination Database Prefix.

Destination Database Prefix area.
Destination Database Prefix area.

By default, the WordPress database table is wp_. Sometimes this prefix is customized.

When Shipper migrates tables, you have three options:

  • Source’s prefix — Migrate tables with the shipping site prefix
  • Existing destination prefix — Use the existing destination prefix
  • Custom — Create a new custom prefix

When you decide what prefix you’d like to use, click Next and Shipper then gives you the option to Begin Migration.

Begin migration.
If you’re ready to fly, Shipper is ready to ship.

Once you begin the migration, a status will appear.

Migration in process.
The status bar shows the percentage and where it’s at in the process.

With advanced API, Shipper ensures the process is as stable as possible. Also, keep in mind this can take some time.

If you want, you can close out of the tab and you’ll get an email when the migrating is complete, calling for drinks all around.

A welcome email from Shipper.
A welcome email from Shipper.

If for some reason, you have a failed migration, Shipper will let you know. It will include some troubleshooting tips and ways to ensure it’s successful on the next attempt (so you can get those drinks on).

More Shipper Options…

You can also Import a site.

Importing is very similar to the export demo. All the options are the same — just instead of exporting, it’s importing.

Also with Shipper, you can:

  • Migrate a multisite network.
  • Create a package migration with a zip file of your WordPress site, multisite network, or subsite.
  • Check the latest logs, which is used to debug any issues you are having.

For more information on all of Shipper Pro’s features, check out the download page and all the documentation we have on using our favorite orange-bearded plugin.

Here’s An Even Easier Way To Migrate Your Sites…

An even easier way to migrate WordPress sites than using the Shipper WordPress migration plugin if you’re hosting with us is to use our built-in WordPress host migration tool (if you’re not hosting your sites with us you need to check out our amazing WordPress hosting options).

Let me show you how it works.

Whoah…Back-Up!

First things first. Before the big move, the number one step is to back up every aspect of your site.

If you’d like to use a plugin for this, we have a handy article on plugins that backup your WordPress site automatically. You can back your site up to the cloud or the server of your choice with an FTP transfer.

This process could take a bit of time, depending on the amount of media uploads you have on your site.

Export the WordPress Database

We’re going to start with exporting the WordPress database. This is an easy process that only takes a few steps to accomplish (whew!).

If you’re hosting on a server with cPanel installed, log into your web server and open phpMyAdmin.

cPanel dashboard with phpMyAdmin highlighted.
Click phpMyAdmin in your cPanel dashboard to view your WordPress database.

If you don’t have cPanel, look for a similar way to access phpMyAdmin.

For example, in the WPMU DEV Hosting Hub, you can access your database via phpMyAdmin by selecting your site and clicking on Manage Database.

WPMU DEV Hosting Hub - Manage Database.
WPMU DEV Hosting Hub – Manage Database.

phpMyAdmin will load your database on your web browser screen.

Example of what WPMU DEV phpMyAdmin looks like with our hosting.
Example of what WPMU DEV phpMyAdmin looks like with our hosting.

From here, select the database that contains your WordPress installation on the left-hand side of the screen. Once selected, click on the Export tab located in the navigation menu.

The Export tab.
The Export tab.

By default, the Quick export and the SQL format for the export are perfect for what we need.

Export methods.

Just click Go and the database export process will begin. Your file will be downloaded to your computer.

When the database export and the FTP transfer of your files is completed, we’ll be all set to go to the next step.

Get Ready to Move In

Now that we’ve backed up our database, let’s begin migrating to the new host.

In this example, we’ll migrate to our hosting using WPMU DEV’s Hub 2.0.

If you’re not using our hosting, it’s okay (but why wouldn’t you be?). Just follow along using whatever process your host has in place.

The first step is to add your domain to The Hub 2.0. This simple process needs to be completed before any site can be migrated to WPMU DEV Hosting.

This applies to both manual migrations and those accomplished with the migration tool (which I’ll show you how to use next).

If you get stuck at any point, don’t worry. We have plenty of step-by-step documentation and 24/7 support if you need help.

After adding your domain, you’ll need to add the WPMU DEV Dashboard, which lets you manage everything from a central location and keeps everything synced together with easy one-click automation.

Simply download the plugin to your computer. Once downloaded, upload it to the WordPress site that you’ll want to host with us.

You can then sync it up to The Hub 2.0 in our dashboard and you should be all good to proceed.

WPMU DEV Dashboard plugin download.
WPMU DEV Dashboard plugin download.

You can migrate sites to WPMU DEV hosting using our migration tool (which I’ll show you how to use shortly) or by manually transferring files using SFTP/SSH and phpMyAdmin.

We recommend using our migration tool. It simplifies and accelerates the process and it also automatically resolves any issues that can interfere. Really, we make it easy.

Make sure you have your current FTP username and password on hand before beginning.

The migration tool works by connecting WPMU DEV servers to your host’s servers with the same FTP credentials you would use to connect by FTP.

If you’re not sure what they are, the best place to find them is in your dashboard or control panel of your original host. Still can’t find them? Contact your current host and get assistance.

Not sure WTF is FTP? Check out this article on using FTP or SFTP to transfer files securely.

Set Your Sights on a New Site

We’re now ready to get started on the actual migration. This is like picking up the keys to your new home.

First, you’ll want to be logged in to The Hub. Once here, click on the Hosting tab at the top of the page.

The hosting tab.
The hosting tab.

From here, click on the +Plus sign.

Once you click the plus sign, several options will pop up. You can create a new website, migrate an existing website, and clone an existing website.

Of course, with this example, you’ll want to click on the Migrate Existing Website.

Migrating in the Hub.
Here’s where you’ll start.

You’ll click on Migrate Site from here.

What comes up next is a dropdown of all the sites currently connected to The Hub (which you should have there if synced correctly from the steps above).

Select the site that you want to migrate and click the arrow to proceed.

Where you’ll select what website you want to migrate.
Select which website you want to migrate.

Once you click the arrow, you’ll be asked to create a temporary domain name. Your site will reside under this domain until the DNS record changes that you’ll make later have a chance to propagate.

Not sure WTF is DNS? Check out our ultimate guide to DNS for WordPress.

Temporary domain name.
Create a temporary URL.

After this, select which region you’d like your site to be hosted from the Server Location dropdown menu (tip: pick the closest location to where most of your traffic comes from).

Pick your location where your site is hosted.
Pick your location.

Click the arrow and let the process begin.

Status of migration.
This can take a few moments. It gives you the status as it goes through the process.

At this point, WPMU DEV servers need to log in to your website using the exact FTP or SFTP username and password you used to manage files with an FTP client.

If these credentials do not exist, you can create them.

Paste your (S)FTP credentials into the fields and click Start Migration.

Where you’ll put your FPT Username and FTP Password.
Where you’ll put your Username and Password for SFTP or FTP.

WPMU DEV servers will then try to locate your site’s files. Usually, this is flawless and there’s no problem.

However, if the path to those files contains some unknown directory that our servers can’t resolve, then the migration process will be interrupted and we’ll alert you of this.

Make sure you’ve entered all details correctly to avert any problems.

If you know the FTP path to your site files, you can place it in our WordPress Install Path area so that it can provide a backup in case our server cannot find the files.

And if you don’t know the FTP path — no worries. You can always contact your current host and they should be able to provide it.

You can also locate it on your own by logging in to your site via FTP. Regardless of the FTP client you use, your path will be displayed on the screen.

You can then cut and paste the path into the WordPress Install Path field.

If you’re hosting with WPMU DEV, this information can be found in Hosting > SFTP/SSH.

FTP and SFTP information.
Get your credentials from the SFTP/SSH screen.

And Away We Go…

Once everything is set up, hit Start Migration.

After hitting the button, you’ll get notified by email once the process has completed.

If all goes well and it’s a successful migration, the temporary domain you set up earlier (e.g. username.wpmudev.host) will be the primary domain for your migrated content for now.

Enter this temporary domain into your browser to view your site and content.

Unless the original site has been disabled in some way, your site and content should still be viewable at the original URL as well as your new temporary address.

This is because you have not set your domain to point to your new host’s nameservers yet.

In other words, you’ve made a copy of your site and added it to your new servers but your site is still hosted on your old server.

And that’s where visitors will go to until you change domain nameservers by updating your DNS records.

You’ll be asked to update your DNS records and set your original domain as the primary one. Then, your permanent domain will the only one users can have access to.

If you need help, check out our step-by-step documentation on how to set up your DNS records.

Before updating your DNS, we suggest visiting the temporary domain to verify that everything is a-ok and that the migration went well.

You can do this from The Hub by clicking WP Admin in the temporary domain.

Where the WP Admin is in The Hub.
Where the WP Admin is in The Hub.

If you experience any issues with your site after migration, contact your host. We provide 24/7 support and we’ll not only help you determine what the problem is, we’ll also do our best to fix it for you.

If everything is looking good, all you need to do is edit your DNS records and that’s all. WPMU DEV offers a DNS Management tool that lets you get this done ASAP on the W-E-B.

You’re good to go! Your site should now be migrated over to our hosting.

Welcome home.

Time To Settle In

You did it! You’ve moved in, are unpacking, and getting settled. Sure, you might have some boxes (or plugins) to unpack, but you made it.

Regardless of who you choose to host with, migration doesn’t have to be that difficult with good hosting (or with the assistance of a smooth-sailing plugin like Shipper).

If you haven’t migrated from host to host yet, but are thinking about it because you’ve outgrown your current hosting provider, consider giving WPMU DEV managed WordPress hosting a try.

Our hosting includes dedicated memory, CPU, SSD storage resources, blazing-fast CDN, WAF, DNS Manager, IPv6, SSH, WP-Cli, 24/7 support, and more.

A WPMU DEV Membership includes hosting for 3 sites, plus access to The HUB and all of our award-winning plugins (Pro version).

Migrating your website to a new host doesn’t have to cause a lot of anxiety and stress.

And once you’re settled in, the peace of mind knowing that your host can handle the traffic, cover your needs, and provide you with assistance will keep you happy to be in the neighborhood.

 

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Nathanael Fakes
Nathanael Fakes Nate Fakes is an L.A.-based writer. When he's not pounding keys on his MacBook, you might find him scribbling inappropriate things as a syndicated cartoonist. He's fond of family time, hanging out at Venice Beach, and pizza coupons.
What’s your migrating experience? What is a breeze or did the movers drop boxes along the way? Let us know in the comments!