Frequently asked questions about migrations
In this guide, we’ll aim to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about migrations, including what a migration is, what you’ll need to do on the day and what changes you’ll need to be aware of following the migration.
We migrate our customers’ websites onto different servers for three different reasons: upgrading, downgrading, and updating older versions of the Plesk control panel.
Consider the following your hosting survival guide for the day of the migration and beyond!
What is a migration?
A migration refers to the process of moving the physical data of your website from one server to another, so that includes all website data (images, text, applications, etc), databases, as well as any email accounts and configuration settings you may have within your existing Plesk Panel.
The only data we don’t migrate over are Plesk backups. This is because of potential compatibility issues (backups from an older version of Plesk won’t necessarily work in the newest version). We will typically recreate any backup schedules which are active on the current server as part of our post-migration checks. The format of your backups following the migration may differ slightly due to the additional options available in newer versions of Plesk.
What is the process?
The general process for the migration is as follows:
1) We place a holding page on your website(s)
2) We start the data move process; data is first archived and compressed on the existing server
3) Data is then transferred over our network and deployed to your new server
4) We remove the holding pages on the new solution and check how your sites appear on the new server. As part of this we will run a series of post-migration checks and commands to ensure that the new server environment is correctly configured.
5) Your site’s DNS is then updated to point to the new solution, with the holding pages left in place on the existing solution
Following the migration, you are seeing the old version of your site if you see the holding page, and the new if you see your site live.
How long will a migration take?
It varies with each website. It depends not only on the amount of data to be moved, but the amount of physical files. It is much quicker to move one file that is 5GB in size than 5,000 files which total 5GB in size. It is difficult to estimate the exact time it will take to move the physical data, but we generally find that the process will last between 30 and 60 minutes for most moderately-sized websites (less than 5GB overall in size). This is a very rough estimate and will vary widely for each migration we complete. Moving more than 1 site will further increase the amount of time that the move is likely to take. For larger websites, the data move can take several hours to complete.
Following the move, we will have to configure your sites on the new server following the migration, so the downtime is not limited to 60 minutes, but we aim to minimise the time for which your site is unavailable as much as possible.
The DNS configuration for your website will also need to be updated. This “points” your domain to the physical server your account is tied to. This is because your website will be moving to a new IP address, and the results of this change will need time to propagate globally. We recommend waiting 48 hours for this to fully update, though in most cases it is much sooner.
How will this affect me?
For starters, you will experience downtime, due to the process of physically transferring your data. We place a standard holding page during the course of the migration on your existing site(s) during the process, helping to preserve the integrity of your data. Once the holding page is up, you cannot interact with your website. We use a generic and SEO-friendly holding page (“Site Upgrade in Progress!”), but we can make use of a custom HTML holding page if you prefer. You would need to upload this to the web root of your domain prior the migration and ensure that the file is named custom.html.
If your domains use our centralised name servers, we will be able to handle these necessary DNS changes for this automatically.
If you have any domains using external name servers, you’ll need to make changes to the DNS records. We will email you with the list of domains and required changes. They would need to be made through the relevant name servers associated with the domain.
If you make use of a payment gateway, such as Sage Pay, you may need to update the outbound server IP address within your configuration to ensure that payments can continue to be successfully taken following your migration. Again, we will advise you on what you need to change.
Can I still use webmail on my new server?
Yes, but we do not install a webmail client on new servers by default any more because it uses resources that we feel could be better used to power your website. Any site that uses mail with us can use our own webmail portal at https://webmail-client.co.uk. If you would like a webmail client installed on your new server so that you can access your email via a branded URL (eg: webmail.your-domain.com), please let us know and we can advise accordingly.
What about any custom server configurations on my current solution?
If you are aware of anything you have installed or changed server-side on your current server, then it’s best to make us aware of this. These customisations won’t migrate over automatically, but if you get in touch with us we will be able to advise to make sure that the migration causes as little disruption to your set-up as possible.