Let me guess: You currently house your WordPress sites at a host you’re not too happy with. (Or worse, they’re spread across multiple hosts, everything is everywhere, and your current setup is a bit of a mess.) You know it’s time to find a new hosting solution (probably a managed WordPress host), but where do you even start? How do you actually tackle getting all your sites on one host in a feasible, and dare I say pleasant, way?
You’re in the right place.
In this article, I’ll cover the best way to actually start moving all your sites to a brand new platform.
Let’s dive in so you can start your WordPress migration and get your sites hosted where they’re meant to be!
Step 1: Work with your host to find the best migration workflow
Your new hosting provider should act like a business partner, so you’ll want to reach out to them to establish a relationship before you start moving sites. This will give you a chance to ask questions about their platform, learn how they’ve helped clients like you in the past, and discover the best method for moving your sites. They might also be able to recommend the best pricing options. For example, WordPress hosting companies like WP Engine and Flywheel offer plans that include multiple WordPress installs, and it’s the best way to get a little discount when you’re someone managing lots of sites.
Talking to your new host about moving to their platform will also help you learn what the migration process is like. Do you need to install any migration plugins? Will you need to provide SFTP or WordPress credentials for every single site? These are all questions they’ll be able to help you answer before you get too far into the process.
At Flywheel, we know that moving sites to a new host isn’t always easy (or something you want to spend time doing), which is why we’ll move all your sites for you, for free.
If you’re more of the do-it-yourself type, we have a free WordPress plugin that makes migrations a snap. Or, if you prefer to be even more hands on, we have a guide on moving your site manually as well! We’ll go over each of these methods below.
Even if you feel confident that you could move your sites yourself, I’d highly recommend talking to your hosting provider first to establish that relationship and make sure you’re using the best workflow available. You never know how they might be able to go above and beyond to help!
Step 2: Migrate your WordPress sites
Migrating your sites can seem like a daunting task, but luckily the room for error is pretty low considering you will always be making a copy of your current site. What I’ll discuss below is by no means a comprehensive guide (I’d suggest referencing your host’s documentation for that), but it does provide a quick overview on each step you’ll need to take to get your site moved from your old host to your new one, assuming you’re using your host’s default tools.
Let’s begin with a little WordPress 101. Every WordPress site consists of two main elements, the site’s files, which includes the
wp-content folder and any custom files or folders you’ve added, and the database. Most hosts provide tools to manually import these elements over to their platform. Let’s dig into that process now!
The first thing you’ll want to do is create a backup of your site. Your current host may offer this functionality built in, but if they don’t (or the process seems a bit tricky) you can always use a plugin to do the heavy lifting. Updraft and BackWPup are both great tools that allow you to download a backup of both your site files and the database with just a few clicks.
Once you have the site backup in your hands, it’s simply a matter of uploading everything to your new host. The files will generally be added via FTP, and the database will be imported via a database manager.
To upload your files, you can check with your new host to find the correct settings to enter into your FTP client. An FTP client is an application that allows you to access the file structure of your hosting, and popular clients include Filezilla, Cyberduck, and Transmit. Once you’ve established a connection to the server, it’s just a matter of dragging and dropping your site’s
wp-content folder to the right place, usually overwriting a default
wp-content folder, and uploading any custom files or folders your site contains.
With the site’s files uploaded, the next step is to import your database using your host’s database manager. The most common tool for this is called phpMyAdmin, but your host may offer a custom database manager (Flywheel’s is especially easy to use!), so check their documentation for the best way to import your database.
Lastly, each host will have a method to ensure your site is loading the right files and calling the right database. You’ll want to check with them to make sure all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed.
That may seem like a lot of manual work, and to be honest, it is! That’s why many hosts offer easier ways to move your site to their platform, either by performing migrations for you, or by suggesting the use of a plugin. Flywheel is no different, but we try and do one better – we offer free Flywheel-performed migrations and a custom self-serve plugin in addition to the ability to manually migrate your site.
Option 1: Let Flywheel migrate your site for you
Since the very dawn of Flywheel, we’ve wanted to make it easy for creatives to move their sites over to our amazing platform. For this reason, we offer free site migrations! To get started, just visit our secure migration form, enter a few details about your site, and then sit back and relax while our dedicated team handles everything. Our team will copy your site over to Flywheel and email you when it’s complete. This process usually takes a couple days, but if you’re itching to get to Flywheel even faster, you can choose our Expedited option for a small fee. Ready to put Flywheel to work? Head over to our Migrations page to get started.
Option 2: Migrate your site using the Flywheel Migrations plugin
For those who enjoy migrating their own sites, but maybe not that much, our Flywheel Migrations plugin enables you to move your sites over to Flywheel at your own pace with minimal fuss.
After you install the free plugin and enter a few basic details about your site, the fun begins and the Flywheel robots fire up the migration machine. You can watch the progress in real time (think Pizza Tracker) or simply wait for the assuring ping of a fresh new email with the subject “Your Flywheel site is ready!”. Excited to begin migrating on your own? Check out our handy step-by-step guide to using the Flywheel Migrations plugin here.
Option 3: Migrate your site manually
As discussed earlier, if you’re an advanced user and would like to move your site over to Flywheel while maintaining control of every detail, you sure can! You’ll want to make sure you’ve got a copy of your site’s files and database, using one of the methods I touched on before. From there you can utilize FTP and upload your files to the server, and use our beautiful database manager to upload your database. Make sure to match the database prefix on the Flywheel dashboard to the one in your database and you should be good to go! Of course, this process is a bit more detailed, which is why Flywheel offers this help doc to any brave soul who has chosen to walk the narrowest of migration paths.
Step 3: Don’t forget to quality check
Once one of your sites is moved to a new hosting platform, make sure you set aside time to do a little quality check and ensure the move went exactly as planned. After all, you know your sites best and will be able to identify if anything is off!
Note: Don’t forget to test your WordPress site for mobile usability problems!
If you’re moving to Flywheel, each site migration is monitored by one of our WordPress experts, so we’ll do a personal check as soon as we move your site over. Once we’re confident it’s perfect, we’ll pass it back for your review. Again, since you know the site best, it’s possible we might miss something. In the rare case that happens, you can use that same group migration tool to leave feedback on the site, and our team of technical experts will dive back in to get it sorted out!
Step 4: Go live!
Once you’ve reviewed each and every site and are happy with the results, all that’s left to do is take ‘em live by updating DNS.
And guess what – once you’re at this stage, it means you’ve successfully moved a bunch of WordPress sites to a new host, hopefully with zero headaches during the process! Time to pat yourself on the back, celebrate, and get back to focusing on the parts of your business you love.
When you choose a new hosting company that acts more like a partner for your business, migrating lots of WordPress sites can actually be a lot easier than it seems. Have you gone through the experience of transferring from one host to another? What advice would you give to someone about to start the process? Any lessons learned? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!
This article was originally published 6-18-2018. It was last updated 6-11-2020.