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Smooth Sailing Migration: How to achieve a flawless website transition   

Smooth Sailing Migration: How to achieve a flawless website transition

By Daniel Pearson, CEO at KnownHost      

In the ever-evolving digital landscape, the need for website migration often arises as businesses strive to adapt to new technologies, improve performance, or enhance user experience.      

A successful migration goes beyond just moving files and databases and requires the orchestration of a seamless transition that minimises downtime and guarantees uninterrupted user access.       

Here are the five essential steps to completing a smooth website migration with thorough planning, precautionary steps, and testing.      

Build a comprehensive migration plan    

The foundation of a successful website migration lies in a well-crafted plan. This plan will serve as the roadmap for the process, outlining the steps that need to be taken and anticipating potential challenges.  Crafting a successful roadmap will ensure that problems are addressed and prepared before the process has started.  

This also gives business owners the opportunity to identify what has worked well on the previous site and how to retain those features during the migration. 

A detailed migration plan also helps businesses to identify the resources, manpower and time required for a successful migration. This not only streamlines the process but allows businesses to ensure tasks are allocated accordingly and that every aspect of the migration is accounted for. 

A migration plan provides a clear record of the entire process, which will facilitate easier troubleshooting and analysis if issues arise.    

Complete a full website backup    

While GDPR doesn’t explicitly mandate full website backups, it does require that personal data is able to be restored in a timely manner. Regular backups are considered good practice to enhance security and safeguard against potential data loss.    

It is essential to thoroughly test the data migration process before a permanent transition to ensure that all data is fully protected. 

Traditionally, the 3-2-1 Backup Rule was considered the gold standard for ensuring adequate data backup.  The rule suggests that at least three copies of data are kept on two different devices, with one copy stored off-site. However, a more updated version of this rule recommends that an additional copy of the data be stored immutably, where the data can’t be altered in any way.  

Penalties for failing to adequately protect user data can range from monetary fines, reprimands and even bans on processing data.   

Select an optimal time and inform stakeholders    

Timing is a critical factor in the success of a website migration. Selecting an optimal time to begin the website migration process can significantly minimize user impact and business disruption.  

It is important to communicate the migration process with internal and external teams as well as end-users. Transparent communication ensures that everyone is on the same page and understands the potential impact of the migration. 

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The website migration plan should be drafted at least one month in advance of the migration to allow for careful consideration of factors such as website size, complexity, data volume, and downtime requirements. 

The size of a website directly influences the time required for migration. Larger websites with extensive content, multimedia elements, and complex structures require more time for a successful transition.  

For example, a traditional WordPress-based website with around 10 email accounts and 500 posts can be normally migrated within an hour but it’s recommended that a range of downtime requirements are considered to avoid unexpected delays. Website migrations should occur during quieter periods, to ensure minimal customer disruption. 

Configure software and transfer databases post-migration    

Once the migration is underway, attention should shift to the configuration of software and databases to ensure that there is a smooth transition. Identify all the software components that are required for the website in the new environment including the operating system services, user interface, web server and database.   

It’s essential to ensure that each of these components is compatible with the server specifications and any specific requirements of the migrated website. This step contributes significantly to the overall performance of the migrated website and the user experience. 

Without proper configuration, certain features or functionalities of the website may malfunction or even break. This will negatively impact the performance, functionality and security of the website. 

This poor functionality can result in real-time loss of website users. One survey found that 60 percent of users on e-commerce websites will abandon their purchases if a website has poor functionality. 

Smooth database transfer is just as important. It involves moving data seamlessly to the new environment, minimizing the risk of data corruption or loss. A smooth transfer process should ensure that data is backed up and encrypted to prevent a complete loss of data. 

If data loss occurs, this may impact user accounts, e-commerce transactions or interactive elements. This will negatively affect functionality, erode user trust and damage credibility.    

Conduct post-migration checks     

Conducting post-migration checks is a crucial final step in the website migration process. These checks help ensure that the transition is successful and that the website operates optimally in its new environment.   

Several key aspects to consider include performance and functionality testing, verifying data integrity and validating security measures. Performance and functionality testing will ensure that problems like slow loading times or malfunctioning website features do not linger.  

Conduct data integrity checks to ensure that all data, including databases, files, and content, has been successfully migrated without corruption or loss. This ensures that the information available on the website is consistent with the original data.  

The security validation process will confirm if all security measures implemented before the migration are still effective. This should include checking encryption, access controls, and other security protocols.  

As a final check, encourage users to provide feedback on the migrated website as this will help identify any issues or improvements that might have been overlooked during testing.  

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