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20 January 2021

Changing Hosting Companies? These Are the Things that Can Break During the Transfer (+Solutions)

There are dozens of reasons why you might need to change your web hosting provider. Too much downtime, overgrowing your current provider, the need for more bandwidth -- are just a few of them. We’ve heard them and many others from Diffy clients. But we heard them in a different context. 

When changing hosting providers, our clients encountered a lot of technical issues. Some of them were small glitches that can be solved after a single chat with the support department of the hosting providers. Others were quite complicated and they needed the help of web admins, programmers, and network specialists. 

Luckily, there’s a more affordable solution to all these problems than hiring a whole team of IT pros to hunt for errors and issues. But more on that later. For now, let’s take a quick look at the things that can break when you change hosting providers.


Top Technical Issues You Can Expect When You Change Web Hosting Providers


In an ideal world, you’d pay a fee to your new provider, push a few buttons, and then sit back and relax while your website’s transition takes place seamlessly. But this is not an ideal world.

Things break. In all sorts of ways. Some of the most common ways are:


PHP Configuration Errors


WordPress and Drupal both run on PHP. When you change your web hosting provider, the PHP configuration may not be correctly migrated, or it may need to be adapted to your new provider’s environment. It’s very easy to miss a configuration flag, for example, or a parameter specific to the new configuration.

Some configuration errors may not impact every page of your website though. They can affect only a specific plug-in or can occur only when using some functionalities, such as retrieving comments. This can make them very hard to spot.

Configuration errors that result in PHP warnings, notices, or errors look unprofessional, but they can also expose details about your application’s internal configuration and logic. In some cases, they can even expose critical and security-relevant data, that attackers can exploit. Spotting and fixing these problems as quickly as possible is not only relevant in terms of UX but has real, operational security implications.


Database Errors


A lot of the errors you will encounter when changing hosting providers are related to database connectivity. Typically, when your script needs to create a connection with the database, it needs three types of information:


  • The user name and password for the database.
  • The address of the server
  • The name of the database.


All of these have to be correct, otherwise, you will not be able to connect. 


Some of the most common mistakes here include: entering localhost instead of an IP address of the URL of the server of the database, entering an incorrect username (e.g. because cPanel prefixes usernames with the account name), entering an incorrect database (an error triggered by the same prefixing issues as in the case of usernames).

If all the connection details are correct but the database user doesn’t have all the needed permissions, you may encounter a new set of issues. 

For instance, when the script needs to create database tables, the user needs to create permissions. This means you would also have to select a certain database and join the user to it so it has enough permissions to run the script -- something that is easily overlooked during migrations.

It’s important to note that some of these errors will be seen by the user -- they are not just between you, your CMS, and your hosting provider. They will look unprofessional and, more importantly, when they expose the logic behind your system, they will also expose you to critical security threats.

Furthermore, when changing hosting providers you might encounter problems related to database versioning. Different versions need different configurations and this is where problems usually start to pour in. Misconfiguration of the database can cause a significant decrease in performance. What’s worse is that this decrease is immediately visible to the users.


Images and Other File Errors


Problems related to how various images or other files are retrieved and displayed are a common occurrence when migrating CMS installations. These can be caused by a variety of factors, such as:


  • Incorrect file and directory permissions
  • System libraries (such as ImageMagick or GD) missing or being incorrectly configured
  • Incorrect plug-in configuration


Some of these problems are easy to spot -- incorrect permissions on a media directory, for example, will render all the files in that directory inaccessible. Others, however, are more subtle: an incorrect configuration may only affect some plug-ins or only newly-uploaded content.


Various Integration Errors


There are most likely various third-party services integrated with your website. A good example here comes from the various plug-ins that you use to connect social media services.

For example, plug-ins that you use to embed tweets in a blog post or share buttons for any social network. During server migration, these plug-ins that are integrated with your website may lose their connection to the database and display various error messages.

Again, these are very hard to spot if you’re not looking for them specifically. Conversely, manually searching for every possible error is time- and money-consuming.

So why not automate the nitty-gritty of server migration configuration and error reporting?


How Can You Fix Issues Relating to Changing Hosting Providers Painlessly


All of the issues above can be spotted by a trained eye. But this can take days (for an entire team) or weeks for a single engineer, depending on the size of your website. In the meantime, you are left with a website that’s glitchy and offers a poor user experience.


Not exactly inviting, is it?


With Diffy, you can see all of these errors before they wreak havoc on your website. Our 100% automated tool allows you to perform weekly (or daily) health checks and provides in-depth reports that you can share with your team on Slack or on any other channel.


Diffy was created to keep your website safe and running smoothly, no matter what happens behind the scenes. Your users don’t need to know you’re changing hosting providers, do they?

At the same time, Diffy will cut your QA hours to a tenth of what they used to be. Don’t take our word for it! Try it yourself -- it’s 100% FREE, so what have you got to lose?

Diffy helps your QA team

to ensure that websites don't get visual bugs