For many webmasters and site owners, as their business expands or they are making new developments (like adding new sites, expanding sites, experiencing slower load times, or simply using a lesser quality hosting account to meet their growing needs) it is necessary to “migrate” to a new hosting account or even make use of a dedicated server. Mid Carolina Freelance, the umbrella corporation for various websites recently experienced this type of transition and decided to share their experience with those that want as little down-time on their site(s) as possible. This will help to eliminate the loss of your search engine results positions (SERPs).

Mid Carolina Freelance, in anticipation of the launch of its’ extraordinarily powerful new blog interaction / engagement, and social networking site, Blog Interact, scheduled to launch about February the 7th of 2011, has been in the process of “migrating” their eight websites. With extremely high search rankings for our sites, we did not want to experience any “down-time”, causing Google or other search engines to crawl our sites and find that there were no database connections. So, we’ll explain how we had very little down-time what-so-ever, and hopefully this will help other corporations with the same needs of upgrading servers.

First, if at all possible, try to maintain the same hosting company you are using. This will make communication and technical hang-ups easier. If you are upgrading and are dissatisfied with your current hosting company, no problem, the migration can still be done. The downtime will be slightly longer since you are migrating domains as well.

Of course you will need to back-up all of your FTP files and databases. I recommend doing this on an external USB hard drive, as it allows your FTP file transfer to take place while you work on other things. You certainly don’t want any interference with these delicate files and databases while using your computers main hard drive or surfing the web. I also recommend using a different web browser while you make the file transfers. Example: Mid Carolina Freelance uses all three of the most popular web browsers (Firefox, Google Chrome, and Internet Explorer). They all have their benefits for certain purposes, so switching back and forth is no problem. So, during the FTP transfer, I recommend using FireFTP on the Firefox browser. Their FTP client is stable and reliable. Once you have initiated the transfer, simply minimize the window and use one of the other browsers for your other work, again not interrupting the file transfer. I do want to be clear in stating that you are not actually transferring the files, but rather duplicating them to your external hard drive. (This allows your sites to continue to run).

Next, you’ll want to go to a site where you can buy an inexpensive domain, such as a .net or .info for a couple of bucks. Using a site like Build Your Blog! will give you free domain “masking”. You’ll only want to get the domain for the lowest term only, which is by default one year. This way, you’re literally spending 2 to 7 dollars to keep you from losing your search engine position(s). At Build Your Blog!, free domain masking comes with the domain so that when Google crawls your site, they will simply have a temporary re-direct. It will function similar to a 301 re-direct or a subdomain. For example, many sites use the far out-dated http://www.example(dot)com versus the simpler http://example(dot)com. If you have incidentally linked your site using the www, when in fact it has not been set-up this way, Google reads this as a subdomain, which (though slight) slows crawling time.

So what you don’t want to do is to close out your old hosting account – yet! Again, simply mirror everything (databases, FTP files, other programs, etc.) into your new hosting account and make your new absolute hosting path (created in part by you, and in part by your server – see your host company for more specific details), restore the database information that you saved in your FTP “db back-ups” folder, and then make your database connection strings to your new website file or files (if you have more than one site). Now allow this to propagate (set-up), which should be fairly quick since you are using your inexpensive domain. (To take a step back, since you are using this domain for perhaps at most 5 to 7 days; there is no need to get private registration, ICANN, and all that other domain upgrade “jazz”. Additionally, once your migration is complete, if you have a Google Adsense account, you can always pop some Google PPC ads on it and perhaps get your few bucks back by years end!)

Now, once you have “tested” everything in your new “cloaked” hosting account, and everything is functioning well, you are now able to shut-down your old hosting account and get (if you have any) credit back on the hosting time that you have not used. Or, you may want to simply apply it to your new hosting account and extend your time.

Many migrations, if you do it the “old fashioned way” may keep your site(s) down for as long as 3 to 4 days, depending on the number of sites you are migrating, their size, what hosting company you are using, and what type of hosting you are upgrading to.

Hopefully this article was easy to understand. Personally, while our hosting company understood the migration process well and were able to help us with minor technical issues, it never dawned on them to apply this feature. Mid Carolina Freelance and many of its’ partner sites are ranked extremely high in search results for various keywords and phrases. For about 5 bucks, we were certainly willing to buy a domain to keep from losing these results that took blood, sweat, and tears to get!

Author's Bio: 

Bryan P. Hollis is a professional marketer and Founder / President of Mid Carolina Freelance - A Complete SEO Firm. Additionally, he remains a writer and is an "expert" at Self Growth in the area of Marketing. He has over 15 years experience as the Head of Marketing or President of various firms. He enjoys meeting people that he can learn new and innovative ideas from as well. (Also love to play golf!)