I recently switched web hosting companies from HostMoster to HostGator. I have a fairly large website with two sub-domains, several mySQL databases, and lots of photos. This post will describe the transfer process and give a brief review of my experiences with HostGator.
My websites are near the size limit for what you can put onto a shared webhost and I’d kind of like to switch to a service like DigitalOcean where I have full control of my server. But to do that I’d need to switch my file storage off my webserver to something like Amazon AWS. That is probably something that I’ll be working toward over the next few years, but for now I can still get by with the shared hosting.
HostGator does provide a free website transfer service. I didn’t research it as I wasn’t comfortable with them trying to transfer my sites.
The two sub-domains that I run are darkinfinitysoftware.com and weissoft.com. Dark Infinity is a simple site with static pages listing our public domain touch table games. It was trivial to transfer – just zip up the files, move them over and re-point the DNS. Weissoft is a mix of my desktop software and a suite of tools for a game called Illyriad. The pages for my desktop software are relatively simple php/mySQL and I have a few databases and php scripts to provide cloud services for my applications. The Illyriad tools are more complex with lots of web-services for the in-game web plugin, some query tools for our guild leaders and a dynamic game map. The map is probably the most intense app since it builds the map tiles from data in a large mySQL database.
Transferring weissoft.com took longer, mostly because the tables used by the map were too large to use the phpMyAdmin export/import tool and had to be done on the command line. Also, the mysql database login name changed between the two hosting companies so I had to modify all the php scripts.
My main domain isn’t as complex as weissoft.com. It has this WordPress blog, my photo gallery and a password protected family section with more photos and some genealogy stuff. Moving the photo gallery was mostly just time consuming. I have ~75GB of photos so I moved them directly from my old site to my new one. The connection between my two hosts is >100x faster than the connection between my computer and the internet. Re-uploading would have taken at least a week.
The blog turned out to be the most difficult thing to move. Part of the problem was that I didn’t want much downtime, so I was trying to get the new site running before repointing the DNS so I didn’t have a domain name. WordPress has the domain scattered in its database and it took some work to get it running on the temporary domain name, and then again to switch it back to chadweisshaar.com
Along with all of that, there was getting the new host’s cPanel settings correct, adding SSL certs, setting up SSH and FTP access, creating email accounts, spam rules and forwarders, re-creating re-directs and other .htaccess rules, and re-making my cron jobs. The whole process took a week.
It was very quick to create an account and sign up for service. I was given immediate access to the cPanel and was able to start creating sub-domains, email accounts and other account settings.
My first support experience was poor. The tech was able to quickly give me the temporary domain name, but when I asked about file limits I’d noticed on the cPanel I couldn’t get a straight answer. He pointed me to a doc that described how to “optimize” my website, but wouldn’t say what the limits were or how they were enforced. I never did get an answer from support about what the real limits were. I’ve since exceeded the 20G limit by a factor of 4 but haven’t quite passed the 100k file count limit. HostGator will no longer do backups of my site because of its size, but I haven’t seen any other enforcement. Some of their support docs say that the real limit is 250k inodes (there is basically one inode per file).
I used cPanel to turn on SSH access and attempted to use it w/o success. I needed to contact support again to get that turned on. Apparently it normally happens after 24 hours or so. This turned out to be a consistent theme. They have a lot of processes that happen automatically, but slowly. I would have had better luck if I’d signed up and then waited a few days. In fact I got an email from them a week after I’d signed up titled “Learn how to get your site up and running”.
Shortly after getting SSH access my account was locked for “randomly selected” verification. I sent in a photo of my drivers license and credit card and a few days later (after a little prodding) my account was turned back on.
My final contact with support was to get the free SSL certs added. Again, this is something that would have happened eventually, but you can’t get SSL until you’ve pointed the DNS to the new site, and once I’d pointed DNS, my sites were broken till SSL was turned on.
Overall HostGator is doing a better job than my old host company. The site is a little more responsive, email security settings are better and they have a modern version of cPanel. The tech support is much better, though still not great: English skills are OK but not perfect, and a couple times I had to be transferred to a higher level tech. But I’m still worried about running into file count or size limits and I was frustrated to find that there is no C/C++ compiler and that their version of Python is 5 years old