Changing website domain to a new host

My sister currently has a website for her law firm, but she hated the host she was using and got out of the contract. I’m hearing this second hand, but the original host says they are “transfering the domain to her” and she’s asking me for help getting her set up on a new host.

How do I do that? Specifically, how do I get hosting with a company using an existing domain and what do I need to do to make things go smoothly? Any help oh great and powerful QT3 knowledgebase?

I’m your man on this one, I work for a 30k domain webhost.

First the “transferring domain” bit. That sounds like they originally registered the domain name for her, and now she’s going to have control over it. So, the first piece of the puzzle: control of the domain name at the registrar. It should just be a username and password, and updated contact information at the registrar.

Second piece: FTP down the site. You’re going to need all of the files, and a database copy (either a backup file or a replica on a local SQL server).

Third piece: locate new host, push content up to the server. Test everything to make sure it is working.

Fourth piece: During this time, contact the new host and find out if they are going to host DNS for you, or if you need to do it from your registrar. Most registrars do this for free. If you’re using the registrar to host DNS, you’ll need to determine what IP to point the domain to at the new host. If hosting DNS at the new host, you’ll need to change the registrar’s name server information for the domain to match the name servers at the new host, and make sure that the DNS record for the domain exists on their DNS servers and is pointed correctly.

That’s it. If there are any parts that don’t make sense, let me know.


Ok, first, you need to find out if this company is also a registrar: did yer sister actually buy the domain name from these people? Did they just buy it from someone upstream? This is something you’ll have to ask them, or that you can probably solve by posting a link to this host’s Web site.

Depending on the answer to these questions you’ll be handling things differently.

So then, let’s say they aren’t the registrar: you first call them and say “I want to cancel my service.” Get the information from them about the registrar of the domain name (is it Dotster? Network Solutions?) Once you’ve got this info, get in touch with the registrar. Then you need to change the DNS info for this domain.

Short lesson in DNS: You Web site lives one place, the name itself lives somewhere else, and the ownership of that name lives in yet another place. So the first thing you need to do is update the info for the ownership of the domain name. You do this at the registrar, most likely through a Web interface on their site.

You need to set the registrar info up to point at the domain name’s new home. The domain name’s new home should be taken care of by your new Web site host. I’m not too familiar with hosting companies, but I can recommend Hurricane Electric ( they’re expensive, but worth it.

Call up a new hosting company and tell them you want to host your domain name with them as well as your Web site. They should be able to walk you through the process of setting up the registrar’s info to point at this new domain name server. Then, send the new host company your Website on a CD or upload it via FTP.

On a side note for anyone else reading this, is an awesome free DNS host. Very cool, but slightly complicated.