Migrating a website from one platform to another is a daunting task. There are so many things that can go wrong, and if you don’t know how to mitigate the potential problems, you could end up wiping out your entire website.

Losing your website is a scary proposition. You’ve worked too hard to lose everything during a migration, so follow these tips to avoid the worst-case scenario.

  1. Look for (and follow) migration guides

Although all migrations come with challenges, not every migration will be the same. The best way to complete a successful migration is to follow a pre-made guide walking you through the process. For example, if you’re migrating from Magento to a platform like Shopify or WooCommerce, follow the Magento migration guide from dev.co. This particular guide covers everything you need to do, including backups, tests, and data migration.

If you’re moving from WordPress to another platform, this WordPress migration guide from WPExplorer will walk you through the process. The guide will show you how to export your data from WordPress and import your database to your new platform.

The most important checklist to follow during a migration to any platform is the SEO migration guide from Moz. Moving from one domain to another carries a host of SEO-related problems and it’s critical to have a proper road map.

Don’t wing your migration. Follow a guide written by someone with experience to get it right the first time around. 

  1. Create at least two separate backups

When you’re migrating a website you’ve spent years creating, one backup isn’t enough. Before migrating your site, create at least two separate backups on different storage devices that don’t connect to the internet. If one storage device fails, you’ll have the second. External hard drives do fail, and it would be horrible if yours failed while you’re attempting to upload your data to your new platform.

It’s important to keep your backup devices disconnected from the internet to prevent them from becoming compromised with malware, ransomware, or some kind of virus. Your backup device is highly unlikely to get bricked or locked via ransomware right before you start transferring your data, but it could happen.

If you have any extremely important data that would be catastrophic to lose, back it up on a series of DVDs. DVDs are limited in terms of storage space, but they’re less volatile than an external hard drive.

  1. Double check your robots.txt file 

Your website will only be successful on your new platform if search engines index your webpages. During a migration, it’s possible that your robots.txt file could end up being changed, preventing search engine spiders from indexing your pages. 

Once your migration is complete, check your robots.txt file to make sure it’s set to allow search engine spiders to crawl your website. If checking your files manually is too much, use a tool like Net Watcher to monitor your files and get reports regarding what has changed. 

Net Watcher is normally a tool you’d use for cybersecurity, but it’s also useful for making sure your files remain intact during your migration. And, if any files do change, you’ll be able to see exactly how they’ve changed.

  1. Set your URL structure before populating content

Hopefully, you can import your data via SQL directly or through an Excel spreadsheet and carry over your exact URLs. However, that may not be possible. It depends on the platform.

If your new platform allows you to format your URLs in a custom way, make sure you set that up prior to importing your data. If you have more than a few pages and an import creates the wrong URL structure, it will take you forever to change each URL manually. 

  1. Follow data privacy laws (when applicable)

When you’re bound by HIPAA or any other specific data privacy laws, you have to be careful with your migration. You might need to encrypt your data while it’s uploading to your new platform. You might even be required to encrypt the data on any backup hard drives that store your data. The laws relating to website access have drastically changed in recent years. 

If you’re not sure what to do, contact an IT security professional for help. It’s not worth risking fines and other consequences for your business.

Plan your migration

Migrations aren’t something you can do on a whim or over the weekend. Take the time to plan your migration. Don’t start your migration until you’re ready to complete it. Snags will be inevitable, but with perseverance, you’ll get it done right.