Site Migration and Securing (HTTPS) – a Personal Experience
Web Business Solutions has been around in one form or another since about 2002. That’s quite a long time in Internet years. The site has been through quite a few changes but one thing has remained the same…the webhosting company I used to host the site. Until now.
I have used A2 Hosting for several sites…mainly for affiliate marketing in niches outside of Internet marketing and site building…and for creating landing pages. But not for this site. The company I was using were OK…support was good and I experienced very little downtime. But they had fallen behind in many key aspects, such as…
The plan I was on had a usage allowance of a measly 100 Mb. Comparable plans at A2 had unlimited data.
The monthly fee I was paying at my existing host was considerably higher than A2’s plans (I went for the Swift shared hosting) despite the fact that A2 had unlimited storage, transfer, and databases… and I could even host unlimited websites on the one account.
My existing host use a proprietary site management interface rather than the industry standard cPanel. It was old, clunky and had not changed in 15 years. In fact even their home page had not changed in that time.
Like many site owners I have realized for some time that the time has well and truly come to put WBS on a secure server. Even though I have no shopping carts or payment systems (the beauty of affiliate marketing is the merchants you work with deal with all of that) Google have stated loud and clear that a secure server is a ranking signal and we seem to be moving towards a secure Internet on the whole. Although my existing host offered SSL, it just wasn’t easy to set up. On the other hand with A2 it’s a total breeze.
More on that in a minute…
So clearly, the time had come to switch. But the prospect of moving WBS…which was created with WordPress…to a new host was to be honest, a little bit daunting. Being a WordPress site it should be a relatively easy process, but there is always that thought in the back of your mind that something might go wrong and your site breaks, you lose traffic, you lose rankings, your email breaks etc.
But then I noticed that A2 actually offer to move your site for you…for free. So then I had a choice…do I entrust A2 with the whole process, or do I do it myself? One option that was available to me was to use the backup plugin I have installed called BackupGuard which allows you to migrate your site (paid version only).
I decided that because I’m not only a user of A2 but also an affiliate it would be a good opportunity to really put them to the test, so when I recommend them to people who are in the same position as me i.e. considering changing hosts, I could do so from a first hand perspective.
So with the decision made all I had to do was open a support ticket and request a site migration. I provided them with my existing account details (CMS, FTP and database logins, folder locations etc) and away they went.
It took a couple of days (the time required varies depending on how many jobs they have) but once complete all that I needed to do was change the nameservers with my domain registrar.
I wish I could tell you that some issue came up to add a bit of meat to this story…but really…there was nothing. Once the nameservers had updated I created email addresses on my A2 account to duplicate existing addresses and updated my email client settings. Everything worked perfectly!
Setting Up SSL on A2
As I mentioned one of my main motivations for switching hosts was so I could easily put WBS on a secure server. I don’t know about you…but I like doing things the easy way…and everything I had read about moving your site to HTTPS seemed so complicated! To make sure this was in fact easy to do with A2 I experimented with some other domains I have hosted with them, and in every case it was achieved quickly and drama-free. Now bear in mind what I’m advocating here relates to WordPress sites only. If you don’t use WordPress, A2 still have resources and tools to get the job done but it will be a different process to the one I used. Here is all you need to do…
Let’s Encrypt is a free, automated and open certificate authority which was designed to “eliminate the current complex process of manual creation, validation, signing, installation, and renewal of SSL certificates”. It may not be the ideal solution for e-com sites and businesses needing a high level of encryption, but for the average webmaster and blogger it is all they will need. A2 partnered with Let’s Encrypt to provide a free and easy HTTPS solution. You don’t have to set anything up…no configuration…no certificate renewals…it’s all done for you. It’s not even a “one-click” installation…it’s “no-click”. Just buy a hosting account and your SSL certificate is automatically installed. Couldn’t be easier!
Really Simple SSL
Once you have your SSL certificate, how do you convert your existing non-secure site? Being a WordPress site, it occurred to me that there is a plugin for just about anything. And so it is with SSL. I discovered a plugin called Really Simple SSL. It had lots of good reviews so I decided to give it a go. There is a paid version with extended functionality but for my requirements the free version met my needs just fine. The process went like this…
- Install the plugin
- Check your CSS file for any references to http:// and change them to // (generally you can do this under Appearance/Editor for your theme and only takes a few seconds)
- Click the “Enable” button
- Log back in
That’s it! That is literally all it took to convert my site to HTTPS. With that hurdle cleared I then updated the settings for my Google Analytics and Google Search Console (Webmaster Tools) accounts. Really Simple SSL provide instructions for this if you’re unfamiliar with the process. You also need to update your robots.txt and XML sitemap files. As I write Google have only just started indexing the new URLs so it will be interesting to see the effect on rankings over the coming weeks.
I have known for some time that I really needed to switch my hosting company and secure my site. The benefits were many, but I was reluctant to do so because of the possibility for things to go wrong, and in all honesty not wanting to face the hassle. But in the end it turned out to be quite painless. A2 lived up to their promise to…Really Simple SSL the process of securing my site was way easier than expected.
Read my full review of A2 Hosting here.