Four swans flying in front of a sun set.

How we moved our 300+ hosting client websites in 6 months with no fuss and no bother

A Bold Decision

When WP Engine, our hosting partner, decided to beef up their servers, moving away from Rack Space in preference for world class Google and Amazon services, they did so with more than a little trepidation. For a number of important business reasons, they felt they must make this move but there was a hefty price tag. Literally every one of the 500,000+ websites they were hosting would need to be migrated.

Migrating (copying) websites from one server to another is a fairly straight forward process. Not unlike copying a file from one place to another on your hard drive. Changing the website’s address, however, is a more awkward and complex proposition.

Websites have addresses, somewhat like buildings. When you move house you need to tell everyone your new address or they won’t know where to find you. In the same way if you move your website from one server to another you have to “inform the internet that the website has moved” or it (the internet) won’t know where to find you. “Inform the internet” is a plain english way of putting it. The technical term is “re-pointing your DNS”. DNS, you could say, is the internet’s address book. When someone types your domain name into a browser it is DNS technology that knows where your website is living and provides the address so that the website can be found and viewed.

Luckily for WP Engine they did not, themselves, have to re-point 500,000+ website DNS records. Most of their clients are resellers, who, given WP Engine’s terms of service, are the ones responsible for helping their clients move their websites. Such was the case for us and the 300+ websites we host for our clients.

Awkward and Complex

When our clients buy hosting from us we take care of all the geeky technical work seamlessly. We don’t have long, difficult to follow conversations about DNS or any of the other technicalities unless we have to. Therefore, to receive a communication, out of the blue, stating that your website is moving and must have its DNS re-pointed is awkward in at least two ways.

Firstly it’s a complete and total surprise and, most likely, difficult to digest. Secondly, well, “re-point your DNS” is technical jargon that few understand, so communicating this in a form that people can easily make sense of requires great care and sensitivity.

Aside from requiring plain english expressions of overtly technical information to a surprised and, let’s face it, very busy audience, the process we were faced with designing and implementing needed to actually bring about a “DNS re-point” per client website. A challenge indeed!

The Extra Mile

Here at Pragmatic we like a challenge and we spend all day every day simplifying the complex. So, we thought, “Game on!”

No particular budget limit was set, no particular time limit given. “Look after our clients and help them through this process with as little pain as possible” was our organising principle.

To this end we painstakingly gathered and organised all our hosting clients’ technical contacts into HubSpot CRM contact lists, because this would enable us to design and implement HubSpot communications workflows that could track, document and move clients from the initial “Sorry but we have to move your website” email through to a seamless migration.

Including 14 separate emails possibilities (depending on client responses/non-responses), 7 contact lists, 2 landing pages, 2 forms and 2 calls to actions, our HubSpot workflows were able to offer our clients 4 options for their migrations including high quality and timely instructions for those who chose to make the change themselves.

Once the HubSpot communications technology was in place the vast majority of the work was personal contact, reassurance and hand holding for our clients. In total we spent around 250 agency hours making sure, as best as we could, that our clients websites were migrated seamlessly and with little or not disruption.

Today that process is complete and all our clients websites are running on world class Amazon and Google servers.

Thanks to everyone involved. It’s been emotional.

Photo Credit

Whooper Swans” by nick ford on Flickr.


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