Like your home desktop or its software, your hosting account may need an upgrade sooner or later. This operation, usually smooth and painless, may become a real nightmare if you are not well informed about the upgrade conditions.
Virtually, main upgrade aspects may be divided into two groups – billing and technical. You will find the tips on both below, so once you decide to have your account upgraded, you will know what to do.
Hosting Billing Issues
1. Discount preserving
Before you upgrade within the same range of services (e.g. from one shared hosting account to another) you need to make sure, the plan you are upgrading to supports the provision of the same discount. This mostly concerns new plans. For instance, you were using a shared hosting package that no longer exists and is moving to an updated package. In fact, the packages are similar and offer the same type of service, but the package name is different, which means it might not have been included to the billing system with a discount applied.
Therefore, the most advisable approach while performing such upgrades is to consult your sales/billing team and make sure the discount you used to have is valid with this new package. If it is not, you may easily request a different one, calling upon the fact you’ve been with your company for quite a long time period.
2. Billing cycle change
Different plans do not have just different quotas and pricing, sometimes they may differ by the billing cycle, which means the period between renewals. Usually, the shorter the billing cycle is, the more the monthly price becomes; therefore it is advisable to check whether your next plan is going to support semi-annual, annual, or biennial cycles.
The thing is that by default many providers of business hosting packages (also known as semi-dedicated solutions) and virtual private servers (VPS) set only the monthly fee. It is however recommended to find out whether other payment options are available. If those are not, you may offer them your conditions of purchasing the package or server for a year – with monthly costs being cut to some extent.
The other situation is when you don’t feel like paying upfront. In this case, you need to make sure your current plan supports monthly or at least 3-month cycles. Fair enough, since most hosting providers do not set such short cycles for shared hosting packages.
Hosting Technical Issues
The technical aspect of upgrades concerns nothing but the transfers. Account transfers are usually required for service type change – upgrade from shared hosting to the reseller, business, virtual or dedicated server. It may, however, also be needed in case of an upgrade within the same service range. This includes new packages that require more powerful servers, a lack of space on the current machine, and some more. Regardless of the reason for the transfer, here are the main points you need to check.
1. Nameservers change
Forgetting about the nameservers means increasing the downtime of our website. DNS propagation alone may take 24-72 hours. And what if there’s nothing to propagate since nothing was changed? You get your account on a different server with your domain pointing to an old one, where the account is likely to have been already removed. Not the best way to organize a transfer.
Therefore, the first thing to do is to find out what the new nameservers are and change them at your domain registrar as soon as possible, so by the time your account is transferred, at least half of the propagation period is passed.
Those who have their domains hosted on the DNS cluster are luckier. They don’t need to make any changes since the nameservers are going to respond from all servers within that cluster. The propagation lasts shorter and may sometimes be completely unnoticed.
2. Different server software
This is really one of the most important checkpoints. If you know that an upgrade of your account requires a transfer, study all the configuration peculiarities of your current server and compare them with those of the new one. You can also consult your technical support on that, but those details anyway need to be specified. The main aspects are:
- Operating system – The operating system is the main software platform of the server that coordinates the work of all services and applications. Switching to a completely different platform (e.g. moving from a Linux-based server to Windows hosting and vice versa) always implies additional hard work on bug fixing, usually manual. But even moving within different Linux distros or switching from Linux to FreeBSD or contrariwise may cause some minor problems. Those usually concern files and folders permissions corruption and some scripts disability but are actually easy to get fixed.
- Control panel – This can hardly become an issue since many hosting providers stick to one control panel. However if your host uses a cheaper and less intensive solution on shared servers while providing a more powerful control panel on the others (business, virtual or dedicated servers), the transfer may run not that smoothly and require manual file extraction and moving. Though this work is done by the technical staff of the company, setting you free from hard administrative operations, you are not guaranteed downtime increase.
- PHP – Talking about script disability we can’t leave this service unmentioned. PHP – a scripting language generally used in hosting – is a processor, responsible for the work of PHP-based scripts, widely used by forums, blogs, CMS, intranet solutions, and generally dynamic website development. PHP has several modes, so before you have your account transferred – find out if the PHP is configured in the same mode on the target server and if it’s not, whether this divergence is not going to cause issues.
- Databases – Databases are vital since they store the content of script-based websites. Two main points to check here are database service type and their versions. Well, if the services may hardly differ within one host (they are not likely to have MySQL on one server while having PostgreSQL on the other), their versions may. Thus, if your current server uses MySQL 4.x while the target has MySQL 5. x installed, you may have some problems. Those are related to character sets (charset) and tables and are actually easy to fix, but do take time and require some manual work.
Conclusion: With all the above aspects in mind you are most likely to avoid many troubles during the next hosting upgrade. Stay informed, don’t be afraid to ask questions and communicate with your support team, and consult them for a better understanding of what is going to happen to your account – and you will have your websites upgraded easily with minimal downtime and hardly any aftermath.
Guest author Arkadij “Archie” Shkolnik is PR Manager of SiteValley.com web hosting company, the provider of affordable and reliable Linux hosting for personal and small business websites. He is also a current administrator and author of the corporate blog – svhostingblog.com.