Good, Good, Good, Good Migrations

I set a goal of moving my blog from a self-hosted WordPress install to one that was hosted by WordPress. My thought was that I would start planning the migration now, being the careful, step-by-step person that I am, and then execute the migration over the summer, doing my best to make it as seamless as possible.

It turns out the entire thing took about a day. So much for my great project management skills.

I think there are two reasons the migration went so smoothly: great tools, and outstanding support.

Some context

If you’ve been with my since the very beginning (circa, late 2005 — remember the trip to Hawaii?) then you know that this blog originally started on LiveJournal. An early 2010, I switched from LiveJournal to a self-managed installation of WordPress hosted with DirectNIC. That site became official on March 8, 2010. That worked well for a while, but I noticed that the hosting service wasn’t great. Performance was poor. I had to repeatedly open tickets with them. And finally, I moved hosts to GoDaddy at the end of 2011.

GoDaddy provided a reliable service for over a decade. But in January, as I really started to get back into blogging after taking much of the previous year off, two things began to bother me:

  1. The response time on the site seemed to be getting slower and slower. This got worse after GoDaddy moved me to another server to improve performance.
  2. After 10+ years, I was getting tired of the maintenance part of the job. I love writing here, but I didn’t want to do all of the maintenance work.

WordPress is a great tool, and after a little research and talking to people who I knew used WordPress to host their sites, I decided to move mine to WordPress’s Business plan.

The Migration Process

It turned out that the migration process was much easier than I thought it would be, in part because I was already paying for a WordPress plan that backed up my site regularly. Keep in mind, there are nearly 7,000 posts, just about as many comments, and countless media objects that make up this site, not to mention the templates, plug-ins, and other tools that make it work. It was still an easy process:

  1. Create a new site with WordPress.com using their Business Plan (which includes a free domain or domain transfer–I chose the latter).
  2. Run an import from the new site, pointing to the old site. The import uses the JetPack backup and restore capabilities. It backed up my old site, and then restored it to the new site.
  3. Choose a new template for the site. I didn’t have to do this, but I did it for two reasons:
    • (a) My current template was a customized version of a WordPress template from 2013.
    • (b) I wanted the site to look a little different so that when I transferred the domain, I could easily tell when the change had taken place.
  4. Point my domain to WordPress.com’s servers so that going to jamierubin.net gets you here.

It took about 3 hours for the backup and restore to happen. While that was going on I spent time looking at new templates and finally settled on Dynamico, which has a similar structure to what I had been using, but was a modern WordPress template that supports all of the current WordPress features. Once the restore was done and I had the new template setup, I updated the name servers for my domain. It probably took another hour or so for that to propagate.

I started this process late Sunday morning and it was all done by about 3:30pm Sunday afternoon.

The Secret Sauce: Fantastic Support

Probably the biggest factor in making this a smooth transition was the fantastic support I got from WordPress. As an I.T. professional myself, I know that support is a big part of the job and it is rarely just “okay.” In my experience, support is either very bad or outstanding. WordPress’s support was outstanding.

Paul Jacobson, who is a great blogger in his own right, and who works for Automattic, made all of the difference. I reached out to him for advice and he suggested I submit a ticket to WordPress support, which I did. He then saw to it that he handled my ticket. He answered the long list of questions I submitted about the over all process, and then made sure everything proceeded smoothly as I executed the transition, checking in with me as things progressed.

No migration of this scale is flawless, but in this case, the flaws were minor to the point of almost meaningless. “Likes” on posts made prior to the transfer did not get migrated for a technical reason. A few other little quirks showed up, none of them show-stoppers, and Paul investigated each of them, and was incredibly patient with my replies to him messages where I repeatedly made statements like, “Just one more question…”

There is no question that the support I received from WordPress made all the difference in making this a smooth, stress-free process. I would whole-heartedly recommend WordPress tools, services, and support. And if you are lucky enough to get Paul working on your support request, you’ve pretty much got it made.

The Results So Far

The general evaluation of success I use in most situations is: are things better than they were before? In this case, the blog and site are in much better shape now than they were before the migration. I noticed the performance improvement immediately. I mean, it was dramatic. There is also a sense of mental relief that I no longer have to do the behind-the-scenes maintenance work–upgrading, messing around with stuff to get things working right.

I also noticed a 50% jump in visits to the blog in the two days (so far) following the migration. It is too early to say if that related or a coincidence. I am, however, coming up to a milestone that will allow me to easily measure how well things go (in terms of traffic) with WordPress as a host. Sometime within the next few weeks, this blog will pass a lifetime 3 million views:

All-time stats for the blog, including the current number of views which stands at 2,993,869.

Once I hit that milestone, I can say that I transferred over to WordPress hosting when I had a total of about 3 million views and use that as a baseline going forward.

It seems like I jump hosts every ten years or so. This time may be different (assuming I can continue to keep this up for another ten years). The performance improvement is better than I could have imagined (just try doing a search for yourself and you’ll see how fast it is). And I don’t have to do nearly as much maintenance which frees me up for things like writing.

Coming soon

Now that I’ve got the transfer behind me and things are working so much better here, I plan on some changes for the blog in the near future (in some cases, in the very near future). I’ll have a separate post outlining these but in general they include things like: a new weekly column; a new schedule for posts; updates to some of the static pages like my About page, and more.

I want to once again thank Paul Jacobson, as well as Mariane A., another WordPress Happiness Engineer who also assisted with my migration for their help in making this a pain-free, stress-free process.

3 comments

  1. Thank you for sharing this post, Jamie! I’m really glad the migration went so smoothly. I’ve shared your post with the team so they can see what all their hard work on our tools and features has contributed to.

    1. Paul, this went incredibly smoothly. Far better than I could have imagined. And the performance compared to the previous hosting environment is like night and day. I’m so happy I made this change. Thanks again for your help.

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