I recently decided to transfer my websites from Bluehost to SiteGround. I was very nervous about doing this because I had never done anything like this before, but it was a pretty simple process. I decided to write a tutorial for those of you who are wondering if it’s hard to migrate a site from BlueHost to SiteGround.
UPDATE MAY 2020: Siteground has now updated their user panel so some of the images in this post may be different from what you’re seeing. They also used to offer free website transfers on their GrowBig and GoGeek hosting plans. They no longer offer this, but they offer free automated WordPress transfers instead using their WordPress Migrator plugin. I’m leaving this post up, because it still might contain useful information about hosts files, DNS servers, etc.
Why I switched from Bluehost to SiteGround
If you’d like, you can just skip this part, but I wanted to share what led me to switch my hosting from Bluehost to SiteGround. I’ve been very happy with Bluehost and they are one of the cheapest places to start up a blog, but lately I needed to add SLL certification to one of my sites. I researched the cheapest way to do this and found that Let’s Encrypt offers free SSL certificates. However, to use this with BlueHost I would have to buy a dedicated IP for a monthly fee. Even then, it did not sound like the easiest process using Let’s Encrypt with Bluehost.*
I’ve heard great reviews about SiteGround from a blogging group I’m in, so when I saw that SiteGround offered easy integration with Let’s Encrypt, I decided to make the switch.
What’s more, their Grow Big plan was cheaper** than what I was currently paying for Bluehost’s Plus Hosting Plan and it offered an SSL Wildcard free for one year. So I would be paying less than before and still have the SSL certification I needed. (I’ll probably switch to Let’s Encrypt after the first year since it’s free.) Now on to how to actually transfer hosting from Bluehost to SiteGround.
Transferring Site From Bluehost to SiteGround
1. First, open an account with SiteGround.
Your new account will include one FREE website transfer. And here’s the good news. If you have more than one website under one control panel, they will transfer all of them for free. I had three websites with BlueHost.
2. Go to the Support tab in your SiteGround account and click on “Transfer Website”.
3. Fill in the website transfer form.
Pick cPanel for the hosting panel that you used to manage your previous account. You’ll also need your control panel URL from Bluehost so just open your control panel in Bluehost and copy the URL from there. And of course, you’ll need your Bluehost username and password.
I was a little confused with what to put in the other fields, but a quick chat with SiteGround technical support cleared this up for me. My main question was “What should I add in the ‘other information’ area where they ask for mySQL and PHPMyAdmin information?” It turns out I didn’t have to add anything, but I did include a request here to transfer all three of my websites. (By the way, SiteGround has excellent customer service. I contacted them three times during this setup using live chat and each time they respond quickly.)
4. Submit your ticket and wait for them to get back to you.
I had to wait a few hours. You can check the status of your ticket at SiteGround (under the Support tab) while you wait.
Here’s where I ran into a few problems. SiteGround got back to me and told me that since Bluehost made some changes the tech support at SiteGround couldn’t do a full backup. They asked me to contact Bluehost to do this for me. Otherwise, they said it would be a lengthy process and they could only do one website for me for free. The other websites would be $30 each.
So I went to Bluehost and started a chat session with Bluehost customer service and asked them to make a complete control panel backup. I actually copied and pasted part of the message from SiteGround into my chat session so there wouldn’t be any doubt with what was needed. This is the message I sent.
I’m working on moving my hosting from Bluehost to SiteGround. Site Ground technical support is doing this for me and sent me this message, “The only obstacle ahead of as is the fact that BlueHost has removed the default cPanel backup tool. That prevents our team from creating a full cPanel backup that could be later restored on our servers. In such cases we advise our clients to contact BlueHost directly and ask their support team to generate such backup on their behalf.” Is this something you can help me with?
Bluehost offered to either send me a link where I could make my own control panel backup or make the backup for me. I decided that there were fewer chances for mistakes if Bluehost made the backup. They did this while I was on chat with them and then sent me an email of how to find the backup. I just cut and pasted this information and sent it back to SiteGround.
Then I waited. I had to wait about eighteen hours, but this was over a weekend so that might have affected the wait time. Finally, I received an email back saying that they were able to complete the transfer. Hooray!
5. Preview your Website using Hosts File
My next step was to check and see what my websites looked like on my new host to make sure there weren’t any problems. These were the instructions from SiteGround.
In order to preview your website you can use the hosts file on your local computer. In this way you will point your domain name to your account’s IP address. This setup will be valid only for your local computer. You can find detailed information how to do so in this tutorial from SiteGround.
I didn’t think their instruction were detailed enough so I had some trouble here. First, I had to follow the path to my host file on my computer (this differs depending on your operating system and is found in the above tutorial).
But what was I supposed to put in the host file? (You might have received this information from SiteGround, but I didn’t.) First, you need your account IP. You will find this under My Accounts on SiteGround. Look under the Information & Settings Tab.
Copy the IP into the hosts file on a new line. Then add your website without the “www” and with the “www” separated with a space. It should look something like the circled part below.
Add as many websites as you are transferring, each on a separate line. Then you need to save the host file. I had some trouble with this. I followed the instructions in the tutorial above to change permissions, but finally had to give full control to users instead of just the administrator and that did the trick.
If you are satisfied that your website looks good, you can go on to the next step.
6. Update the DNS server for your domains.
Go to Bluehost and click on domains.
Then click on each website on the left that you want to update the DNS server for.
On the right, Click on Name Servers. Here you can change the name servers from Bluehost to SiteGround.
Check the box where it says, “Use Custom Nameservers.” Add the two custom name servers SiteGround gave you. If they didn’t send them to you, you can find them under My Account- Information & Settings on SiteGround.
You do not have to include the IP address. Enter them in the Custom Nameservers field on Bluehost. They should look something like the ones below.
After you have added the new Name Servers, save the Nameserver settings. Then you just need to wait for the changes to take effect. SiteGround told me that this might take 24 hours. If you want to check if the transfer has taken place, just type www.YOURWEBSITE.com/cpanel into the web browser. If the transfer is completed, you should be taken to your SiteGround control panel. If not, you will be taken to the Bluehost control panel.
7. Transfer your domain name if you have chosen to do this.
(Though I had originally planned to transfer my domain names to SiteGround, before I completed my domain transfer, I decided instead to go with Namecheap for my domain registration. They offer good rates on practically everything domain related and, what’s more, they offer cheap renewal rates on these options. I’ll keep the following information in case anyone wants to go to use SiteGround to register their domain. Much of it also applies to Namecheap.)
SiteGround offers a free year of domain registration and a free year of domain privacy with their domain transfer fee. I was happy to read on SiteGround that the free year of domain registration will begin when my current registration runs out.
The domain transfer one-time fee includes 1 year of free domain registration! In other words, if your domain name expires in June 1, 2006 the expiration date would be changed to June 1, 2007 after the transfer process is completed.
The first step is to unlock your domain at Bluehost. This will be found under domains in the control panel. Click on the domain on the left that you wish to unlock. Then under the Main tab on the right, you will find the unlock feature. (Don’t close the Bluehost window because you’ll need it in a minute.)
Also, if you have domain privacy installed on your domain, you will need to pause the domain privacy, before transferring your domain. You might have to wait several hours for this to take effect.
Next, go to SiteGround. You will find the option to transfer a domain at the bottom of My Accounts on SiteGround. (The Transfer domain option can also be found under the Add Services tab. Almost all the way at the bottom left you will find a Transfer Domain button.)
The form you need to fill out is pretty self-explanatory. The most confusing question I had was what to put in the EPP code field on the domain transfer form.
You will find the EPP code back in your Bluehost control panel (aren’t you glad you left it open?) under domains. Click on the domain you’re transferring and on the right, click on the transfer EPP code tab, and there will be your EPP code.
Once you have filled out the form, click Submit Your Order. You should receive a confirmation email from Siteground and then an email asking if you want to proceed with the domain transfer. Once you confirm that you actually do want a domain transfer, (I had to do this in several places with Namecheap, including on Bluehost) your domain transfer should be completed.
I hope this tutorial helps you out with your website transfer from Bluehost to SiteGround. If you have any questions, SiteGround customer support is really good. I’ve chatted with them a lot of times and they’ve always been quick and helpful.
Also, don’t forget to cancel your hosting plan with Bluehost after you’re done. You will need to contact customer support and ask for a cancellation form. You will receive a credit for any unused portion of your plan.
*I wanted to add that Bluehost does offer a free SSL certificate for shared hosting, but this was not going to work for me.
**This was with a great sale they had going.