Moving a WordPress blog between hosts

This is a tech post, so if that isn’t your thing, feel free to move along!

I’ve been using WordPress for websites and blogs since it’s earliest days, and in earnest since about 2004. In that time I’ve had to move blogs from server to server every so often, as I’ve gone through different hosting companies, our own servers and cloud services. I get asked about it frequently enough that writing a post about how to do it seems sensible!

It is not as technically intimidating as it sounds, assuming you are moving between reasonable hosting providers. The steps are as follows:

  1. Reduce your DNS time outs*
  2. Set up the new server.
  3. Move across the assets (the themes, images and other files).
  4. Export the database.
  5. Import the database.
  6. Check the installation on the new server*
  7. Change your domain name settings.

The * steps are if you need to minimise the down time – they are good, but more technically challenging. You will need to following things to hand:

  1. Account details for your domain name registrar / host.
  2. Login details for the WordPress site (obviously :) )
  3. Login details for your old provider and your new provider.

I know that sounds obvious, but often times people find in surprisingly hard to lay their hands on those things! :)

STEP 0: Before you start, make sure you have a back up of everything! Most providers have some sort of back up/export function. If not, there are WordPress plugins which will do a back up. I generally use step 3 and 4 as my back ups, and don’t remove anything from the old server until the new one is 100% A OK.

Step 1 (optional). If you are comfortable fiddling with DNS settings, then go ahead and drop the TTL (time to live) for your domain. This will enable the switch over to happen more quickly. I usually drop it to 5 minutes, to minimise the chance of comments getting lost on high volume sites. If you have no idea what TTL is, don’t panic, just move on to the next step.

Step 2. Set up the server. Most hosting providers will give you a one-click install for WordPress. If you are prompted for a database user name and password, you can make life a little easier by using the same ones as your existing install (while you are doing step 3, take a peak at the  wp-config.php file to see what they are).

Step 3. Copy the files. You want to copy across the WordPress files, especially the wp-content directory, which will be the largest collection of files, as it contains all the images you have used in your site. FTP is the easiest way to do this, if your providers support it. As a Mac user, CyberDuck is my favourite tool, the FireFTP plugin for Firefox is also good. If the WordPress installation is the only thing on your host, then you can copy across all the files to your new host.

Step 4. Export the database. The database on your old server contains your WordPress settings, blog posts and comments. You’ll want to copy these across! The process for moving this varies from system to system. Most hosting providers will have a control panel with phpMyAdmin. Login and export/download your database, which should give you a .sql file. If you have shell access and are happy with the command line, simply do:

mysqldump --add-drop-table --u DB_USER -p DB_NAME

You'll be prompted for your WordPress database password - the settings for mysqldump [your_database_name] can can be found in the wp-config.php file (they are called DB_USER and DB_NAME).

Step 5. Import the database. Again, using your hosting control panel and phpMyAdmin or equivalent, import your database on to your new server. You may need to create a new database first, if you do, then use the same database name, database user name and database password as your old system (from that wp-config.php file). If you need to do this from the command line, follow these steps:

mysql -u root -p create database wordpress_db
use wordpress_db;
grant all privileges on wordpress.* to 'username'@'localhost' identified by 'password';
mysql -p -d wordpress < /home/username/wordpress_db.sql

Where “wordpress_db” is the database name DB_NAME  in wp-config.php, and similarly ‘username’ and ‘password’ are copied from DB_USER and DB_PASSWORD in wp-config.php.

Step 6. Check the installation. At this point you’ll want to check that the new server is up and running nicely. However, your domain name (e.g. will be pointing to the old server. You  can get around this by temporarily editing your hosts file ( ~/hosts on the mac C:\Windows\System32\Drivers\etc\hosts on Windows 7 and Vista). Then going to the site. Again, if you aren’t comfortable editing hosts files, you can skip this step, but you won’t be sure the new server is working for a while longer, and if it isn’t, you will have a bit of down time while you switch back. You’ve probably reached the “phone a friend” stage by that point anyway!

Step 7. Change your domain name DNS settings. to complete the change, you need to make point to your new hosting provider. You’ll need the IP address of your new server (your provider should have supplied this to you). Login to your control panel for your domain (the people you purchased your domain name from – which may be different from your old hosting provider). Update the settings, and wait for the changes to propagate across the Internet. Depending on your settings (see step one) this will take up to 24 hours or so. If you did step 1, this is the moment to put your DNS TTL back to a sensible setting (don’t forget to!).

Enjoy your site running on your new server…

If you have any suggestions or tips, please do leave a comment!


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On the road…

The last few months have been spent in the office, with a break for a wonderful holiday in Italy that taught me many things! A new Milestone Planner release is imminent, and SocialOptic’s survey tool has gone through some massive growth, so it is time to get back out on the road. The next few weeks are a bit like that cartoon book, just change the catch phrase to “Where’s Benjamin?”

Today I am chairing a session on building communities at the SMiLE (Social media in large enterprises) event in London, where Social Media Week London is in full swing.

Next week, on Thursday 2nd October I have the pleasure of delivering the keynote address at the Chartered Institute of Public Relations event “Changing behaviour for better business” in London, for CIPR Inside.

The week after I’ll be speaking at Internet & Mobile World 2014 in Bucharest and meeting Romanian business leaders. Finally, on the 1st of November I’m heading to The Brewery, for the annual New Media Centre Of Excellence awards and event with Premier Media and CODEC, where I’ll be leading a discussion about the challenges of privacy for individuals and governments in today’s digital world.

I know that public speaking is meant to be one of the top 3 fears, but I genuinely enjoy it – I learn in the process, meet new people, and discover useful things. If you are at or near any of the events,  then do say hello (either in person or via Twitter – @BenjaminEllis), and if you  have an event, well, you know what to do…


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Life – Incomprehensible Without Time

How do you understand your life? Or, more importantly, do you understand how you understand your life? It is impossible to start to make sense of until we understand the impact of time on it. It is an impact that isn’t always obvious, and that very few are consciously aware of. Here is what three different psychologists have taught me about time and life.

Daniel Kahneman, psychologist and winner of the 2002 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, says that we “confuse experience and memory” and that it is very difficult not to so. Just as a mountain looks different depending on where you look at it from, so does life. Looking down from the summit is obviously a very different experience than looking up from the foot hills, but do not apply that insight into how we live.

We have more than one perspective on life. There is the life that we live (experiencing self) and there is the life that we remember (remembering self).

“Everybody talks about happiness these days… It is impossible to think straight about happiness… We are just as messed up as anyone else is… It turns out that the word happiness is just not a useful word anymore, because we apply it to too many different things…”

Have a listen to Daniel Kahneman’s TED talk, and see if it changes how you view how you view your life experiences. – Full transcript here.

Philip Zimbardo, famous to psychology students for the Stanford prison study, has spent much his later career exploring our relationship with time,which he writes about in two books – The Time Paradox and the The Time Cure. Zimbardo says that how we view time is very dependant on the culture we operate within; that means the country, our religion and even the town we live in. Zimbardo identifies five perspectives towards time:

  1. The ‘past-negative’ type - focused on negative personal experiences that still have the power to upset, leading to bitterness and regret.
  2. The ‘past-positive’ type - a nostalgic view of the past, staying  close to family. A cautious, “better safe than sorry” approach.
  3. The ‘present-hedonistic’ type – pleasure-seeking, reluctant to postpone feeling good for the sake of greater gain later.
  4. The ‘present-fatalistic’ type - not enjoying the present, but trapped in it, unable to change the inevitability of the future.
  5. The ‘future-focused’ type - ambitious and focused on goals, big on making ‘to do’ lists, and with a nagging sense of urgency.

Sometimes the future-focused type is sub-divided into two (see Zimbardo’s RSA talk). Each of these perspectives has its own strengths and weaknesses, and Zimbardo would argue that it is healthy to move between them, although most of us tend to settle into one or two of these perspectives, and that drives many of our behaviours.

Dan Gibert (known for is research into choice and hapiness), gave this TED talk in March 2014. We (massively) over estimate our own stability. Our greatest moment of change is now.

“…time is a powerful force. It transforms our preferences. It reshapes our values.It alters our personalities. We seem to appreciate this fact, but only in retrospect. Only when we look backwards do we realize how much change happens in a decade. It’s as if, for most of us,the present is a magic time. It’s a watershed on the timeline. It’s the moment at which we finally become ourselves. Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished.The person you are right now is as transient, as fleeting and as temporary as all the people you’ve ever been. – full transcript

A final perspective on time, from the grand-father of positive psychology, Abraham Maslow, who is probably most famous for his proposed hierarchy of needs (and no, dear tech friends, WiFi and broadband do not belong in that pyramid). Maslow said this:

“I can feel guilty about the past, Apprehensive about the future, but only in the present can I act.The ability to be in the present moment is a major component of mental wellness.” Abraham Maslow.

Or, roughly as a very sharp CEO I worked for once put it: We use the past as the context for the decisions that we make right now to shape our future.  We can not change our past, we can only change how we view it. We can not change our future, other than by taking actions in the present to shape it.

You can change, and you can create change. Our greatest point of influence is not “out there” somewhere, it is right here, right now. The lasting impact of this moment rest in what you decide do with it, right now, to shape your future.

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Future Organisations – ResponsiveOrg

This week is definitely the week to get back to blogging. The last week has been a flurry of activity looking at what the future organisation might (and should) be like. Wednesday saw the restart of the Social Business Sessions at Yammer’s UK HQ, and Saturday saw the first ResponsiveOrg unconference, with around 40 sessions on how businesses can respond to the change around us.

ResponsiveOrg Unconference

As we (finally and hopefully) put the economic downturn behind us, businesses face their biggest challenge yet: Dealing with growth, with a new generation of staff, a new technological landscape, and a new set of expectations about what the workplace could and should be. Over the next few days I’ll write up the sessions that I participated in. If you were there, or want to know about something specifically, or have written a post, do tweet me (@BenjaminEllis) or add a comment here. In the meantime I’ve posted some photos to Flickr and Gloria Lombardi has put together a huge storify.

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Terrifying Consumers

I am sure you have seen the Carrie promotional video prank. If you haven’t here you go: terrify yourself. There has been a lot of debate about whether the people in the shop were actors or just bystanders (and that debate also added to the spread of the video). Marketeers are in a continually escalating battle to get our clicks and our attention. They have to creating more and more heightened emotional states, provoke us more and more to get our attention.

Well, right now, right here, today, I can introduce you to the next wave of viral, experiential marketing from the folks at John St. Marketing:  ExFEARiential

  • “We don’t really do flashmobs, we prefer to create real mobs.”
  • “Fear works… It’s that simple.”

The video is a great piece of satire, and like all good satire, it is a warning about what we have or might become. Whenever we Like, +1, Post or Re-post a piece of marketing (or any other on-line content), we are rewarding a behaviour, and escalating potentially rescuing the attention arms-race. Marketeers respond to what doesn’t work, and what does work. Send them the signals that you want them to hear, not the signals that cause fear (-1 for my copy writing skills right there).

In between our eyeballs and our fingers we have an organ that can change the world. Don’t let momentary emotions bypass it! :)

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Does More Data Mean Better Decisions

So this post is partly in response to a comment from Roland Harwood asking about 23andMe, but mostly me thinking out loud about data and risks. While this post is in response to the data generated by 23andMe, it is applicable to almost any isolated set of data.

23andMe, if you haven’t heard of it, is  a DNA analysis service, where they will take a DNA sample from saliva, analyse it, and, based on an automated database, they will essentially tell you your risk factors for succumbing to various medical conditions, and genetic traits that you are carrying (if you are a carrier for a generic condition, or have a genetic indication for an allergy). It is a really interesting proposition, and I have toyed with the idea of sending off for an analysis myself, especially as the price point has fallen to under a hundred dollars.

However, there are a few things that leave me a little disquieted about it, some of which come up frequently in discussions around 23andMe, and others not so much. These are my thoughts as they are now, rather than any conclusive opinions, so they are very much up for comment and debate. None of them are a criticism of the system itself, more an observation that we are only just getting used to dealing with this sort of data.

The first concern is the issue of medical diagnostics being delivered in isolation. If you are going to receive some news that is potentially life changing, then having the right professional help and support on hand is psychologically very important. Perhaps that is there, but I have never heard it mentioned. Data, without the right experts to interpret it, can be a very disturbing thing.

The second is to do with how we process information, and our cognitive biases. I’ve spent much of the last several years studying these biases, trying to design systems for businesses that help to avoid the issues cognitive biases cause. There are a particular set of biases (availability bias, hindsight bias, confirmation bias, …) that we have around assessing risk, which essentially boil down to this: We disproportionately react to perceived risk. If I tell you that there is a 30% chance that you will die if you choose to go to work by your normal route tomorrow, most people would think about changing their route home. But that is a meaningless piece of data. Risks, out of context, aren’t helpful. If I tell you that there is also an 80% chance that you will get killed in a car accident on the alternative route home, then the normal route is actually a safer one (you might actually decide to stay in bed ;) ). It is a meaningless risk unless you balance is against the risks of the alternatives.

Risk is often presented out of context. Responding to risks kicks off a long chain of causality. If I choose to have surgery to correct or mitigate against a genetic defect, then that surgery obviously carries a risk, but down stream from that, I have changed all sorts of other risk factors. It is one of the reasons that John Boyd came up with the OODA loop. Risks (threats) have to be constantly monitored and responded too. It isn’t a one time event. A one off diagnostic can give a false sense of security, as much as it can give a false sense of risk.

The next thing, aside from the issues of assessing probabilities and risks, is that we aren’t good at making judgements about events that are a long way in the future – for example diseases that we might succumb to later in life. There is a whole body of research around risk/reward ratios and timing, which again shows that we don’t deal with this sort of data accurately, at least not unaided. The key here is that while the data may be very scientifically valid and sound, it can cause us to do some unsound things, because it is difficult to process unaided.

The last is that 23and Me is based on science-in-progress. We are still learning about genetics, heritability and what happens when we respond to them. At lot of the outputs that I have seen fall into the ‘well duh!’ category of health advice: eat healthily, do exercises and so on. All the kinds of things that people who take good care of their bodies tell me that I should do more of, leaving me rightly a bit guilty. I don’t need to shell out money for that advice, I can just hang out with some of my healthy friends, and take their advice on the chin.

We have more and more access to data. That doesn’t make us any smarter, and it potentially doesn’t make us any less likely to make good or bad decisions. The issue is about making informed and uninformed decisions. Data can be good, and help us make good decisions, but being misinformed – ie being informed by data that is inaccurate (estimated), or that is misinterpreted or presented out of context  – can be worse than being uninformed.

Data doesn’t always help with making better decisions. It is good to be informed, it is not good to be misinformed, especially if that leads you to take more risky decisions. When looking at information:

  • Keep things in context – back to the journey to work example. What are you balancing risks against?
  • Understand the quality of the data – what is the possibility that it is inaccurate or incomplete?
  • Look for counter indicators – don’t response to single pieces of data.
  • Compare like with like – risks and issues are different things. Don’t compare the past with the future.

If you want to ready more, Noreena Hertz  has written a good piece in the NYT, Why we Make Bad Decisions (which is also a good plug for her book).





Posted in Psychology | Tagged , | 4 Comments