(Mostly) Painless Website Transfer Guide

Here at Ultra Graphics we know that there are many different situations that come about as a result of a website transfer from a current provider.

painless-website-transferThere are at least dozens of ways to setup and host a website, and involve lots of connections between services and technologies such as servers, domain names, email providers, and DNS records.  Add to that the complications from google accounts, social media accounts, and various other online directories, and it can become a confusing mess.

The purpose of this guide is to provide a resource for customers that are either getting a new website from Ultra Graphics, transferring an existing website to Ultra Graphics, or transferring away from Ultra Graphics.  We’ll try to touch on multiple common scenarios we’ve come across, and try to outline the information that’s relevant to you – as well as the kinds of information that we need to facilitate a smooth transfer to (or away from) our hosting service.  If you have any questions, feel free to contact your sales rep here, or give us a call.  In the scenarios, we’ll go from least to most complicated.

First, a little lesson on domains and hosting.  The following graphics help illustrate how a domain and host typically interact.  The first graphic shows a simple configuration, and the second graphic a more complex configuration. Essentially the domain is translated from an IP address, which is sort of like a social security number for the internet.  Every IP address is unique, and represents an access point to the internet.  A shared host (like our server) is where multiple domain names (http://domain.com) can live under the same IP address.  A domain’s connections (like website, email, etc…) can be all in one location, or split between multiple locations.  These connections (zones) are controlled by the DNS records and can be managed by the webhost or domain registrar.

Situation where everything is created and maintained in one place.
Graphic illustrating where everything is created and maintained in one place.
Situation where components are created and managed in several places.
Situation where components are created and managed in several places.

(click the scenario titles to expand)

Scenario #1 - Brand New Everything

Scenario #1 – Brand New Everything

The most simple situation is where you have nothing online yet, and have a clean slate.  This almost NEVER happens though.   This usually involves us taking care of just about everything, and most of the details will be discussed during a discovery meeting with an account executive, and the web services manager.


  1. We will register a domain name (or names) using our professional hosting server’s registrar.  Ownership of the domain will always pass to you, the customer, and the yearly registration fee for the primary domain is free as long as you are signed up with an Ultra Graphics hosting and maintenance package (starting at $35/mo).
  2. We will set up a subscription on our server, which is essentially setting aside a section of space for your site’s files, databases, images, etc… and we’ll develop the site under your subscription.
  3. We will create directory (google, bing, etc…) accounts as necessary per the website agreement, and connect any relevant accounts to the website and vice versa.
  4. We will setup any email accounts as necessary using the registered domain name, or if you prefer, transfer the hosting of the email to another provider.

Required Info:

  • A domain name, which will have been discussed at the discovery meeting with your account executive and/or our web services manager.
  • Email accounts to be created, as well as initial passwords and contact info.  Also, any relevant forwarding addresses, aliases, or other applicable email details.
  • Any other online accounts or directories that need setting up per the discovery meeting and agreement.
Scenario #2 - Multiple Domains

Scenario #2 – Multiple Domains

This scenario is very similar to the #1, with the added wrinkle of having multiple points of entry to a website (URLs).  This is fairly common, and many business owners choose to purchase multiple domains for their business name – typically the TLD (what comes after the dot: .com, .net. .info, .us, etc…).  Some others prefer to have variations of their names to include common misspellings.  We can register as many domain names as you would like, but keep in mind that only the primary domain is free as part of the hosting and maintenance plan.


  1. We determine what the primary domain needs to be, and we build the site on that domain’s subscription (hosting space).
  2. We follow all the rest of the steps from Scenario #1.
  3. We attach all the other variations of the domain to the primary domain by use of forwarding – meaning that if a user types any of the “secondary” domains into a web browser, they will automatically be forwarded to the primary domain.

Required Info:

  • The domain names that you’re interested in, and which will be the primary domain.  We will also need to nail down a total number of domains for the agreement, but you can always add and / or remove domains anytime.
  • We’ll need everything else from Scenario #1 too.
Scenario #3 - Existing domain or hosting

Scenario #3 – Existing domain and/or hosting

This is the most common scenario, and we’ve seen many different origin stories for our customer’s websites: “Started with another company and had a bad experience”, “tried to do it myself and ran out of time / lack of knowledge”, “my cousin’s friend’s dad’s tax attorney said he could build my website cheap”.  While this scenario is a bit more complex, it still can be handled fairly easy with preparation and prior knowledge.


  1. We determine where the domain is registered, and if we can gain access to that admin account.  If we can get access, then we help you decide if you want to transfer ownership of the domain to our host, or if you want to just point the “A” DNS record to our host’s IP address (see graphics above for clarification on DNS records/zones).  See part A of this scenario below for details on the transfer-vs-point decision.
  2. We setup a temporary domain on our server to build the site on (whether we’re building a new site or just transferring an existing site from another host) such as testsite.ourhost.com.  This allows us to build the new site and make sure everything looks and works correctly before assigning the permanent domain.
  3. Once the site is approved, we change the temporary domain (testsite.ourhost.com) to the final domain (http://domain.com) and update any relevant links within the site.
  4. We setup new email accounts on our server as necessary, and create or attach any relevant online directories or social media sites.  We also make sure to put redirects on any old links/pages of the old site to the new pages to limit the amount of search engine ranking/indexing impact.
  5. ***NOTE ABOUT EMAILS*** We don’t transfer emails – and if you choose to transfer the domain to us, any emails on your old server will be deleted so make sure you back those up on a local machine using a program like Outlook or Thunderbird!  The email accounts we create are brand new, nothing carries over from the old accounts (except the actual email address, we can match that).

Required Info

  • Registration and/or account access to the existing domain registrar and/or host where the current domain and site are hosted.
  • Any existing links between the domain and other services (such as email accounts, ftp, etc…) and where those are located.  This will help us determine the best course of action for transferring the domain to us.
  • Any additional accounts or directories that need setting up per the discovery meeting and/or agreement.


Scenario #3a – Transferring domain ownership vs pointing

Whenever we are helping a customer by building or transferring a site to our host, one of the most important questions that needs answered is how to manage the domain transfer.  There are generally two options: a full ownership transfer from the current registrar to our registrar, or just repointing the “A” DNS zone/record to our host’s IP address.  There are pros and cons for each:

Pros: Transferring ownership of the domain

  • The domain registry and web hosting will exist in the same location, making things cleaner.
  • We will be able to have full control over the website hosting and domain management should any problems arise, and you only have one point of contact for support, hosting, and maintenance.
  • The yearly registration fee for the primary domain name is waived if you sign up for a hosting and maintenance plan.

Cons: Transferring ownership of the domain

  • It takes longer for the domain to transfer, and there are a number of issues that can come up during the transfer due to lack of preparation, unknown or out of date contact information, or other issues between the two registrars.
  • If there are any connections to existing services such as email or web, those connections are broken until they can get setup again on our host.  Any files, emails, or other information on the losing domain registrar are permanently deleted – so emails need to be backed up on a local application such as outlook or thunderbird prior to transfer.  We don’t transfer emails or email accounts, they’re deleted in the old location and created in the new location.

Pros: Repointing the domain’s A record to our IP address

  • Quick and simple process that usually only takes an hour or so to propagate throughout the internet.
  • Any existing connections to other services on the domain are unaffected, such as having your email hosted somewhere different from the site (like Google or Microsoft), which means less work getting all your third-party connections setup.

Cons: Repointing the domain’s A Record to our IP address

  • You have to pay multiple places for your web hosting needs: pay the domain registrar for the domain(s), pay us for the website hosting, and potentially pay a third party for email hosting if you choose to.
  • We have less control to troubleshoot problems with a domain or DNS, or we have to login to another registrar to make changes.  We can’t provide support for services not managed by us, like a third party email provider such as Microsoft.

Required Info for transferring domain ownership:

  1. The losing registrar needs to make sure that the domain is unlocked (many registrars lock the domain to avoid fraudulent transfer), and that privacy is turned off (some registrars block the domain registration contact info)
  2. The losing registrar needs to provide a transfer authorization code.  Some hosts require a support request to access the code, and some just provide it via the admin account.  Sometimes, the registrar/host will email it to the admin contact saved to the registration.
  3. You need to have access to the email account that’s attached to the registrar records for the domain.  Most of the transfer information will be sent to that address – so you have to be able to access it, forward it to us, etc…  You can see what email address is attached to the domain by doing what’s called a “WHOIS” search online at places like this (as long as privacy is turned off).
  4. *NOTE* – There are some things that can stop a domain transfer in its tracks, so avoid doing the following:
    1. Changing the admin contact email before a transfer.  It can be tempting to change it to a new address to make it easier to keep track of the communications, but for many registrars, changing the admin contact info can lock the domain down and prevent any transfers for up to 60 days!
    2. Transferring a domain within 60 days of registering or renewing.  To combat transfer fraud, registrars lock down a domain and prohibit transfers 60 days after initial registration or renewal of a domain.

Required info for pointing a domain’s A record to our IP address

  1. Access to the existing domain registrar and/or host (they can be two different places remember) so we can setup the DNS record to point to our IP.  If you can’t provide access and/or want to do it yourself, you need to point the “A” record to our IP.
Scenario #4 - Transferring away from Ultra Graphics

Scenario #4 – Transferring away from Ultra Graphics

We definitely want to avoid this scenario – but in the rare cases it does happen, we try to make the transition as smooth as possible.  In general, Ultra Graphics will provide the necessary files, codes and databases to you to get your site up and running on the new host, but we don’t provide any support for the actual transfer.


  1. Since we build all our websites using the Content management system WordPress, a website transfer comes in two pieces: the SQL database that holds the settings, pages, posts, and other necessary content, and the website files themselves.  Since all the customizations (including images, graphics, and .php theme/plugin files) for a site exist in the “wp-content” folder, we’ll zip that up and provide it with the database. WordPress has a guide on migrating sites here.
  2. If the domain is registered with us and you want to transfer it, we’ll unlock it, turn off privacy, and provide you an authorization code for transfer.  Once your new registrar/host requests the transfer (you usually have to do it), our host will send an email with further instructions. Ultra Graphics will do everything we can to make the ownership transfer smooth from our end.
  3. If the domain is registered with us and you want to keep it there but just move your site, we can edit the DNS records to make that work.  If you only have a domain with us but no site, the fees go down a bit – check with your account executive for the most current rates.
  4. Once we’ve provided everything and the transfer is on it’s way, we’ll hang on to the website files for 30 days to make sure you have your site set up in its new home.  After that, all files, connections, databases, etc… will be permanently deleted.
  5. If we’ve set up any other accounts or directories for your business, we’ll provide those login details so you can manage them on your own.  If any accounts are setup under our new media umbrella (such as google analytics), we can provide pdf or excel reports but the account cannot be transferred.  You’ll need to setup a new account and start tracking new data.  Alternatively, we can add your google account to the analytics property giving you access to the data, and we can keep it that way if you would like.

We hope this guide has been helpful! If you have any more questions or need any clarification, please feel free to contact your account executive here or send us a message.