Over the last few articles we’ve gone from Discovering your businesses needs and goals, to Designing a great looking website, to Developing that design into a working website.
Now it’s time for launching your new website!
This is often a huge hurdle for our clients because they get the ‘itch’ that something might not be right. Getting stuck in ‘analysis paralysis’ and letting a perfectly good, brand new website go to waste.
Just a reminder, once the website is live, you can still make updates 🙂
So what exactly happens when we deploy, or launch, a new website?
The first thing we need to figure out is where this new site is going to be hosted.
By default, we build every site in a Staging environment on our own hosting platform (currently WP Engine).
If the intention of the client is to stick with us for hosting and support through one of our Website Care Plans, then it’s decided we will keep the site on the same server. We just need to move it from Staging into Production.
It’s not rare that the client already has a hosting plan in place somewhere else. While we do charge an extra fee for deploying the website on a different hosting provider, it’s definitely not a problem.
Migrating Files and Database
Now that we know where we’ll be hosting, it’s time to migrate all of the files and the database from the Staging environment.
On WP Engine, this is really simple and basically a ‘one click’ process.
If we are moving to a different hosting provider, it becomes much more manual. Typically we’ll need to download all of the files, export the database, upload all of the files to the new host, import the database, and possibly make updates to the hosting settings.
Regardless of where it’s hosted we’ll also be doing a Search and Replace through the entire site making sure that any references to the Staging site URL are updated to point to the actual domain for the site.
Now that the files and database are in place and all of the URL’s have been updated, it’s time to point the Domain Name to the host.
There are several ways to accomplish this, but typically we are updating an IP under the ‘A record’ to point to the new server.
Without getting too far into what DNS does and how it works, there are different ‘records’ for different requirements.
For example, an A record allow us to point http://yourdomainname.com to a specific IP address. As long as your host is set up to receive and route any requests for that domain name to the correct folder or set of files, everything works!
Another type of record is the MX record. MX is specific to your email settings. It’s extremely important that we make sure not to modify any MX records while doing the update to the A record.
We’ve definitely come across DNS settings where the MX record are pointing to an A record, which if updated, will bring down the entire email system. This is scary and a huge pain to clean up.
When we update the A record, it doesn’t always take effect immediately.
There are DNS servers around the world that store information locally to enable faster access to the users in that area. They all work together so that the millions of people that are constantly using the internet can all access ‘records’ and be routed to the correct places. Without them, we would all be trying to access the same DNS server to be routed somewhere, and it would crash.
At the DNS settings we are able to set a lifetime of that record. Depending on what that setting has been previously, it could take 24 hours or even up to a week for the new IP address to be updated through all the DNS servers that previously help the old IP.
Usually within 24 hours, your new website is accessible to everyone.
Your own computer also holds a cache, which may include the old IP.
With all of these things in mind, just know that it may take some time for everyone everywhere to be routed to the correct server and see the new website.
Now that we can access the new website correctly, it’s time to test!
We’ll go back through all of the Q/A testing that was done on the staging site in order to make sure that everything still works. With so many human touch points happening during this process, it’s likely something could be overlooked.
We offer a grace period of about 30 days to allow any bugs to arise and be fixed
That’s it, the new website is live!
Websites now are alive. They require software updates to the platforms they are built on. Often there are new feature needs that will pop up, and in general a need for on-going support.
For more information on how we approach all of that, read our post Protecting The Most Valuable Tool In Your Business.