If it’s time to move your WordPress site to a new hosting provider, you might be wondering what the difference is between manual and automated migration methods.
There are a few key differences between the two methods, but it mainly comes down to time, price, and convenience. Which one you go for will depend on how much time you have and the size/complexity of your WordPress site.
Manual vs. Automated Migration – a Comparison
For a quick overview upfront, here are the main differences between the two:
- Manual migration offers more control, whereas automated migration offers no control over the process itself.
- Manual migration takes more time and effort, whereas automated migration is quick and simple.
- Manual migration may be better for larger or more complex sites, whereas smaller, more straightforward sites may benefit from automated migration.
- Manual migration is free, but that doesn’t take into account your own time, whereas automated migration may cost money but frees up your time to work on other tasks.
The answer of ‘which one is best’ isn’t straightforward to answer; as you can see, there are pros and cons to both, and which one suits you will depend on your priorities and what your site is like in terms of size and complexity.
What Is Manual Migration?
Manual migration is the process of moving your WordPress site from one hosting provider to another yourself without using a migration tool. This means you have to go through the process step-by-step yourself.
There are benefits to this way of doing it; mostly, it’s good because it offers you more control, and if you’re the kind of person that prefers to handle everything yourself, this option makes the most sense.
The Benefits of Manual Migration
There are a few benefits to manual migration.
Firstly, it offers complete control. If you prefer to oversee everything yourself, this is brilliant, as it means you won’t have to sit around worrying!
If your site is particularly large or complex, it may take longer to migrate, but your knowledge of the site and how it runs will help to overcome any hiccups along the way. Sometimes, automated migration may run across problems with larger sites; if this is something that worries you, you might be better off doing it manually.
Plus, if something does go wrong with the migration process, you won’t have to rely on third-party support to help you; you can just figure it out yourself. If something goes wrong with automated migration, you’ll have to hang around waiting for the customer support team to help you.
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If you do decide to go it alone, you can check out our Ultimate Guide to WordPress Migration for everything you need to get started.
Secondly, it’s free. (If you don’t include the cost of your time, of course; that’s another factor to consider when weighing up the costs, but we’ll go into that more in the automated migration section.)
Aside from the money you’ll be spending on hosting, the process of migration itself is free if you’re willing to go for the DIY route. You can find free tutorials online, too.
Learning a New Skill
Thirdly, learning how to migrate your site manually is a good way of learning a new skill. Migration can be a bit frustrating and something you hopefully won’t have to do too often, but it’s still useful to know in case you have to do it again in the future.
You can read our guide on Preparing for a WordPress Migration to get started.
What Is Automated Migration?
Automated migration is using a plugin or tool to migrate your WordPress site for you. Once you’ve installed the plugin, it’s as simple as choosing a time and allowing the process to happen.
There are obvious benefits to automated migration, particularly if you feel a little daunted by the technical side of the process.
The Benefits of Automated Migration
There are a few benefits to automated migration, mainly around ease and saving time.
It’s easier to allow someone else to take care of the migration process for you! If you feel the technical side of owning a WordPress site isn’t your strong suit and you’d rather focus your efforts elsewhere, automating processes like migration makes a lot of sense.
It’s easy to set up automated migration, and providing everything goes smoothly, you won’t have to intervene at all; you can just sit back and wait for it to happen. If you’d rather not go through the hassle of learning a new skill, you might be tempted to give automated migration a go.
There’s a caveat here: the larger and more complex your site is, the more likely it is that automated migration may run into problems, and there may be some issues you’ll need to address during the process.
However, if the process goes ahead with no issues, it should be way easier than trying to attempt it yourself. All you’ll have to do is test your migrated WordPress site to see if everything works the way it should.
Not having to deal with the migration frees up your time, which you can spend doing other things: communicating with customers, planning for the new site once it’s open, and so on. Saving a little bit of time can help you to tick off some jobs on your to-do list while the site is essentially closed for maintenance.
It can be an endless task to run a website, particularly if you run an eCommerce store; this short break may be just the thing you need to catch up, and you wouldn’t have that time if you were attempting migration yourself.
Plus, you’d have to factor in time to research how to do it, including the potential time spent troubleshooting if something goes wrong during the process. Automated migration frees up that time, too. If you’re running a WordPress site in your spare time, this may be a particularly tempting option!
Automated migration may cost more than manual migration, but that doesn’t take into consideration the cost of your time.
Working out how much your time is ‘worth’ can be tricky, but you may find that it’s actually more cost-effective to pay for automated migration than to take time out of your busy day to do it yourself (or to get another member of your team to do it for you).
Of course, if you’re on a tight budget, the cost of automated migration may be out of the question, but it’s still worth considering the value of your own time, too.
What to Consider When Migrating Your WordPress Site
There are a few factors to consider when migrating your WordPress site, no matter which method you choose to go for:
Timing is everything! Look to migrate your site at a quiet time in terms of traffic: you can use an analytics plugin to determine this. Choosing a quiet time means minimal disruption to your site visitors, and hopefully, it won’t have a big impact on your sales if you’re running an eCommerce store.
It’s also a good idea to let your site visitors know about upcoming site maintenance, ideally giving them time to check back again, so they’ll know to visit again later.
If you’ve timed the migration right, hopefully, there won’t be too much disruption for visitors anyway, but you can still add a banner to your site, just in case.
Make sure you’ve installed every update for your plugins and theme (and WordPress itself). This may help the migration run smoothly.
The final thing to do before starting the migration process (no matter which option you pick) is to make sure you do a thorough backup of your site. This means that if something does go wrong, you’ll have a backup to return to, so you can get your site up and running again as quickly as possible.
Generally, it’s a good idea to get into the habit of doing frequent backups! You can use a backup plugin to do this, which makes it a little easier.
Frequently Asked Questions
Before you go, here are some frequently asked questions you might find useful:
Which migration tool is the best for automated migration?
If you’re thinking of using a migration plugin, here are a few we can recommend:
- WPvivid Backup Plugin – this is primarily a backup plugin, regularly running full backups of your site without you having to do anything. It also offers automated migration, which is a useful tool.
- WP Migrate – this exports all the files for your site quickly, making migration super easy with little downtime. The Pro plan is helpful if you have a larger, more complex site.
- Duplicator – this allows you to back up and migrate your WordPress site with ease.
- WP Engine Automated Migration – if you plan to move over to WP Engine, this plugin takes care of everything for you, which is really useful
You can also check out our guide to Top WordPress Migration Plugins and Services for more recommendations.
What are the common reasons for migration?
One of the most common reasons for migration is site growth: as your site grows, you may find that your current host isn’t suitable anymore, and you might need to find something with more space or to allow better functionality on your site.
Another common reason is to go for a host with better security. WordPress is a target for hackers and security breaches, so finding a host with top-level security is important, especially if you’re dealing with private or sensitive information (like customer payment details, for example).
You may also want to migrate to find a more affordable hosting package. Services change and develop over time, and if you’ve had the same hosting provider for a while, you might find that you can get a better deal elsewhere.
What happens if the migration process goes wrong?
If something goes wrong, you can find some useful information online. Try our guide to How to Troubleshoot Common WordPress Migration Issues if you’re stuck with manual migration.
To Sum Up
There are a few key differences between manual and automated WordPress migration. Manual migration offers more control, whereas automated migration is more of a hands-off process. Manual migration can save you money, but automated migration can save time.
The key thing to remember is to go carefully with larger, more complex sites with a lot of plugins; if you do decide to automate migration in this case, just make sure that the tool you choose is up to the task (you can do this by checking reviews from real users), and ensure that all your plugins are up-to-date for the smoothest migration possible.