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How to Transfer WHM cPanel from One Server to Another Server

There are many reasons why you could want to transfer a WHM cPanel environment from one server to another server, whether you are migrating to a new web hosting company or simply upgrading the operating systems to the latest version. There are situations whereby certain Linux operating systems aren’t able to upgrade between major versions such as CentOS 6 to CentOS 7 just as one example. In this situation you have to spin up a brand new server or virtual machine running CentOS 7 with WHM cPanel then transfer everything over from the old CentOS 6 server running WHM cPanel.

We have previously covered off other topics such as How to Migrate a Web Server Seamlessly with Zero Downtime and How to Migrate an eCommerce Website Between Servers with Zero Downtime which are also worth reading through for some handy information. This blog post covers similar information but goes into a lot more detail around the steps involved with this when the migration is specific to cPanel and WHM.

This requires a little planning, good communication and a structured approach to the process to ensure there is no interruption to the websites and services that are being migrated – or as minimal as possible.

 

Step 1 – Spin up a New Virtual Machine

This step is highly likely to be managed by your web hosting company, so you probably don’t need to worry a great deal about this step. If you are doing this step yourself and you are reading this blog post, you could probably do with a chat with us to help guide you through the process.

 

Step 2 – Install WHM cPanel on New Server

This step is a bit of a pain since cPanel is a licenced piece of software, meaning you’ll need to have duplicate licence costs for a small amount of time throughout this process. Again, this step is highly likely to be managed by your web hosting company.

 

Step 3 – Use WHM Transfer Tool to Transfer Individual cPanel Accounts

This is where things get a little more nuanced. In theory, this should just work. In practice, it’s highly likely that you’ll have a few niggles along the way, so I’d recommend approaching this with caution and planning properly.

A WHM cPanel environment could have hundreds if not thousands of individual cPanel accounts that are being managed within that WHM environment. So there is no simple solution to getting this all migrated at the click of a button. You’ve also got to be very mindful of the applications/websites/systems that are running on the individual cPanel accounts that are being migrated as there is highly likely integrations running on those systems which may have whitelisted IP addresses.

Since the IP address will likely change on this migration from one virtual machine to another virtual machine, the IP address will change, so you will need to be very conscious that that this can be a disruptive migration for the individual cPanel accounts that are being migrated.

All that being said, let’s jump into the details of some of the hands on elements.

 

Step 4 – Create a Migration Template Tracker

You need a process to control the flow of the migration so you know where you are up to. Something basic in a spreadsheet is more than sufficient for this process. You need to define the steps you need to do for each cPanel account so you can be confident that the migration can be classified as successful both from a technical standpoint and also that of the client. Even better, get a dummy cPanel account created so you can iron out any critical issues before you start to look at the migration of any Live cPanel accounts.

Some considerations / steps you may like to consider as part of this process;

  • cPanel Account
  • What websites are hosted – We all know you shouldn’t host multiple websites under a single cPanel account for security reasons, but we all know that people do…
  • Where is the DNS managed – Can you edit directly or do you need the client to do this, or their development partner?
  • Checkbox to say if you have migrated the website to the new server
  • Checkbox to say if you have migrated the A Record in the DNS to point to the new server
  • Checkbox to say if you have regenerated or installed any SSL certificates on the new server
  • Checkbox to say if the site is loading correctly over SSL
  • Checkbox to say if you have contacted the client to confirm they are happy with the migration

The reality is, the above checklist if hugely dependent on the type of websites/systems hosted on the cPanel accounts and your understanding of what is on there. If you are a hands-off type of setup then you are going to need to treat this process significantly different. You may also need to take specific action for unresponsive owners of cPanel accounts such as providing cut-off dates for when the old server will be switched off to ensure people have enough time to act on the migration.

 

Step 5 – Understand the Process for WHM cPanel to WHM cPanel Migration

The process of migrating an entire WHM cPanel environment to another server can be challenging. So you need to understand the intricacies of how this works.

From a purely technical standpoint, the process is usually relatively straight forward to migrate cPanel accounts between servers as can be seen in the diagram below;

 

 

Migration Process

Once you’ve understood the steps involved in a migration, you need to see this in practice within your environment to see how this works. Below are a selection of screenshots of the process in action so you can see the types of things that happen when you are using the WHM cPanel Migration Tool.

 

Step 6 – On New Server, Connect to Old Server via WHM cPanel Transfer Tool

As you can see in the image below, the way this works it that you pull the cPanel account into your new environment, rather than the old environment pushing the cPanel account to your new environment.

 

 

 

Once you click the button at the bottom of the page, you’ll notice a session starts to get created;

 

 

 

Step 7 – Review Source and Destination Configurations

This is where things can start to get “fun” in the sense that when the versions are significantly different this can cause problems. It’s always advisable to keep any kind of migrations relatively close together. Incremental migrations are significantly easier to manage than major version migrations.

Once you’ve connected the session, WHM cPanel will prompt you about some of the differences between your source and target virtual machines to help you assess the risk involved.

 

 

Step 6 – Select an Account to Migrate

I say account, because you are in a significantly better position to do this on a cPanel account by cPanel account basis rather than just transferring everything over.

 

 

What you will notice in the right hand column is that there is an Overwrite section. In the scenario whereby you have to do multiple migrations for a single cPanel account to the new server such as when the initial migration fails, you have the option to overwrite the changes. In my experience though, this rarely works well. I’ve found it best to delete the cPanel account from the new server, then do a fresh migration of that cPanel account.

 

Step 7 – Select Packages to Transfer

Packages in this sense are for when you have created the type of bronze – silver – gold type packages which allow different cPanel users to access different sets of features based on the price point they are subscribed to. You may or may not use this method, but if you do, then make sure to transfer them across.

 

 

Step 8 – Select Service Configurations to Migrate

There are things that you have installed on WHM cPanel to manage your environment better. You may like to keep these types of tools and configurations migrated over to you new server to avoid having to re-create them.

 

 

 

 

Step 9 – Migrate a Single cPanel Account

As you can see in the screenshot below, the process once you’ve selected a single cPanel account to be migrated you see a real time transfer process so you can be confident things are happening.

 

 

As the process is running along you’ll notice the progress;

 

 

Then once it’s transferred successfully you’ll notice it starts to restore fully;

 

 

Step 10 – Review PHP Versions

This is more just a point to note, if you are also upgrading the PHP versions at the same time, you may be testing how more recent PHP versions are compatible with your migration. You will likely come across issues related to PHP versions not being compatible with more recent versions. This is beyond the scope of this blog post, but it is being mentioned as a common reason for upgrading systems is to ensure new technology is being supported and there are a lot of considerations throughout the process. I’ll do another blog post on PHP versioning and WordPress as this is a complex topic.

The screenshot below shows you just the kind of errors you can get when you are upgrading PHP versions on a WordPress website.

 

 

 

Step 11 – Update DNS A Records to Point to new Server

This is very much website specific for where you need to this so I’m skipping over this point.

 

Step 12 – Confirm Migration is Successful

Once you’ve migrated the website and updated the DNS records, you need to validate that this has worked. Naturally there are a lot of nuances with this such as web browser caches, DNS TTL (Time to Live), application level caches, WordPress caches and more. You need to understand the tech stack you’re working with to ensure a successful migration. As always, if in doubt, try on a different browser, try on a different device, try on a different network etc.

 

Summary

Hopefully this has been a handy guide on how to transfer WHM cPanel accounts from one server to another server along with some of the common pitfalls along the way. While there is an official guide on how to do this, it doesn’t really go into the level of detail that is helpful when you’re actually doing this.

How to Upgrade XenServer to XCP-NG Server

If you’ve been testing XenServer or have been working with the free version for a while, you’ll soon realise that it is little limited in places due to the commercial licences required from Citrix to use some of the features that I would class as fairly basic features, things such as VLANs, automatic updates, SR-IOV and GPU virtualisation to name just a few of the feature limitations. Thankfully Citrix handed XenServer to the open source world which is where XCP-NG Server comes in, this is the open source full featured version of the Xen technology. Awesome.

So below talks you through how to upgrade your XenServer setup to XCP-NG Server.

 

Download XCP-NG Server

Firstly download the ISO for the latest XCP-NG Server from here, https://xcp-ng.org/#easy-to-install

 

Create a Bootable USB Containing the ISO

If you are unsure how to do this, follow our guide on how to create a bootable USB using Rufus.

 

Backup XenServer

It kind of goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyhow. Make sure you take a full backup of your XenServer via Xen Centre to ensure you can recover if the upgrade fails for whatever reason.

 

Boot Server from USB containing XCP-NG ISO

Plug the bootable USB drive into your physical server and make sure your BIOS settings are configured so you can boot from the device. Then you can start the upgrade process which it outlined below.

 

Upgrade XCP-NG Server via Installer

 

Install XCP-NG Centre

You can continue to use Xen Centre if you prefer, but personally I’d always make sure you’re keeping Xen Server paired with Xen Centre and XCP-NG Server paired with XCP-NG Centre to avoid any compatibility issues as XCP-NG Centre will always be ahead in terms of features and functionality when working with XCP-NG Server. The team supporting XCP-NG Centre are making upstream commits to the Xen Centre software project, but these aren’t guaranteed to be accepted by Citrix and released as a new version.

You can download the latest version of XCP-NG Centre from here, https://github.com/xcp-ng/xenadmin/releases/tag/v20.04.00.32 (at the time of writing), you can see the .msi Windows installer at the bottom of the page.

If in doubt, download this one, then if there is an update waiting you should see a notification in the Notifications part of XCP-NG Centre once you open it up. They don’t make it easy to find these download links and it’s made more confusing when XCP-NG Centre is also referred to as xenadmin on GitHub.

Understanding the Differences in Managed VS Unmanaged Web Hosting

Web hosting is web hosting, right? Well… no.

So how do you assess the difference in web hosting from Company X to Company Y and with all the different terminology and packages available – particularly if you’re not a technical boffin?

Don’t worry, it’s confusing for a reason, and that reason is that it is so that it’s not easy to compare things between suppliers, you have to take them on good faith that they are covering off what you need. This is fine for basic personal usage and don’t mind when things go wrong, but for small and medium sized business use, this is not adequate, so you need to understand what you are paying for and ultimately who is responsible for the different aspects – you – or – your web hosting provider.

You may think that your web hosting provider is simply doing everything they should be doing for you, but that is rarely the case. As a general rule of thumb, the less you pay, the more you are responsible for. And that means that you need the skills, expertise and time to deal with situations as they arise, and they arise on a regular basis – someone has to take care of your infrastructure.

Below is a starter for 10 for the types of things that are common ‘things’ that need doing on web hosting infrastructure with a comparison of how cheaper providers generally manage things VS managed web hosting providers, like ourselves and many other quality providers out there too.

Hopefully this information below helps you to see as a non-technical person what is really happening behind the scenes and how the £ pricing for the different providers generally tilts the scales between where you are responsible for activities VS where your web hosting company is responsible for the activities.

 

Activity Unmanaged (Cheaper)

Web Hosting

Who is Responsible For…

Managed (Expensive)

Web Hosting

Who is Responsible For…

Provisioning core server resources for creating your virtual server (Hard disk space, RAM, CPU, Networking, Security Groups, Containers etc… too much to cover here) You Provider
Installing and configuring the operating system You Provider
Installing and configuring core web server Control Panel software You Provider
Server level backups You Provider
Monitoring and managing Operating System level updates You Shared responsibility
Monitoring and managing web server software packages for updates and security patches You Shared responsibility
Monitoring and managing web server infrastructure and resource utilisation (Hard drive, CPU, RAM, IOPS, etc.) – i.e. when your hard disk fills up, your customers can’t place orders via your website You Shared responsibility
Installing and monitoring core infrastructure utilisation software and proactively respond to changes rather than reacting to catastrophes. You Shared responsibility
Designing and managing Networking and Security Groups to ensure you limit your exposure in the situation whereby security breaches happen You Shared responsibility
SSL Certificates for keeping your data safe during transit from your web server to your customers. You Shared responsibility
And a lot more… You Shared responsibility

 

Look, the above is a huge over simplification of the reality, and there are so many types of unmanaged and managed web hosting solutions that there are an awful lot of nuances in both categories so this is a very simplistic view of the world. Hopefully it helps to show some of the common differences between cheaper (unmanaged) web hosting and more expensive (managed) web hosting solutions.

At Contrado Digital we focus on things that “Just Work”, so as you can guess we tend to sit in the Managed Space, and more expensive. Although even still, we work across the board, for example with enterprise clients we can support through training and development where corporate organisations are wanting to self-manage their infrastructure with their internal staff. The joys are that there are endless options available, so let’s have a chat about your requirements and we can see what works best for you.

Ultimately if you’re reading this post, you probably fall into one of two categories;

  1. A small to medium sized business who needs help? If so, you probably need support via a managed service, whether that is from a single virtual machine hosting one website to a more complex hosted or physical infrastructure that we manage on your behalf.

A large enterprise business who has staff internally who needs help with how to work with self-managed solutions? If so, you probably need some consultancy, training and coaching for staff to manage these solutions effectively through one of more of your cloud providers or on-premise providers.

Understanding Network Private Address Ranges Easily

Oh, the joys of networking… A topic that very few people like and/or fully understand. So thought it was about time we covered some of these topics to help clarify common misunderstandings and to help people easily understand networking in general. For simplicity, I’m going to stick with IPv4 IP addresses for now and completely ignore IPv6 IP addresses. I’m also going to completely ignore the concept of CIDR blocks and address ranges within this blog posts to just purely focus on the core concepts.

 

What are Public and Private IP Addresses

Simply put, there is nothing really different, they are just an IP address, right? Well, kind of yes and no. It all comes down to routing, i.e. how your request from A ultimately reaches B. In simple terms, anything starting with any of the following numbers are classified as ‘Private’ IP addresses;

  • 10.x.x.x
  • 172.x.x.x
  • 192.x.x.x

So thinking through the routing concept again of how you get from A to B. This depends on where A and B ultimately live. Remember, every IP address ultimately routes through to a physical server (i.e. computer) which lives somewhere in the real world – whether that is in your back bedroom or in an Amazon data centre somewhere in the world.

 

How does Routing Work for Private Address Ranges

So now we understand that an IP address starting with, 10., 172. Or 192. Is classified as a private address – what does this actually mean? As mentioned, ultimately an IP address routes through to a physical piece of computer equipment, so why do we care if an IP address is a public IP address (i.e. not starting with these numbers) or a private IP address? Well, it all comes down to routing, i.e. how the message gets from A to B.

For the purpose of this example, let’s keep things super simple. In the scenario whereby you have a personal home laptop or computer. You likely have a home router+modem that has been provided to you from your internet service provider (ISP), the people who provide the internet connection to your home.

To visualise this, if you open the web browser on your home computer and type the following into the address bar of your favourite browser (Chrome, right?), 192.198.0.1 – you’ll likely be presented with the administrator console for your router+modem that has been provided from your ISP. This allows you to login (likely with a super-secure username/password of admin/admin…) so you can then see all of the devices that are connected to your local network, aka. private network. You’ll likely see your laptops, computers, tablets, mobile phones, smart TVs and IoT devices all connected to your local network either via wired or wireless connections. Cool right?

Ok, so back to the point about routing and private VS public IP addresses.

Simply put, whenever a device that is on your local network attempts to connect to another device, your router decides where to … route … the connection to. For example, if you are on your local network and you are trying to access another device on the local network, the route that the connection from A to B (which often has many steps involved, not just the one) never actually leaves your premises to go the internet for help. Whereas if you were accessing a public IP address (aka. an IP address starting with anything other than the three mentioned) then your request would go out into the internet to find the physical computer hardware that is at this address.

The reality is for public IP addresses is that these are often a single IP address that can have thousands of virtual and/or physical machines sitting behind them, which is where NAT comes in – but we’ll ignore that for the purpose of simplicity. We’ll cover that another time. For the purpose of this blog post, we’ll assume that we’re just accessing different systems based purely on IP addresses and not friendly names such as server-x.contradodigital.com.

 

What About Modern Routing?

The reality is that with most modern routing this isn’t based on IP address alone, it’s often based on a combination of IP Address and Hostname (aka. the name you type into the browser). What this means is that whenever you type in a hostname into the browser, this ultimately resolves to an IP address that knows how to handle your request and ultimately get you to the destination physical/virtual computer that can serve you the information you need. Thankfully, you never need to worry about that as a user. But from a configuration perspective this is hugely important as if you are designing this setup, you need to be able to configure how to handle incoming requests. That is outside of the scope of this blog post though as this gets into the world of NAT, proxies and reverse-proxies.

 

Size of Private Networks

Things are a little more nuanced by the three core private IP ranges as they each support a different number of devices connected to that network. Remember, these rules were designed before IPv6 when there were much harder limits placed on networks.

  • 10.0.0.0 – 10.255.255.255 supports a total of 16,777,216 addresses and is classed as a single class A network.
  • 172.16.0.0 – 172.31.255.255 supports a total of 1,048,576 addresses and is classed as a 16 contiguous class Bs network.
  • 192.168.0.0 – 192.168.255.255 supports a total of 65,536 addresses and is classed as a 256 contiguous class Cs.

Simple, right?

In simple terms;

  • Use 192 IP ranges whenever you have a small number of devices connected, i.e. a home environment
  • Use 172 IP ranges whenever you have a medium number of devices connected, i.e. a small business and/or cloud environment that is regionalised. Notice how AWS uses the 172 ranges in EC2 instance hostnames
  • Use 10 IP ranges whenever you want maximum control for how the maximum number of devices such as on private networks.

This helps you to determine which of the IP address ranges you are best to use. There are also considerations around network sizes and subnets but again, we’ll cover this in other blog posts.

Understanding Incoterms – International Commercial Terms

As an ecommerce retailer, small or large, you will have a supply chain that likely spans the globe to a lesser or greater degree. Whether you are aware of this or not, ultimately the products you’re purchasing have likely been made outside of the UK. If you’re new to the import/export game then you’ll likely be as confused as everyone else when it comes to how things are shipped around the world and what all the terminology means. This blog post is designed to be a handy resource to simplify the import/export game and terminology so you can get up and running importing and exporting your products with ease.

 

What are Incoterms?

Simply put, Incoterms is the abbreviation of what is called International Commercial Terms. In other words, a common vocabulary used around the world to explain who is responsible for what and ultimately who holds the risk at the different stages of the shipping process. So we know who to speak to when things don’t quite go according to plan, and if anything is guaranteed, it is that things don’t always go to plan.

For smaller quantities of goods being shipped around the world, you may not need to worry about the finer details of this as it is likely encapsulated within the costs you are paying – but it is always worth being diligent in this area as even when small orders ‘go missing’ you’ve got to take into account the products you’ll need to sell and the profit you need to make to recover this cost through additional sales.

As your order quantities grow, you’re going to want to keep a close eye on Incoterms when dealing with multiple suppliers and customers around the globe. Getting things wrong can be an extremely costly mistake to make.

 

Understanding Incoterms

The images in this post are referenced to international logistics company OceanAir who have done an excellent job at creating the infographics to simplify these terms into an easy to digest image – once you understand what the terms actually mean. So let’s dig into the terminology first before we look at the images.

One of the common terms that you’ll read throughout the incoterms is a freight forwarder. But what exactly is a freight forwarder? In simple terms, a freight forwarder is a common courier that doesn’t operate shipping vessels.

 

EX-Works

One of the simplest and most basic shipment arrangements places the minimum responsibility on the seller with greater responsibility on the buyer. In an EX-Works transaction, goods are basically made available for pickup at the shipper/seller’s factory or warehouse and “delivery” is accomplished when the merchandise is released to the consignee’s freight forwarder. The buyer is responsible for making arrangements with their forwarder for insurance, export clearance and handling all other paperwork.

 

FOB (Free On Board)

FOB means that the shipper/seller uses their freight forwarder to move the merchandise to the port or designated point of origin. Though frequently used to describe inland movement of cargo, FOB specifically refers to ocean or inland waterway transportation of goods. “Delivery” is accomplished when the shipper/seller releases the goods to the buyer’s forwarder. The buyer’s responsibility for insurance and transportation begins at the same moment.

 

FCA (Free Carrier)

In this type of transaction, the seller is responsible for arranging transportation, but he is acting at the risk and the expense of the buyer. Where in FOB the freight forwarder or carrier is the choice of the buyer, in FCA the seller chooses and works with the freight forwarder or the carrier. “Delivery” is accomplished at a predetermined port or destination point and the buyer is responsible for Insurance.

 

FAS (Free Alongside Ship)

In these transactions, the buyer bears all the transportation costs and the risk of loss of goods. FAS requires the shipper/seller to clear goods for export, which is a reversal from past practices. Companies selling on these terms will ordinarily use their freight forwarder to clear the goods for export. “Delivery” is accomplished when the goods are turned over to the Buyers Forwarder for insurance and transportation.

 

CFR (Cost and Freight)

This term formerly known as CNF (C&F) defines two distinct and separate responsibilities-one is dealing with the actual cost of merchandise “C” and the other “F” refers to the freight charges to a predetermined destination point. It is the shipper/seller’s responsibility to get goods from their door to the port of destination. “Delivery” is accomplished at this time. It is the buyer’s responsibility to cover insurance from the port of origin or port of shipment to buyer’s door. Given that the shipper is responsible for transportation, the shipper also chooses the forwarder.

 

CIF (Cost, Insurance and Freight)

This arrangement similar to CFR, but instead of the buyer insuring the goods for the maritime phase of the voyage, the shipper/seller will insure the merchandise. In this arrangement, the seller usually chooses the forwarder. “Delivery” as above, is accomplished at the port of destination.

 

CPT (Carriage Paid To)

In CPT transactions the shipper/seller has the same obligations found with CIF, with the addition that the seller has to buy cargo insurance, naming the buyer as the insured while the goods are in transit.

 

CIP (Carriage and Insurance Paid To)

This term is primarily used for multimodal transport. Because it relies on the carrier’s insurance, the shipper/seller is only required to purchase minimum coverage. When this particular agreement is in force, Freight Forwarders often act in effect, as carriers. The buyer’s insurance is effective when the goods are turned over to the Forwarder.

 

DAF (Delivered At Frontier)

Here the seller’s responsibility is to hire a forwarder to take goods to a named frontier, which usually a border crossing point, and clear them for export. “Delivery” occurs at this time. The buyer’s responsibility is to arrange with their forwarder for the pick up of the goods after they are cleared for export, carry them across the border, clear them for importation and effect delivery. In most cases, the buyer’s forwarder handles the task of accepting the goods at the border across the foreign soil.

 

DES (Delivered Ex Ship)

In this type of transaction, it is the seller’s responsibility to get the goods to the port of destination or to engage the forwarder to the move cargo to the port of destination uncleared. “Delivery” occurs at this time. Any destination charges that occur after the ship is docked are the buyer’s responsibility.

 

DEQ (Delivered Ex Quay)

In this arrangement, the buyer/consignee is responsible for duties and charges and the seller is responsible for delivering the goods to the quay, wharf or port of destination. In a reversal of previous practice, the buyer must also arrange for customs clearance.

 

DDP (Delivered Duty Paid)

DDP terms tend to be used in intermodal or courier-type shipments. Whereby, the shipper/seller is responsible for dealing with all the tasks involved in moving goods from the manufacturing plant to the buyer/consignee’s door. It is the shipper/seller’s responsibility to insure the goods and absorb all costs and risks including the payment of duty and fees.

 

DDU (Delivered Duty Unpaid)

This arrangement is basically the same as with DDP, except for the fact that the buyer is responsible for the duty, fees and taxes.

Incoterms Simplified Images

Below are a couple of handy diagrams to show the above incoterms and how they differ from each other.

 

 

International Shipping

Clearly international shipping is an extremely complex area and this blog post only gives a very brief overview for common international commercial terms in relation to shipping. Hopefully this at least helps you to understand where your potential risks lie whenever you’re importing or exporting goods around the world.