Migrating WordPress without Access to Database or Core Files

One of the things I have been doing a lot of at Reclaim Hosting these days while the US sleeps is migrating accounts. We have a steady flow of fine folks moving to Reclaim, and one of the things we do is help them bring their content and domains along smoothly.

The other morning I ran into a situation wherein I couldn’t access either the database or core files of a WordPress site I was migrating so I went looking for a solution.* And while I was considering the Duplicator plugin, I was a bit wary given the recent exploit. Tim and Lauren pointed me to the All-in-One WP Migration plugin which was exactly what I needed.

The free version allows you to move both database and files of a site up to 515 MB. This worked for one of the two sites I was migrating, but the second was 518MB so I needed to access a premium addon plugin to finish the job. The add-on plugin allows for unlimited size downloads, and also allows you to upload the backup file the plugin creates via FTP so you can restore it directly from the plugin interface. I preferred this method because uploading the file via the web often runs in PHP upload size errors and timeout issues that often draw out the process unnecessarily, whereas the unlimited add-on plugin simplifies the process for big sites saving me a fair amount of time.

The All-in-One WP Migration plugin is a good plugin to have in your WordPress tool belt if you want a clean migration that takes all database settings, plugins, and themes and seamlessly migrates them to another WordPress site hosted elsewhere. I usually default to doing this with a MySQL export and an archive of core files, but if you find yourself without access to either (or not sure on how that process works manually), this plugin is an excellent option. I have not tried it on a WPMS site, yet but I think that would be the next logical step given getting core files and a database export for WPMS is far more involved process than a stand alone WordPress site. Anyone have experience on that front? Either way, it might be a good weekend experiment as I prepare for the March madness..

*Although truth be told I could–but that is another story.

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4 Responses to Migrating WordPress without Access to Database or Core Files

  1. Tobias says:

    Hi Jim, as always, big fan of what you and all at Reclaim are doing, and always enjoy reading your blog posts! This newest post got my particular attention, as this is something I’ve also worked on for a bit, and had me struggling for quite a while. Back in 2017, we were setting up a university-wide blogfarm for a large uni in Germany, and after long consideration decided to go with a federated non-WPMS setup. Along the way, my team and I were tasked with migrating a selection of faculty blogs from a preexisting legacy WPMS setup so as to consolidate different offers preexisting in some of the university’s schools and departments. After lengthy experimentation with five or six different plugins including Duplicator, and lots of trial-and-error, we eventually went for All-in-One WP Migration and bought the Multisite extension (which is required for AiOWPMigration to work with WPMS sites, or whole networks, for that matter), because the transfer from WPMS to single site failed with all of the others in one or the other way… including interesting reasons such as “your WPMS setup is too old” 🙂 (and sure, this particular WPMS had been brought to life when WordPress 1.2 was around, but still…). But as a disclaimer: mind you, this was back in 2017/2018, so it might well be the case that other plugins will now also do the job.

    In the end, I never regretted going with AIOWPMigration, particularly because their support did an excellent job in helping us along the way, and also made sure to feedback to their developers the bits and pieces of what we had discussed with them during our conversations, which we could then also find reflected in subsequent updates of the plugin.
    So, in short: I can only say good things about the All-in-One WP Migration plugin in combination with the Multisite extension. And while this means investing a not-unsubstantial bit of money, it surely is a real time saver, especially when you find yourself in the described use case of no access to the actual host files and database, are expecting to handle a variety of such transfers, and/or also for those – myself included – who are not skilled programmers 😉

  2. Reverend says:

    Hi Tobias,

    Wow, thanks for this comment, I really appreciate the insight. I more and more agree with you about the balance of cost versus expertise. In my younger, more fiery days, I would argue that everything built for and on top of WordPress should be open source and free, I hated the idea of premium themes and plugins. But, the more I depend upon WordPress for my job and the less time and expertise in-house we have in terms of programming, these premium possibilities become quite useful. It’s one of the biggest tricks of the open web, how do folks do x-amount of work and still get paid. Working beyond your day job, as Downes recently argued on his site, is one possibility, but then again we cannot expect folks to manage and maintain open source options like a plugin if they can’t justify the work—and whether we like it or not sometimes making some money off of it is a compelling form of justification.

    It is really good to know about the WPMS option, I know we were moving sites off a WPMS into their own WP instance which was a lot of scripting and overhead, and if this plugin can do that it would be a life-saver. Thanks again for the comment, and I hope you got your Reclaim shirt 🙂

  3. Alan Levine says:

    You really think this blogging thing has legs. IT WON’T SCALE! hahahahah.

    I’ve not tried as many as Tobias but have had very good luck with All-in-One WP Migration for variations migrations. For a while I was creating exports and suggesting as a way to create a built out SPLOT (before Reclaim took that over). The only hitch was it seemed to carry my admin user over to the copied new site, so I’d get admin notices from strange sites (I’m guessing it has to do with the user_id=1, and on a migration of someone’s own site it would not be an issue). For smaller single sites it’s a gem.

    I did have to thank Reclaim for the trick in installatron of importing via sftp (if you have that) from another host, I was able to import a site from one reclaim account into another without having to Bug The Busy Staff).

    There’s no nostalgia for old days of moving all files and importing databases, which these days break often for the domain name length difference munges up a lot of theme options.

    It does feel glorious when an entire site is migrated without a hitch; like all the lights on the machine dinging and zinging.

    • Reverend says:

      Yeah, as the early shoift I do a lot of migrations, and these days I have to say FTP migrations and especially the WordPress CLI has been absolutely a god send. I do a search and replace in the database regularly now after migrations, and that really saves my ass time and again. The one place I still need a lifeline is when plugins add URLs but they somehow do not get discovered in a search and replace, I ran into this recently and I was going crazy. I almost have it down to a science, but not really

      I still love when it is a straight cPanel to cPanel migration. Nothing makes me happier these days, which shows you how warped my world has become.

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