The Banyan Theory Blog

5 Tips for a Successful Email Hosting Transfer

posted by Allison
Thinking of switching email hosting providers? Here are a few important tips to ensure everything smoothly.

#1 What You'll Need

Whoever is doing your email switch (whether it's you or your IT contractor), here's a list of the basics that will be required for a smooth transition:

  1. A list of all email addresses that you have currently, plus any new ones you want created.
  2. The username and password to access your domain (usually where your domain is registered).
  3. An alternate/personal email address or phone number so you can be reached if a problem comes up during the transfer.

#2 Timing is Everything

Schedule the changes to be completed on a Friday evening. Not everyone who hosts your email will tell you this. But you need to insist on it.  Here's why:

If the changes are completed during the week, you run the risk of having your email delayed or unavailable for up to 24 hours during business hours.

In addition, if there are any unforeseen issues that arise during the change, you'd want them resolved before they impact your employees and customers during peak time.

Making the change to your email hosting over the weekend minimizes the risk of impacting your employees, customers and business during  normal working hours.

Note: This may seem like an extreme-case precaution, but we've had customers who have switched their email over during business hours on a weekday, and their email was completely unavailable the rest of the day.  There wasn't anything that could be done at that point; it was a matter of simply waiting it out.  So if you don't read any further, be sure this suggestion sticks in your mind!

The Technical Explanation Behind This Tip:

When you change where your email is hosted, changes are made to your domain. The changes are made to what's called "MX records" (mail exchanger records). The MX records basically tell the internet how and where to deliver an email that is addressed to you. Any change to your MX records can take up to 48 hours to take effect throughout the internet.

Sometimes the change is instantaneous; other times it can take the full 48 hours. And it's not all-or-nothing. So while one user's internet service provider (ISP) has picked up the change, someone else on the other side of town may not have. No one has any control over this. Once the change is made, you have to just wait it out.

So how does this affect your email hosting change? As soon as the email changes are made on your domain, the emails others are sending to you may be delayed while the internet "figures things out". This means customers may be sending you emails, but you're not seeing them in Outlook (or wherever you check your email). On a Tuesday morning, this could have a big impact on your office productivity and ability to service your customers. On a Saturday morning, it probably doesn't matter - your staff won't be there to know the difference.

It's important to know that these delayed emails will get there eventually - they're not lost, just delayed. As soon as the "update period" (the one that can last up to 48 hours) is over, all those emails will have arrived in your inbox. (That being said, if the person making the changes to the MX records makes a mistake and configures things wrong, your customers may get a "bounce back" when trying to email you. In that case, you won't receive the email until your customer resends it.)

So obviously, it's best to plan for this 48-hour update period to occur over the weekend. This is best accomplished by having whoever is making the domain changes (changes to the MX records) do so on a Friday evening. By Monday, everything will have updated with no downtime for your employees.

#3 Maintain Control of Your Domain

If the email hosting company asks you to (or tells you they are going to) update your domain to use their name servers (as opposed to the ones provided by your domain registrar), just say NO.  Require a compelling reason if they insist (of which there are very few).  The most common reason (by far) for hosting companies to want control of your domain is to make their jobs easier (which in turn makes your job more difficult later on).

You own your domain. It's part of your brand, and it's a business asset. You should be in complete control of it. It should be registered under your name.  You should be the adminstrative contact.  You should have access to change the domain settings at will.  The minute you change the name servers to someone else's, you lose the ability to easily change the domain settings.  

Name servers are essentially the "Control Panel" for your domain. If someone "has control of your DNS" or "hosts the name servers", then they (and not you) have the ability to access the Control Panel.

What does this mean for you? It means if you want to make a change to your domain, you have to contact the person who has control of your DNS to have them make the change.  Everything related to your domain management must be routed through this person.  You should not have to ask your email hosting company to launch your new website.  

This goes for your website hosting provider too.  They should not need to take control of your DNS to manage your website.  Many will require it, but techincally there is no reason for this.  Any website or email hosting company should be technically able to provide their services without taking control of your DNS.  After all, most businesses have their email and website hosted by different vendors.

#4 Be Prepared for Outlook Changes

Be prepared to make changes to your Outlook settings so that you can access email from the new hosting company.  These are pretty simple settings to change, and whoever manages your email switchover should provide these settings to you.  These changes will need to be made on each and every computer that access your agency email from Outlook. 

#5 Don't Forget to Check Your Website

When the updates are complete, don't forget to check your website to make sure nothing was impacted.  This is definitely not something you should have to worry about, but we've seen it happen before when an email hosting provider makes inadvertent changes to the settings required to host a website.

If you're a Banyan Theory customer and are getting ready to switch your email hosting, it doesn't hurt to let your Account Manager know.  We'll be sure to keep an eye on your website for any unintended impact to your website, just in case.  We're also happy to provide you with the settings that must be maintained during a domain change to ensure the website stays online.  Often these are helpful to provide to whoever is assisting you with the email change, just in case they happen to need them. 

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