Solving Database Hard-Coded Addressing Issues When Moving Websites

by | Mar 15, 2023 | Technical Help

When moving a database-driven content management system (CMS) from one server environment to another, it’s important to take into consideration any hard-coded addressing that may exist within the database. Hard-coded addressing refers to instances where URLs, file paths, or other references are hardcoded into the CMS’s code or database instead of being generated dynamically. These hard-coded references can cause issues when moving the CMS to a new server environment, as the file paths and URLs may change. One solution to this problem is to place the CMS’s database in a text file and use a search and replace tool to adjust the hard-coded addressing.

Why is hard-coded addressing an issue?

When a CMS is first developed, hard-coded addressing may be used to simplify the development process or to provide a quick fix to a problem. However, this approach can cause issues when the CMS is moved to a new server environment. For example, if the CMS’s database contains hard-coded references to file paths or URLs that are specific to the original server environment, those references may become invalid when the CMS is moved to a new environment. This can result in broken links, missing images, or other errors that can affect the functionality of the CMS.

Examples using Actual Hosting Platforms

DirectAdmin: In DirectAdmin, the root directory of a website is typically located at:

/home/USERNAME/domains/DOMAIN/public_html/

where USERNAME is the username of the user account associated with the website, and DOMAIN is the domain name of the website.

This path is relative to the root directory ‘/’ of the Linux file system. So, if your website’s root directory is located at /home/USERNAME/domains/DOMAIN/public_html/, then the full absolute path to the directory would be /home/USERNAME/domains/DOMAIN/public_html/.

DreamHost: In DreamHost, the root path of a website depends on the user’s home directory and the domain associated with the website. By default, the root directory of the primary domain for a DreamHost user is located at:

/home/USERNAME/DOMAIN/

where USERNAME is the username of the DreamHost user and DOMAIN is the primary domain associated with the user’s account.

If the website is a subdomain or an add-on domain, then the root directory of the website will be located in a subdirectory of the user’s home directory, typically in a directory called example.com or subdomain.example.com, depending on the domain name.

It’s important to note that these paths can vary based on the user’s specific configuration and the location of their website files. To confirm the exact root directory for a website, you can log in to the DreamHost panel and navigate to the “Manage Domains” section to view the directory path for each domain and subdomain associated with the user’s account.

Virtualmin: In Virtualmin, the path to the root directory of a website depends on the domain name and the user associated with the website. By default, the root directory of a website hosted in Virtualmin is located at:

/home/USERNAME/public_html/

where USERNAME is the username of the user account associated with the website.

However, this path can vary depending on the specific configuration of the user’s Virtualmin setup. For example, if the user has configured their website to use a different directory or a custom home directory, the path to the website’s root directory may be different.

To confirm the exact path to the root directory of a website in Virtualmin, you can log in to the Virtualmin control panel and navigate to the “Edit Virtual Server” section for the domain in question. In the “Virtual Server Summary” section, the path to the website’s root directory should be listed under “Document root”.

Sure Support: In the Sure Support control panel, the path to the root directory of a website depends on the user name associated with the website. By default, the root directory of a website hosted in the Sure Support control panel is located at:

/home/USERNAME/www/www/

where USERNAME is the username of the user account associated with the website.

To confirm the exact path to the root directory of a website in the Sure Support control panel, you can log in to the control panel and navigate to the File Manager for the domain in question. In the File Manager, the path to the website’s root directory should be listed.

GoDaddy: On GoDaddy’s Linux hosting servers, the path to the website’s root directory depends on the hosting package and configuration for the user’s account. By default, the root directory for the primary domain associated with the user’s account is located at:

/home/USERNAME/public_html/

where USERNAME is the username of the GoDaddy hosting account.

For any additional domains or subdomains hosted under the same account, the root directory path will be:

/home/USERNAME/public_html/DOMAIN/

where DOMAIN is the domain or subdomain name.

It’s important to note that these paths can vary depending on the specific configuration of the user’s GoDaddy hosting package, as well as any customizations made by the user.

To confirm the exact path to the website’s root directory on GoDaddy’s Linux servers, you can log in to your GoDaddy account, navigate to the “Hosting” section, and select the specific hosting package and domain in question. From there, you should be able to view the file directory structure and confirm the path to the website’s root directory.

In Plesk on GoDaddy’s hosting servers, the path to the website’s root directory is generally located at:

/var/www/vhosts/DOMAIN/httpdocs/

where DOMAIN is the domain name of the website.

It’s important to note that this path can vary depending on the specific configuration of the user’s Plesk setup, as well as any customizations made by the user. Additionally, the above path assumes that the default location for the website files was used during the creation of the domain in Plesk.

To confirm the exact path to the website’s root directory for a Plesk site on GoDaddy’s hosting servers, you can log in to your Plesk control panel, navigate to the “Domains” section, and select the domain in question. From there, you should be able to view the file directory structure and confirm the path to the website’s root directory.

HostGator: In HostGator, the path to the website’s root directory depends on the hosting package and configuration for the user’s account.

For the primary domain associated with the user’s account, the root directory is typically located at:

/home/USERNAME/public_html/

where USERNAME is the username of the HostGator hosting account.

For any additional domains or subdomains hosted under the same account, the root directory path will be:

/home/USERNAME/public_html/DOMAIN/

where DOMAIN is the domain or subdomain name.

It’s important to note that these paths can vary depending on the specific configuration of the user’s HostGator hosting package, as well as any customizations made by the user.

To confirm the exact path to the website’s root directory on HostGator’s servers, you can log in to your HostGator account, navigate to the “File Manager” section, and select the specific hosting package and domain in question. From there, you should be able to view the file directory structure and confirm the path to the website’s root directory.

Placing the database in a text file

One solution to the hard-coded addressing problem is to place the CMS’s database in a text file. This text file can then be easily edited using a text editor or a search and replace tool. By using a text file, the hard-coded addressing can be easily modified without the need for specialized database software or knowledge.

To export the CMS’s database to a text file, you can use a tool such as phpMyAdmin, which is a web-based database management tool. In phpMyAdmin, you can select the CMS’s database and then select the “Export” option. From there, you can choose to export the database as a text file, which will create a file that contains all of the data from the database in a text format.

Using a search and replace tool

Once the CMS’s database has been exported to a text file, you can use a search and replace tool to modify any hard-coded addressing that may exist within the database. A search and replace tool allows you to search for a specific piece of text within the file and then replace it with another piece of text. This is useful for modifying hard-coded addresses that may exist within the CMS’s database.

I would recommend ALWAYS doing a search in the database for /home to ascertain with certainty what the existing structure is. While the structures indicated here are what I have found through experience, they CAN be customized which could make a mess iut of your database.

For example, when moving a website from DreamHost to CharlesWorks, we need to know which of our servers the incoming site will ultimately be installed on. If we are going to install it on one of our DirectAdmin servers, we would do the following search and replace:

Search:

/home/USERNAME/example.com/

Replace:

/home/USERNAME/domains/DOMAIN/public_html/

Be sure to use the new username in the DirectAdmin system.

There are many search and replace tools available, both free and paid. Some popular options include Notepad++, Sublime Text, and Atom. These tools allow you to search for text within the text file and replace it with other text. For example, you could search for all instances of “http://oldurl.com” and replace them with “http://newurl.com”. This would modify any hard-coded addressing that references the old URL to use the new URL instead.

Things to keep in mind

When using a search and replace tool to modify hard-coded addressing within a CMS’s database, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, be sure to create a backup of the database before making any modifications. This will allow you to easily restore the database if something goes wrong.

Additionally, be careful when making modifications to the database. It’s important to only modify the hard-coded addressing that needs to be changed and to not modify any other data within the database. This can be achieved by using a search and replace tool that allows you to preview the changes before they are made.

Finally, after making modifications to the database, it’s important to test the CMS thoroughly to ensure that everything is working correctly. This includes testing all links, images, and other content to make sure that there are no broken links or missing images. Additionally, it’s a good idea to test the CMS on a staging server before deploying it to a live environment. This will allow you to identify and fix any issues before they affect your live website. By taking these steps, you can ensure that your CMS is working correctly and that your website is accessible to your users.

Remember, when moving a database-driven CMS to a new server environment, it’s important to take into consideration any hard-coded addressing that may exist within the CMS’s database. By exporting the database to a text file and using a search and replace tool to modify the hard-coded addressing, you can avoid issues with broken links and missing images. However, it’s important to be careful when making modifications to the database and to thoroughly test the CMS after making any changes. With these steps, you can ensure that your CMS is working correctly and that your website is accessible to your users.

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