Tyler Voll

Writer - System Admin

As a SysAdmin for a Small Community, one of the biggest changes we are going through is changing host/server providers. Going from Bluehost to Digital Ocean has been a no-brainer to me for a couple of reasons: DO is cheaper, DO is a more flexible provider, and DO has a far more intuitive administrative experience (ditching Bluehost’s cPanel for a terrific dashboard). While Digital Ocean wouldn’t be the best option for larger communities that would require far more server resources, the small community I’ve been administering only has a user base of around 100-200 people. Making the switch will effectively save the community $15 a month, or $180 a year. That is a lot of savings, especially if the community itself isn’t accumulating funding to host the web server!

While I will talk about Bluehost and Digital Ocean throughout this article, they could just as easily be replaced with the names “Server #1 with phpMyAdmin” & “Server #2 with phpMyAdmin”. While I don’t intend this article being a plug for digital ocean, they have made hosting different types of servers far easier and more fun than any other host/vps provider I’ve tested before. If it helps, the Digital Ocean ‘Droplet’, as they call them, is basically just a Ubuntu Server 16.04 Virtual Private Server. If you wanted to do this, the instructions should be pretty similar throughout for any Ubuntu Server 16.04 installation.

The steps I went through while doing this migration consist of Backing up the Database within phpMyAdmin, copying all the files from the root of the forum with the current host, creating a digital ocean one-click droplet for phpMyAdmin running off of Ubuntu 16.04, importing the databases into the droplet’s phpMyAdmin, then lastly, moving over the files for the forum and making small configuration changes for the install to work properly on the new server. One of the complications that I wasn’t expecting was from migrating phpBB from a MySQL 5.6.x database into a 5.7.x database. Although, the fix for the issue I ran into was pretty simple to implement.

The first step is exporting the database from within Bluehost’s phpMyAdmin. Make sure that you first select the database that you’d like to export, then select the export option above. You will have to select the Custom option under Export Options, and then check the box for CREATE DATABASE. After this you can select OK at the bottom of the page to save an export of your database.

Second, connecting to the Bluehost server over FTP and copy the entire PhpBB directory into a secure location on your computer.

Third, create a One-Click Droplet inside of Digital Ocean that automatically installs a phpMyAdmin install. You can access phpMyAdmin after the droplet has successfully been setup by typing in the Droplet’s IP address in your web browser then /phpmyadmin following it. To obtain the generated username and password for your new server, connect to your droplet over an SSH connection (the details needed for that connection are sent to your email upon creating the droplet), and after connecting, it will be seen as a part of the server’s welcome message.

Fourth, once inside of your new phpMyAdmin, select the import option. Then browse your computer for the exported database file that was pulled from the previous host. After selecting OK under the import option, it will run the appropriate scripts in order to repopulate your past phpBB database inside of your new server environment.

Lastly, if you’d like to move over the files to your new ubuntu server without installing an FTP service, you can use SFTP right out of the box with your droplet. For this migration, I just simply used Filezilla in order to connect over a SFTP connection to this DO Droplet (by using the same login information that I used for connecting over SSH). Once connected, find the proper directory for your website (/var/www/html/) and then copy over your PhpBB’s directory.

As long as your database information hasn’t changed on your new server (it will have by default), or your MySQL database version was kept at the same version (in my case, it wasn’t), then that’s all you need to do in order to successfully migrate over your PhpBB forum! Since I did have those two things not matching up, I did have to modify the database username/password inside of the config.php file within the forum’s root directory, along with addressing a “SQL Error: GROUP BY incompatible with sql_mode=only_full_group_by” error message. The error message is due to changes made in MySQL 5.7.x. I won’t steal the credit for the fix given, so everyone can find it here!

After doing all of these steps, you should have gotten your phpBB board moved over, with all of it’s previous data, on to a new server! Once again, as stated earlier above, the main pre-requisite in order to use this guide is to have two servers with phpMyAdmin. If you haven’t tried Digital Ocean before, I would highly recommend testing out their service as they provide a bunch of great resources along with a far more approachable model for people wanting to spin up servers quickly on demand. If interested on testing Digital Ocean out, use this referral link to get a free $10 with their service and help benefit this website!

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