Data Migration from to Own Hosting

This is a guide for anybody moving from a <subdomain> site hosted by Known to their own hosting.

As an additional complexity, some Known users (author included) may have started using the withknown subdomain and then switched to using their own domain, but still hosted by Known.

This guide might also prove useful if you ever want to move your site to a new domain.


I recommend you probably read this whole guide before you start, because it's not really as easy as a step-by-step instruction guide - once you understand the whole process, you can repeat it until you get it right, but it's useful to have an idea of what you're going to be doing so you know how much downtime your site is likely to have.

Known offers two kinds of user-friendly data exports: RSS and a "Monthly Backup". The "Monthly Backup" is something that is only available on sites hosted by Known.

The RSS data export is in a very portable format, but the images are of much lower quality than the originals uploaded. It's an unsuitable route for anybody looking to migrate their site as a perfect copy.

The "Monthly Backup" contains only a handful of images, because the bulk of the images aren't stored on the Known server which hosts your site - they're in another cloud provider's "bucket" and if you use developer tools to check the source of the assets when you access your Known site, you'll see that the images are being pulled in from a different domain.

Getting hold of all the files you've uploaded is a case of raising a support ticket. I feel bad mentioning this, because I've used Known without paying a cent since they stoped their subscription model some time ago, so I feel bad that somebody's got to manually zip up those files and email them to you.

As it turns out, the "Monthly Backup" contained the database backup I needed, and the file zip contained all my images - at the original quality they were uploaded - so I needed both things to complete the migration.

Where do I begin?

Make sure you take a copy of your profile picture, background picture, any custom CSS or custom Javascript you might have on your old site before you start cutting over to the new domain, because you obviously won't be able to navigate back to your old site once you do the DNS switch. You should copy down the name of your site, site description and other configuration values too, because these get lost.

You should start with a working Known installation on your hosting of choice. I'm running Debian 9, Apache, MariaDB and PHP 7, but available choices are documented elsewhere.

Use a test user account named differently from the account you're migrating - very important!

I found it useful to complete the Known setup to the stage where it had created the database and I was able to publish new blog posts with images. Don't worry about making it look like your old site - just make sure that you have an empty working installation of Known that you can use.

You will also need to update a whole bunch of stuff in a file from the "Monthly Backup" which I've documented in the next section.

Updating the SQL dump

Inside the "Monthly Backup" there's a file called exported_data.sql and this will need a very careful search-and-replace.

Here are the steps I followed:

  1. Replace all <subdomain> entries with www.<newdomain>.com
  2. Replace all http: with https: if you have installed HTTPS on your server
  3. Remove rogue [ which is the first character in the SQL file
  4. Add the line START TRANSACTION; to the top of the file
  5. Add the line COMMIT; as the last line of the file

I decided to put my whole known site onto the www subdomain in case I ever want to change that subdomain and use my naked domain for something else, so I replaced every entry of my naked domain with the www prefix. You might be happy to stick with just using the naked domain.

Upload the files and load them into Known

You'll need to unzip the contents of the export you were emailed so that you can get the files in an inner zip called <subdomain> Upload that zip to your server.

Upload the edited version of exported_data.sql.

Unzip <subdomain> and then copy the contents of the directory called <subdomain> recursively into a folder in your Known uploads directory, which should be named with your domain name.

Load the SQL file into your Known database using a command like: mysql <database name> < <sql file name>

Does Everything Work?

You should notice that your posts all appear, and hopefully your images too, but your test post and site name will be there, along with the test user. If you post very regularly, you will be missing the images that were uploaded in the time between when the data export was done by the Known team and emailed to you, and when you started the migration. Those files are gone - you'll have to re-upload them by editing the recent posts with broken image links.

If you go to the Site Configuration -> Users section, you should see your users have migrated. You can log out of the test account and delete it, along with your test post.

You will need to reconfigure things like the site name, theme, background image, plugins etc. You'll also have to put any custom CSS and Javascript back in manually.

Make sure you're using a fully reloaded site with the cache empty and any old cookies deleted, then use developer tools to make sure all the assets of your site are being loaded from your hosting, and nothing is coming from <blah> or anywhere else unexpected.

In Conclusion

I was able to migrate from a Known blog I'd used since pretty soon after it launched to the public, to being on my own hosting. It was convenient being hosted by Known, but I couldn't have an HTTPS certificate and I couldn't choose when I wanted to upgrade, so I was missing a lot of new features.

Having a mixture of http and https domain names, as well as a mixture of my original posts which were on a withknown subdomain, plus new stuff on my own domain, proved to be quite complex to update the SQL dump, but not too bad provided you get the search-and-replace in the right sequence.

My migration was a very large site with Gigabytes of data, which went pretty smoothly in the end. Downtime was about 90 minutes in the end - I had to flip over the DNS to point to my new hosting so I could test everything was working. It was worth doing a rehearsal on a test domain, to practice all the steps and minimise the final amount of downtime when I came to do the real migration.

MAKE SURE YOU REMEMBER TO SET UP BACKUPS ON YOUR NEW HOSTING. I don't mean just backups on the actual machine - I mean proper backups which are images of your whole host. Moving from Known's hosting to your own hosting means new responsibilities, such as security and backups, but that's a whole other kettle of fish.

So, a bit tricky to get off an old hosted Known site, but with a bit of help from the team I managed to migrate and you can too, if you'd like to have the joy of hosting your own site, which is worth it for being able to have the latest-and-greatest versions of everything if nothing else.

I hope this is useful for anybody who decides to follow in my footsteps.