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How to test your new web site before taking it live Print



This document is intended to assist new customers who are moving their domain hosted web site from another provider to Virtual Access. In order to make such a change without disrupting access to the web site, the following steps are required:


1.   Order your new service from Virtual Access.  Advise us that you want to migrate your existing site without disruption when you order.  We will provide a username, password and other information once your service has been established.
2. Use the procedure below which "tricks" your computer into thinking that your web site has moved. Verify that you can see the Virtual Access placeholder page on your new hosting service.
3. Using the details we provided, upload your site's content to our server.  See How to upload your domain hosted web pages for more information on this process.
4. Verify that all elements (including feedback forms, etc) of your new site are working using this procedure, before you,
5. Contact us to advise us that your new content is ready to "go live".


The following instructions relate to step 2 in this process.






This procedure is suitable for Windows NT, 2000 & XP.  It is reported to also work for Vista, but this has not yet been tested by Virtual Access.


We invite your feedback on the accuracy of this document if you use Windows Vista!


1. Click START, then RUN. You should see a box like this:


 Windows RUN dialog box


2. In the OPEN field, type


notepad %SystemRoot%\system32\drivers\etc\hosts


and press OK.


3. You will see a window like this one:

 HOSTS file displayed in NOTEPAD


After the last line in the file shown, add a new line.  It should contain the IP address of our web server (as advised by us), at least one space, then your web site address (typically www.yourdomain.com.au or similar).


For example, your line might look like this:  www.yourwebaddress.com.au


Once you have done this, close the notepad window.  You will be prompted to save changes:


 NOTEPAD exit/save dialog


Click Yes.


What's all this about anyway? What does this do?


Computers tend to not relate too well to  www.yourwebaddress.com.au - instead, they prefer to think in terms of numbers like  While this string of numbers doesn't mean much to humans, it makes a lot of sense to your computer.


To make the Internet more people-friendly, it uses the DOMAIN NAME SYSTEM or DNS for short.  DNS is a bit like a telephone directory, in that it turns people-friendly names into machine-friendly numbers.  DNS is also capable of turning numbers back into names as well.


Normally when you request information from an Internet site, your computer uses a DNS server to convert the name of that site into numbers. By adding an entry to your HOSTS file for your web site, you are overriding the published DNS entry.  The HOSTS file only effects the computer on which it resides.


4. Open your web browser and navigate to your web site's address.  In place of your regular site, you should see a Virtual Access placeholder page, indicating that your site is "coming soon".  (This assumes that you have not yet uploaded your web site content, of course)


If you do not see the placeholder, it may be because your web browser is displaying cached content.  We recommend that you clear your web browser's temporary files (or cache) and try again.  Please contact us on 1300 132351 if you need assistance with this.


How can I tell if I am looking at the old site or the new one?


One of the reasons why we suggest that you undertake this procedure prior to uploading your web site to our server is so that you can see our placeholder page first, as a way of confirming that your hosts file change has taken effect.  Even if you do this though, there will probably be a nagging concern prior to "going live" that you're actually still looking at and testing your old site!


Perhaps the easiest way to combat this concern is to make a slight modification to the files that  you upload to our server.  This can be as simple as adding a stray letter (e.g. "X") to mark the page(s) so that they can be identified.  Once you're finished testing, just upload an original copy to get rid of the marks.  If you do not know how to make such a change, consider enlisting the help of your web site designer.


Once you have completed your site's migration, we recommend that you reverse the hosts file change by simply removing the line that you added above.  You can do this by following the same method outlined, and removing the line at step 3.


When you are happy that your new site is working, don't forget to contact us, so that we can take your new service "live". 


Please contact us on 1300 132351 if you need assistance with this process, or any other aspect of your hosting service.