Importing your WordPress blog into Pantheon

Moving your WordPress blog to Pantheon is a 3 step process.

  1. Use WordPress Duplicator to archive your existing blog

  2. Let Pantheon import the archive.

  3. Profit!

The first time I tried to move a WordPress blog was a disaster. I was moving my personal blog from my development server to my production server. We all know the process:

  • scp the code to the new server

  • Export the database from the development server

  • Import the database into the new server

  • Done!

At least, that is what I thought the process was. On my browser, on my home network, everything looked good. So I moved on to the next project. It wasn't until the next day, when a reader pointed out to me that my blog was broken, that I knew anything was amiss.  It took me another few hours of sleuthing, database work, and finding all the files I missed uploading before things worked properly. 

Fast forward a few years and moving a WordPress blog is not nearly as difficult. These days WordPress will fix itself in some cases, and we've got tools like wp-cli to help fix the rest. So when I tell you that moving your existing WordPress blog to Pantheon's platform is painless, I mean seriously painless. Let's take a look at what it takes.

Exporting: Prepping your blog for the move

There are two ways you can get your blog ready to move to Pantheon, the hard way, and the easy way. 

The Easy Way

WordPress Duplicator. I looked at several WordPress plugins that will backup a blog or move it. Of the ones I looked at, WordPress Duplicator was by far the most powerful. It is also the most difficult to use. "With great power..." and all of that. The main problem you may have with WordPress Duplicator is that it requires PHP 5.4. If it works for you though, this is by far the easiest way to create a package that Pantheon can import.

The nice thing about WordPress Duplicator is that it starts with a sanity check to make sure it can run. It also warns you of potential trouble areas.

Attempt Network Keep Alive

Before starting WordPress Duplicator, go into the settings and select "Attempt Network Keep Alive". You may not need it, in that case it won't hurt. If you have a large site though, it will be necessary.

Now select the "Packages" menu item. From the Packages screen, select the "Create new" tab.

Create New tab


The first step in creating a new package is to perform a scan. The scan will spider your blog's entire file system, identify any problems, and make sure that it can create the archive package.


Filter dialog

Here is a tip that will save you a lot of time, space, and headaches. Turn on filtering. You can check a box and turn on filtering and then you have 2 options.

  1. Filter out specific directories.
    Make sure you filter out any and all cache directories. W3TC has a cache directory and WordPress has it's own cache directory. Other plugins will also have their own cache directories. Find them and filter them out.

  2. Filter out files with specific extensions 
    You don't need any .sql files, except for the one that WordPress Duplicator is creating. You don't need any other zip, tar, gz, bz2, tmp, swp files either. You probably don't need any .log files. Go ahead and give WordPress Duplicator a list of all the file extnesions you don't need moved to the new server. 

These two tips could cut drastically the size of your package.

Once it is finished with the Scan, WordPress Duplicator will let you know if it found any trouble areas. It will give you warning for file names that are too long or files that are too big. It's ok if you get warnings, you just need to be aware that these are reasons that the process might fail. Once everything is to your liking, go ahead and create the package.

When it is finished, you will be presented with 2 buttons, Installer and Archive. You only care about the archive. Don't download either of them. 

  1. Click on the "Package Tab

  2. Find your new package and click on [View x] where x is the package number. 
    If you have created more than one, the most recent one will be at the top of your list.
    WordPress Duplicator Packages list

  3. Find the "Links"  button and click it.

  4. Find the section titled "Package" and copy that URL. It should end in .zip.
    You will need that URL when you get ready to import your blog into Pantheon.

The Hard Way

I call it the hard way but if you are comfortable in the command line and have ssh access to your blog's server, you may find this way much easier.  There are really only two steps you need to take to prepare an archive that Pantheon can import.

  1. The Database
    Use mysqldump to export your database. If you are not familiar with mysqldump, go back up and use "The Easy Way". It doesn't matter what you call the SQL dump, as long as it has the extension .sql, and you put it in the root directory of your blog.

  2. The Files
    Next you create a zip file of your blog. Zip every thing up into a single archive. Make sure the SQL file is in there. Also, make sure and exclude your cache files.

Once the archive is complete, put it somewhere that you can retrieve it via URL. Copy that URL.


The Import: Setting up your blog on Pantheon

This is the easy part. Log into your Pantheon Dashboard and create a new site.

Creating a new site in Pantheon


  1. Give your site a name and click the "Create Site" button.

  2. Select "Import a site"
    Import a new site

  3. In the space provided, enter the URL of the archive you created, regardless of how you created it.
    Import Dialog

  4. Click "Import Site"

  5. Wait

This could about 10 minutes. If you site is small, it won't take long. If you site is large - as in it contains a lot of files or has a large database - it could take 10-15 minutes. This is more than just an unpack and sqlimport. The Pantheon importer will also scan your database looking for your old URL and replace it with your new development URL.

Once it's complete, you will be given access to your new site's dashboard.


Welcome to Pantheon!

Your journey has just begun. You now have a powerfull platform on which to build your blog. You now have a working blog in your development environment. You are a few button clicks away from having your blog in a live environment.

Pantheon Dashboard

Explore! Check out all the features of your new platform. Enjoy the freedom, power, and security that Pantheon's platform gives you. Enjoy!

For more on WordPress Migration check out our Quickstart WordPress Migration Guide.

Topics WordPress