I did a lot of research as I prepared to move to a more robust, reliable host for our Canadian websites. In doing so, I came up with a list of considerations involved with reviewing each hosting option (based on over 20 years of experience and learning the hard way). I’ve expanded upon that here, in the hopes of helping more Canadian companies find hosting that will provide a solid foundation to build their internet business on.
I have also included a list of Canadian-friendly website hosts to help you narrow down your search. Just click the link to skip down to the list.
Website Hosting Checklist
In a nutshell, it’s important that you choose the best website host you can afford. Unfortunately, many people focus almost entirely on finding cheap web hosting in Canada and end up making an expensive mistake.
Predetermining which is the best fit for your particular business can be challenging enough. Additionally, you must find a host or platform that can facilitate Canadian sales or services within the laws and guidelines of this country. The only way to make an informed decision is to ask questions. To do that, you have to be aware of specific concerns. This guide will take you through the process and ultimately result in a wise choice.
____ Canadian compatibility – Does the shopping cart include shipping via Canada Post? Can your prices be in Canadian dollars? Are Canadian sales taxes automatically calculated? Do they offer a .ca domain? If you require more guidance for choosing a domain name, check out our post, How to Choose the BEST Domain Name for a Canadian Business.
____ Type of website – Are you using a CMS, such as WordPress? Will you need a store/shopping cart? Will you be drop shipping? Will you need auction or seller market integration? Does the host have a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate for safe shopping?
____ Type of hosting plan – Will shared hosting be sufficient for at least a year? Will you require unlimited disk space and bandwidth? Will you be able to upgrade easily if necessary and will those upgrade options work for you? Does the host offer dedicated servers? If you know you’ll be growing quickly, it’s easier to go with a dedicated server now so you don’t have the hassle of upgrading or even moving later.
____ Security – Make sure the website host uses up-to-date equipment and software, virus/hacker scanning, back-ups and so on.
WARNING: A critical data security consideration is where the host’s website servers (data centres) are physically located. For example, you are protected by the Canadian constitution if your hosting server is in Canada, either physically or on “the cloud”. If the data centre, server or cloud service is outside of Canada, you may be open to data seizure or mass surveillance by international security agencies.
To ensure your data is protected by Canadian law against intrusive provisions from the USA Freedom act, sweeping server seizures under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the loss of net neutrality, and other foreign laws or policies, your website must be hosted on Canadian soil (see list below). If not, you have to inform your customers and visitors that their information may be processed in a foreign country.
In fact, data sovereignty is required by the Canadian Privacy Act and PIPEDA. For more information, please read Canadian Website Hosts and the Legal Reasons to Use Them.
The good news is Canadians trust websites more if they are hosted in Canada. A 2017 CIRA study found that 76% of Canadians are more concerned about their personal data if it’s stored in the United States.
____ Email – How many email addresses do they allow? Do they offer spam filters?
____ Total Cost – What is included in the price? It can vary widely from host to host and end up costing you much more down the road. Hosts can charge extra for security features, backups, traffic, the size of your website/storage, email addresses, privacy, multiple websites, and so on. Don’t get excited by the offer of free or cheap web hosting in Canada until you know what the total cost will be.
Also, don’t base your decision on the introductory price because it will go up when the term ends. Find out how much it will cost to renew to avoid an expensive surprise. Lock in the intro rate for as long as the host allows (usually three years).
____ Guaranteed “uptime” – Make sure you get a guaranteed “uptime” (the amount of time your website will be available without going down) in writing. It should be 99%+.
____ Load time – Some shared hosting plans can be painfully slow. It pays to ask about speed policies. Ask if they can provide links to websites they host for you to test at different times throughout the day.
____ Tech Support – The best way to test tech support is to reach out to them. Ask questions about their hosting via email and phone to see how their process works and if it meets your needs.
____ Consider your technical expertise – Will you need an easy site builder, help with updates, automated back-ups and recovery? Or will you need more of a total online business solution than just hosting, such as an eCommerce platform?
____ Website builder – Even if you know some HTML, using a website builder makes it easier and faster to get online. Many also provide a mobile-friendly website builder, which has become critical in view of Google’s recent changes that rank mobile-friendly websites higher on mobile devices. If you’ll be using WordPress, you’ll be able to install website-building plugins and templates.
____ Website migrations – If you have a website already and are changing hosts, you’ll want to know if the new web host will do the move for you and how much it will cost. If you have cPanel hosting and are moving to another website provider with cPanel, they may move your website free of charge or it may be easy enough for you to do it yourself.
____ Environmentally-friendly – Some hosts boast eco-friendly service, such as wind-powered servers. GreenGeeks, for example, puts three times the energy they consume back into the grid through wind energy.
____ Are they REALLY Canadian? Many “local” and other web hosts in Canada are actually resellers. Usually, the actual host is an outside company that could be located anywhere. Ask if there are data centres physically located in Canada, and if you can choose to have your website hosted on them.
After searching for the best web hosting in Canada and researching all of my options to a point of exhaustion, I decided to give GreenGeeks a try. They had all the right answers (for my specific needs) and they moved my site to their service free of charge. With data centres in both Canada and the US, they offer the choice of hosting my website on either American or Canadian servers. The low price includes many features that other hosts do not, including unlimited disk usage, security scans, and backups. They’re also independently owned, which makes them one of the few website hosts that isn’t owned by the dreaded Endurance International Group (EIG).
It’s been over two years and we’re still with GreenGeeks. The free move had some challenges but they kept at it and came through. The hosting has been reliable and fast on their Canadian servers, with few exceptions. When I decided to upgrade to accommodate more traffic and accelerate load time, there were several options to choose from. If you register a .ca domain with them, make sure you verify it as they don’t appear to be very familiar with that process. Here’s the website hosting review and Top Reasons we now only use Green Geeks to host our websites.
Canadian-Friendly Web Hosting Services
Start your search with the following hosts that provide Canadian-friendly services (.ca domain, CIRA certified, etc.). The web hosts that are based in Canada or have Canadian servers / data centres are identified as such.
HostUpon (Based in Toronto, servers in Canada)
HostPapa (Based in Ontario, Canada & charges in Canadian dollars)
Stormweb Hosting (Based in Ontario, Canada, servers in Canada)
Shopify Canada Hosting and eCommerce platform (Based in Ontario, Canada)
GreenGeeks (Offices in Toronto & Montreal, Canadian servers available)
Cloudways Cloud Hosting (Canadian servers available)
WP Engine Managed WordPress Hosting (Canadian data centres available)
Rebel (Canadian customer service, based in Ottawa)
Am I missing anything? Please let me know in the comments below or discuss this and other online business topics in the Online Business Canada Facebook group.
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Melody McKinnon's formal education is in business management, which she enhanced with more than 60 certifications revolving around business, marketing, health, general sciences and writing. In 25 years of working online, she has owned or managed both educational and ecommerce websites. Her book, 7 Recession Proof Online Businesses to Start From Home, is available on Amazon.
Melody has worked with many businesses & brands in a multitude of capacities. She can often be found on CanadiansInternet.com, CanadianFamily.net and AllNaturalPetCare.com, as well as other quality digital publications. Her content has earned reference links from highly-respected websites, magazines and university textbooks.
Hi I’m looking for some help. I am creating a website to join affiliate marketing networks and having a hard time locating what the guidelines I need to follow for my site? I would appreciate some help.
OK I’ve tried 3 hosts and my biggest problem is loading SPEED. What company has the fastest loading without spending a zillion $$$ on my own server?
Of all the hosts I’ve worked with, GreenGeeks has the fastest load time for shared hosting.
I already have my online website, hosting and I want to start operating in Canada as a provider, how do I do it?
The next steps are outlined in our Checklist: How to Start a Profitable Online Business in Canada.
Hey, I am just about to design and build my blog for affiliate marketing. My site will not be targeting Canadians specifically but I live in Canada personally.
I didn’t realize as an individual these privacy rules applied but if you were a public sector organization primarily (I work for a Canadian NFP)
SiteGround would be out from your comments, same as BlueHost.
Do you find GreenGeeks slow?
The new privacy laws apply to any entity that gathers and stores the information of Canadians. GreenGeeks has the fastest shared hosting I’ve used in recent years. Good luck with the new site!
Great article. You really explained very well and very details. Thanks for the detailed information. Your blog is by far the best source I’ve found.
Hello, I’m looking into becoming a Virtual Assistant and have been reading your articles. They are very informative and helpful for a beginner like me.
I do have a question, however. I have been using WordPress as a blog for sometime so I was thinking of creating another site through them for my VA business. I checked out GreenGeeks and they have WordPress website hosting.
I was wondering if you could tell me what the difference is if I were to create my website on WordPress and pay for a package through them or hosting my WordPress Site through something like GreenGeeks. I am also wondering if I would have to pay for both, but that’s probably a question I should ask them directly.
Thank you 🙂
WordPress packages are expensive and limited. You can install WordPress free with paid hosting (like Green Geeks). You can choose any hosting package and do the WordPress ‘one-click install’, or go with a their WordPress package.
What about Sibername. Canadian severs and owned I believe…
Currently using Canadian Web Hosting. So far it has been going well for years now.
I just contacted SiteGround, since I am doing consulting work for a company that uses SiteGround and they are asking me about choosing a new site for something else that has guaranteed Canadian-based hosting (implying they realize SiteGround has not hosting in Canada). SiteGround said they do not provide any hosting servers in Canada at present. This article seems to be showing it was updated on July 2, 2019 – kind of odd that SiteGround is even in the list …
The hosts that have Canadian data centres are identified as such on the list (Siteground isn’t one of them). The rest are Canadian-friendly in other ways, but do not have the option to choose Canadian servers.
I noticed DotEasy isn’t in this list but have been around for 18 years and are based in Vancouver. I’ve used them for my clients for years and have always had great service. Any thoughts on where they stand in the ranking?
I’m not at all familiar with them. At a glance, they’re expensive but their business hosting features seem comparable to other limited packages.
I’ve used GreenGeeks for sometime now and overall am satisfied. However, with the current exchange rates it is becoming fairly pricey, since their prices are in US dollars. I’m thinking of switching to a Canadian-based company where the prices won’t fluctuate.
What about godaddy?
Unfortunately, there are way too many issues with GoDaddy for us to include them here.
Thank you! The checklist and your recommendations made it a breeze to vet hosts and I too went with green geeks. They moved my site the same day I asked for the transfer and I can’t believe how fast my site’s loading. I came from bluehost so anything is an improvement LOL but I’m impressed anyway. Now to stop stressing over my site problems and focus on building a succesful business!
A2 Hosting Canada does not seem to have Canadian datacenters…..
Hosts that have Canadian servers / data centres are identified as such at the top of the list. The other hosts offer Canadian-friendly options but do not have Canadian servers to my knowledge.
I’m in the process of researching Canadian hosting providers as I wish to switch away from my current provider. This is the best article I’ve come across for Canadian business owners. Thanks!
Thanks for taking the time to share your kind words. We wish you all the best with your business!
I am brand new to websites, ecommerce, web hosting, etc. I want to set up a small drop shipping business, but and so over whelmed by the options. Is there a company that you can recommend that offers a complete package? Or do I have to connect with a website developer/host, ecommerce provider and find my own suppliers. Sad in Canada…
The article, Drop Shipping and Wholesale for Canadian Online Sellers should point you in the right direction. Also read Checklist: How to Start an Online Business in Canada for a guide to getting started.
Hi i see you recommend a lot of website hosting, can you tell me if you know «wix» (wix.com) and what you think about this one?
I don’t recommend free website hosting. Wix does have paid hosting also, but it’s very limited. For example, their “premium” packages don’t include email, you have to pay extra and go through Google. Additionally, they don’t have offices in Canada.
Thxs for the fast answer, i Will take it in consideration.
Green Geeks told me they are a US company but have Canadian servers available.
Exactly. They also have offices in Canada.
This was really good information. We are a Canadian reseller – but you raise a good point that we need let our clients know that actual host is also Canadian and their information is also 100% hosted in Canada. Great info!
Super helpful. I just asked Green Geeks about their privacy policies with respect to the Patriot Act. Here is their response – specific to data hosted on servers in Toronto (Canada). “If we receive a subpoena for data we are required to turn it over, Otherwise no data is shared.” From what I understand, that means that they don’t comply with Canadian government privacy regulations.
That means they DO comply. In other countries, surveillance is done without a court order or court orders are granted without strict privacy laws. In Canada, we’re protected and the privacy laws are enforced. Law enforcement or any other government entity can only access our information if they have a court order, which in turn must meet legal criteria like any search warrant.
I have been doing some research on Affiliate training i.e.: affiolrama and others , are there any out there to avoid ? They all hook you with a small upfront payment for training , then about when you realize you need more the BIG bill comes . Thanks for any tips
I’ve been affiliate marketing for over 20 years so I haven’t signed up for training for a long time. It always pays to be careful though. Many have free training that you can try first, like Affilorama has tons of free videos.
Wow… this site is a “Breath of Fresh Air”…. so many questions answered, thanks for doing a great job folks !
Thanks, Gerry, we put lots of effort into it. I appreciate your taking the time to comment.
Hi, I would just like to share my experience to everyone who still hasn’t decided which provider to pick out of the best website hosts available in the business. I’ve been successfully running a small e-store for years now, and I’m currently with SiteGround. Uptime results and speed are great, plus their customer service is excellent. They truly are one of the best website hosts on the market. I strongly recommend SiteGround both to beginners and people with experience. They’re gonna help you every step of the way, making for such a great website-making experience.
Is your site Canadian? I really wanna go with SiteGround but wondering about the privacy aspect for my blog.
GreenGeeks are not Canadian!
Right, but they have the option of having your website hosted on Canadian servers if you want to.
I’m such a newb I wouldn’t think to ask even half of those questions. Really useful, thank you.
I am afraid HostPapa promise and reliability of uptime as well as clear communication with support are very very low, as such I have decided to back up my website and look for another hosting.
That can be maddening, I can relate.
Just a note to thank you for recommending greengeeks. I signed up with them and they’ve been great. Nice change from hostgator which I found very unreliable but everyone has a different experience. I like being hosted in Canada better anyway.
I just gave this post to a colleague of my who was doing a research on this. This was very helpful. Big thumbs up!
so many horrible hosts out there I don’t know how they stay in business. 🙁 🙁 Thanks for the list.
great points. not a fan of hostgator but maybe they’ve improved since i used them 4 years ago.
OMG you have no idea how much you just helped me!!! I was beginning to think nobody online understod that some of us are starting out with no understanding of websites or ecom. We just need to get online and know we have to get online but there’s so much to learn and so many choices. Seriously, thank you so much!!!