Checklist: Choosing a Website Host for your Canadian Business  ©

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 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’ve also included a list of Canadian-friendly website hosts to help you narrow down your search. 

Website Hosting Checklist

____ Canadian compatibility – Does the shopping cart include shipping via Canada Post? Can your prices be in Canadian dollars? Do they offer a .ca domain? If you require more info about .ca domains, check out our post, Should you Register a .ca Domain for your 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 are located, because local laws apply.  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. Furthermore, you also won’t be protected by the other country’s privacy laws (such as the American Fourth Amendment) because you’re not a resident.

“Any information that goes outside of Canada is up for grabs by local law enforcement,” former assistant federal privacy commissioner, Heather Black, told Global News. 

To ensure your data is protected by Canadian law against intrusive provisions from USA’s Patriot 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.

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.

____ 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, like the eCommerce services available through Canada’s Shopify?

____ 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.

____ Website migrations – If you have a website already and are changing hosts, you’ll want to know if the new 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 you 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 hosting providers are actually resellers.  Usually, the actual host is an outside company that could be located anywhere.

After 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 offices 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 well over a year and I’m very pleased 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. When I decided to upgrade to accommodate more traffic and even faster site speed, there were several options to choose from. Customer support has been truly excellent. Here’s the website hosting review and Top Reasons we now only use Green Geeks to host our websites.

Canadian-Friendly Hosting Services

The following hosts are Canadian-friendly places (.ca domain, CIRA certified, etc.) to start your own searcChoosing a Website Host for your Canadian Businessh:

GreenGeeks (Offices in Canada, Canadian servers available)
HostUpon (Based in Canada, servers in Canada)
Canadian Web Hosting (Based in Canada, servers in Canada)
Stormweb Hosting (Based in Canada, servers in Canada)
Sibername (Based in Canada, servers in Canada)
HostPapa (Based in Canada)
Shopify Canada Hosting and eCommerce platform (Based in Canada)
A2 Hosting Canada
1&1 Web Hosting Canada
Siteground Hosting
Web Hosting Hub

Warning: I can tell you from my nightmare experience to not entrust your website hosting to Dotster.

Comment on Canadians Internet BusinessAm I missing anything? Please let me know in the comments below.

✔ You may also be interested in reading:
Checklist: How to Start an Online Business in Canada
The Best eCommerce Software Platforms for Drop Shipping
10 Tips for Taking Product Photos That Sell Online

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30 Responses to "Checklist: Choosing a Website Host for your Canadian Business ©"

  1. Peaches & Cream  July 10, 2018

    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!

    Reply
  2. AL  May 19, 2018

    A2 Hosting Canada does not seem to have Canadian datacenters…..

    Reply
    • Admin: Melody McKinnon  May 19, 2018

      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.

      Reply
  3. 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!

    Reply
    • Melody McKinnon  May 11, 2018

      Thanks for taking the time to share your kind words. We wish you all the best with your business!

      Reply
  4. Laurie  March 8, 2018

    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…

    Reply
  5. Daniel Pellerin  February 27, 2018

    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?
    Thxs

    Reply
    • Admin: Melody McKinnon  February 27, 2018

      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.

      Reply
      • Daniel pellerin  February 28, 2018

        Thxs for the fast answer, i Will take it in consideration.

        Reply
  6. Ashley  October 18, 2017

    Green Geeks told me they are a US company but have Canadian servers available.

    Reply
  7. Darcy Bell  October 11, 2017

    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!

    Reply
  8. Denise Withers  August 28, 2017

    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.

    Reply
    • Admin: Melody McKinnon  August 28, 2017

      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.

      Reply
  9. Paul Carlson  August 5, 2017

    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

    Reply
    • Admin: Melody McKinnon  August 5, 2017

      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.

      Reply
  10. Gerry  April 22, 2017

    Wow… this site is a “Breath of Fresh Air”…. so many questions answered, thanks for doing a great job folks !

    Reply
    • Admin: Melody McKinnon  April 23, 2017

      Thanks, Gerry, we put lots of effort into it. I appreciate your taking the time to comment.

      Reply
  11. Ryan  March 14, 2017

    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.

    Reply
  12. Al  August 13, 2016

    GreenGeeks are not Canadian!

    Reply
    • Admin: Melody McKinnon  August 13, 2016

      Right, but they have the option of having your website hosted on Canadian servers if you want to.

      Reply
  13. Lollita  June 16, 2016

    I’m such a newb I wouldn’t think to ask even half of those questions. Really useful, thank you.

    Reply
  14. vafamaani  June 13, 2016

    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.

    Reply
  15. BlaineStewart  May 24, 2016

    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.

    Reply
  16. Titus Keliiholokai  May 22, 2015

    I just gave this post to a colleague of my who was doing a research on this. This was very helpful. Big thumbs up!

    Reply
  17. danny daniels  May 6, 2015

    so many horrible hosts out there I don’t know how they stay in business. 🙁 🙁 Thanks for the list.

    Reply
  18. howie macdonald  April 25, 2015

    great points. not a fan of hostgator but maybe they’ve improved since i used them 4 years ago.

    Reply
  19. Tina Green  April 23, 2015

    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!!!

    Reply

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