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.
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____ 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)
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.