Most small businesses in Canada are now convinced they need a website, but tackling the details can be overwhelming. Choosing the wrong website host is one of the most frequent, and biggest mistakes small business owners make when they begin their digital journey.
You can ask for recommendations from fellow business owners, but most of them don’t know much about their hosting either. Check discussion groups and you’ll get countless replies from people who recommend whatever host that pays them the highest referral commission. In the end, you can either throw a dart or go with whatever your designer recommends (which she is almost certainly being paid a commission for).
6 Tips to Find the Best Web Host in Canada
I’ve dealt with several bad hosts and I wouldn’t wish that level of stress on any entrepreneur. The following tips come from over two decades of experience in hosting websites in Canada.
1. Tech Support
Tech support is so important to small businesses who don’t have an internal IT department, especially if you’re building the site yourself. You’ll need fast, exceptional tech support as you navigate online business and ecommerce. The best way to test a host’s 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.
It can be tough to compare pricing when you don’t know or understand what is typically included. Some hosts charge extra for almost everything other than barebones hosting, while others include the same services free of charge. It’s how many hosts appear to have competitive pricing, when they’re really much more expensive in the end. If they don’t offer the service themselves, they’ll often gain financially by recommending the services of other companies.
Following are a few features to check:
Email – Back in the day, email addresses and software were standard in all hosting packages. More recently, some hosting companies have decided it would be a good way to push additional services onto their customers.
SSL – To ensure the secure transmission of information entered by your customers when they purchase or sign up, you must have an SSL certificate. It’s what adds the ‘s’ to ‘https’, telling visitors they’re on a secure web page. Some hosts include it in your hosting package, while others charge extra for it.
Security scans & threat removal – One of the worst tricks I’ve seen in hosting is when the host says a threat was detected on your site, holding it hostage until you fix it. Most entrepreneurs don’t have the knowledge to do that, so of course the host recommends a service that will scan and repair these threats for you every month. The host is paid for each customer they refer. Ethical hosts include scanning in their packages and work with you to fix any problems that come up without taking down your site.
Unlimited storage & data transfer – If you don’t want to deal with constant nagging about your disk usage and worrying about site visitors receiving an error, you’ll need unlimited disk space & data transfer. Many low-cost beginner packages are so limited they wouldn’t even support a hobby blog for long. Once they sign you up at a low price, they’ll start pushing expensive upgrades.
Backups – If something happens to your site, you’ll need quick access to backups of your website and a host that will restore it for you. It isn’t a standard service, but you’ll find it’s provided by the better hosts.
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).
3. Canadian Data Storage Laws
Most small businesses don’t have a legal team and have to spend their legal dollars wisely. The easiest way to ensure you’re in compliance with Canada’s data storage and privacy laws (now and in the future), is to go with a web host that has data centres on Canadian soil. If not, you have to inform your customers and visitors that their information may be processed and accessed in a foreign country. For more information, please read Canadian Website Hosts and the Legal Reasons to Use Them.
Domain email (email @ yourdomain.com) is a critical part of branding and building trust. A good website host will facilitate several email addresses with your domain, and software you can view it with. You can also export the email to your preferred email platform if you wish. I manage a lot of email addresses so I set up mine to download into Outlook. Others feed it into Gmail through one of their email packages, but your email will appear to come from your domain. Sending business email from a free email account without your domain name is often viewed as unprofessional and suspicious.
5. Load Time
A sure way to lose visitors and sales is to have a slow website. Some website hosts are painfully slow no matter what you do to speed things up. The best way to check that is to ask the host for examples of websites using the same package you’re considering. Many things can slow down loadtime, but if you find a number of websites are loading slowly it’s probably due to the hosting (at least in part).
6. Green Business
Canadians are very concerned about the environment, with many claiming they’ll pay more for products from an eco-friendly store.
For example, a 2019 Holiday Shopping survey from Accenture, found Canadian consumers expect to spend:
- 30% of their holiday shopping budget on gifts that are recyclable
- 27% on gifts that are reusable
- 19% on gifts made by “green” companies
Website hosting data centres use a shocking amount of energy to run their equipment and keep it cool. Some hosts boast eco-friendly service, such as wind-powered servers and environmentally-friendly office practices. Using green hosting will reduce your environmental footprint and can increase sales from eco-aware consumers. There’s a list provided in The Most Environmentally-Friendly Website Hosts.
Our Checklist: How to Find the Best Website Host for your Canadian Business includes a list of Canadian-friendly web hosts for you to consider.
If you need a fully-featured ecommerce store, check out our Canadian Guide to the Best eCommerce Platform Software.
If you’re already with a website host and are wondering if you should find a new one, please read 9 Signs You Should Switch Website Hosts.
Which Host do we Use?
Online Business Canada and our other small business websites are hosted on Canadian servers through GreenGeeks.
Do you have any questions about web hosting for your Canadian small business? Please comment below or join us in the Online Business Canada Facebook group.
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