Everything you need to know about web hosting in Canada
Where you choose to host your business website is a major decision that could make or break your startup. With the countless options out there for web hosting in Canada, it can sometimes feel difficult to know which path is the right one for your business.
So before you commit to any particular web host, check out our guide containing everything you need to know about web hosting in Canada.
Canadian web hosting
Running a business in Canada comes with very different needs and challenges compared to businesses elsewhere in the world. But determining how and where to best host your Canadian website will become much easier once you’ve read our handy guide.
The 4 types of web hosting
When it comes to web hosting, it’s definitely not one-size-fits-all.
There are several types of website hosting, each suited for sites with different computing needs.
The four main types of hosting in Canada are shared hosting, WordPress hosting, virtual private servers (VPS) and dedicated hosting.
- Shared hosting, which is sometimes referred to as basic hosting, is the simplest of the options and requires no technical knowledge.For many new businesses, this is a perfect place to start, since you can upgrade as your business needs increase.
- WordPress hosting is exactly what it sounds like — hosting that is optimized for a WordPress site. With approximately 226,000 live Canadian websites made with WordPress, having a web hosting package specifically designed for this builder makes life easy. But just because you have a site made on WordPress, that doesn’t mean you have to go with this type of web hosting. Other hosting packages will still be quite effective for WordPress sites.
- VPS hosting is a very versatile web hosting package that can accommodate websites with fast-growing traffic.
- Dedicated hosting is by far the most expensive form of web hosting in Canada. Unlike shared hosting, a dedicated server is all yours. You have complete freedom over your website performance, but with that freedom comes a higher monthly cost.
What’s the difference between shared, VPS and dedicated hosting?
Think of shared hosting as living in an apartment side by side with other apartments, and dedicated hosting like having your own mansion.
Sure, the mansion might be more appealing, but it doesn’t mean it’s the most feasible option for your particular situation.
With shared hosting, you’re using the same server resources as a number of other websites.
This means the speed of your website can be influenced by the amount of traffic other neighboring websites receive. If a website on your surver suddenly has a huge spike in traffic, the other sites on the server could slow down.
Shared hosting also limits your server configuration access.
In exchange for this compromise, you’ll pay much lower prices, which is often perfect for small-scale sites.
Dedicated hosting means you’ll have your own server and the freedom to set it up however you wish.
But just like living in a mansion, dedicated hosting comes with a higher price tag.
This option is often most beneficial for larger businesses and/or people with good technical skills (or the funds to hire a web developer).
As for virtual private server hosting, it’s kind of like living in a townhouse, to stick with the housing analogy. You get to maintain some independence, thanks to the virtual partition that is established in the shared [server] space. The partition ensures that traffic to other sites on your server does not impact your website.
The price of VPS reflects this by:
- Not being quite as cheap as shared hosting
- Not being nearly as expensive as dedicated hosting
It’s an in-between option that is great for some businesses.
How much is web hosting in Canada?
The cost of web hosting in Canada can vary wildly, depending on the web hosting service and what type of hosting package you choose.
Some budget services can offer web hosting for as little as five dollars per month.
But if you’re an established business looking for a more reliable household name service, then you can expect to pay upwards of $20 per month for full-service web hosting in Canada.
What’s the alternative?
This is nothing compared to what you could be paying if you tried to host your website on your own. First of all, this is something that only people with extensive technical experience should ever even attempt, lest they drown in jargon and sink their site before it even gets off the ground.
Even someone with good technical skills will have to pay a large chunk of money upfront for self-hosting web services. This is because web hosting is a complicated process that involves a lot of costly moving pieces (web servers, hardware, software, and infrastructure).
Purchasing and operating your own server in Canada could cost $1,700 or more, with an estimated $30 in recurring monthly expenses on top of that.
Related: Self-hosting or managed hosting for WordPress
Which type of web hosting is the most expensive?
No matter which web hosting provider you choose, a dedicated server is going to be the most expensive option. Typically, dedicated hosting can be anywhere from five to 10 times the price of a shared hosting package.
Hosting costs for the top 5 hosting providers in Canada
Below is a table outlining the costs of the five most popular web hosting services in Canada.
All prices are for the most basic packages and are not reflective of packages that include additional web hosting features. These costs are broken down as monthly fees and are shown in CAD.
How exactly does web hosting work?
If you’re new to hosting, it may seem like it’s some type of black magic. But when explained simply, it actually makes a lot more sense and can help you understand exactly what you’re paying for.
To start with, every web hosting service in Canada (and the rest of the world for that matter) is going to provide a server, which is a physical computer in their facility.
This computer is what actually stores your website files. Servers run 24/7 to ensure that people can visit the sites they host at all times.
Whether or not your website is the only one being stored on that particular server will entirely depend on what type of web hosting package you purchase.
Once someone types your website’s domain name into their preferred search engine, this server begins the process of transferring all of the necessary files to that visitor’s computer in order for them to see and use the website.
The advantage to hiring someone else to host your website is that you’ll have a team constantly monitoring these servers to make sure nothing goes wrong in the storing or transferring processes.
Plus, the inevitable maintenance that will need to be done to the servers to keep them running smoothly will also be taken care of for you.
Ecommerce websites are popular targets for hackers because of the valuable data they store (e.g. names, addresses, payment details). Businesses that lose data to hackers often take a hit to their reputation as a result.
A reputable web host is going to have complex security plans in place to protect the servers, therefore protecting all of your precious data.
Think of the security program as an invisible one-way wall surrounding the server. Information is able to freely travel through the wall and connect to your customers’ devices, but no outside sources can make it past the wall to access your private data.
Related: Businesses need network firewalls now more than ever
What is a web hosting company?
A web hosting company has many duties. Not only are they responsible for storing all of your company’s valuable website data, but they also have to ensure that your site doesn’t become slow or unresponsive, no matter how much web traffic it gets.
At a very basic level, the web hosting company is the pipeline connecting your business to your customers. Without this middleman to help keep your website running smoothly, maintaining a strong connection becomes much more expensive and difficult.
After all, there are approximately 93 billion lines of code written each year, and all of that code has to go onto a server somewhere. Not to mention the number of images, videos, and other web components that your site likely has, all of which need a place to live.
That’s where web hosting services come in. They provide a secure location for your site’s information to live and be freely viewed by any site visitors who wish to see it.
Does it matter where your web host’s data centres are located?
When picking a web hosting company in Canada, location is likely the last thing on your mind. However, it’s important to take note of:
- How many data centres the host has
- Where the data centres are located
Ever hear the expression “never put all of your eggs in one basket”? Well, that has never been more true than when it comes to data hosting.
If your web host has all of its servers in one facility, then the very first power outage or natural disaster that comes along will completely shut down your site (and likely countless others as well).
A web host with servers in multiple data centres means the websites they host are far less vulnerable to these freak disasters. If one data centre goes down for any reason, they can shift the load to another one.
With how instantaneous the internet now is, it can seem ridiculous to think that the distance between your server and your customers would ever play a factor in how quickly your website loads for them.
But the truth is, if your target customers are primarily located in Canada and your web host only has data centres in Asia, it could affect the loading speed of your website.
The closer your customers are to one of your host’s data centres, the faster your site will likely load for them.
Even suffering a delay of only 3 seconds will be enough to make you lose half your site visitors.
You can get around this by knowing where the majority of your audience is and then picking a web host provider with servers near that area.
So if you’re a Canadian business with a largely Canadian clientele, it doesn’t make sense to pick a web host whose data centres are halfway around the world in Europe or Asia. Instead, you’ll want a host with data centres in North America.
There’s also a risk to having server facilities too close together. For example, if a web host only has data centres in Toronto, Montreal, and New York, then there’s a chance a massive storm or another disaster could come along and take out all three facilities since they’re in such close proximity.
With all of this being said, the location of a web host’s data centres is far more important than most people probably realize. Before committing to one service over another, make sure to account for their data centre locations and how effectively they will serve your business.
Related: 5 tips to speed up a WordPress website
What to look for in web hosting services
Understanding what web hosting consists of is only part of the selection process. There are dozens of web hosts in Canada, and it’s not always easy to spot the differences between them.
As a site owner, you need to know exactly what you should be looking for in a web hosting service so that you can quickly separate the great ones from the subpar ones.
This is how to avoid making the costly mistake of investing time and money into the wrong web host.
Below, you’ll find information on how to pick the best possible web hosting service for your website.
What is the best web hosting for a small site?
If you’re looking for a web hosting service, then chances are that you’re a small or medium-sized business. Such businesses make up about 85% of Canada’s total workforce.
And unlike bigger businesses, which have a lot more resources at their disposal, the web hosting needs of your small site are going to be much different.
For starters, the amount of traffic that you’re likely to receive is going to be far lower than that of a well-established business. Less traffic means you don’t need to spring for the expensive dedicated servers that come with more resources. You should be just fine using a shared server, or at the very most, a VPS.
This is incredibly important to consider because as a small business, you’ll likely have far less capital to put toward things like web hosting. With 29% of Canadian startups failing due to a lack of money, the last thing you want to do is go out and put hundreds of dollars towards web hosting within the first year of business.
Luckily, it’s possible to get high-quality web hosting in Canada for less than $100 a year by going with a shared server plan.
If your site was/will be built with WordPress, you’ll want to look for a web host that offers managed WordPress packages. Building and customizing every little component of a brand-new WordPress website can take countless hours of your time, but not if you pick the right web host.
Hosting providers like GoDaddy offer fully-managed WordPress web hosting that allow you to have a highly customized website without the technical upkeep. Their WordPress hosting comes with:
- WordPress pre-installed
- Access to 58,000+ extensions, plugins and design themes
- A free SSL certificate to keep customer banking details and other data private
- Your own domain name and business email
- Automatic malware scanning and removal
- Daily backups to restore your site in case of a hack or data loss
- Automatic updates of the WordPress software, plugins, extensions and PHP versions
Planning to sell products from your WordPress website? Take a look at GoDaddy’s Managed WordPress eCommerce Hosting.
What is the best web hosting for a resource-hogging website?
Each server is going to have a set amount of central processing units (CPU). This is essentially the capacity for the server to handle information requests.
Every time someone enters your site’s domain name or interacts with your website in any way, a request is sent to the server to handle it and transfer the appropriate data back to the user’s device. In order to do this, a certain amount of CPU is going to be required.
Typically speaking, this CPU usage will be pretty low for the average website. The problem occurs when you have a very customized website that includes a lot of photo or video files and information.
Interacting with these types of sites is going to require a lot more CPU, which slows down the servers where they’re stored.
Reading a typical web page should only be drawing between 1 – 5% of your server’s CPU. But in certain situations, this can climb quite quickly, maxing your CPU out at 100%.
Once you reach this point, your users are going to start seeing significant delays — your website could fail to load altogether.
Even if your server is routinely sitting at 60 – 70% CPU usage, delays can start to pop up for your visitors, creating a negative user experience.
This problem is more likely when you’re using a shared server. In this case, because the server’s CPU is being shared by multiple sites rather than just yours. So even if you have an optimized site that isn’t drawing a lot of CPU, someone else on the same server could be hogging it all and consistently maxing out the CPU.
High CPU usage becomes less likely with VPS hosting.
The invisible barrier established within the server allows you to keep your predetermined amount of CPU separate from the other sites hosted on the same server. This prevents other resource-hogging websites from bringing your site down.
However, the server still only has a limited amount of CPU that is split amongst all the sites hosted on it. Therefore, VPS plans are far more appealing for resource-hungry sites, but not necessarily the best option.
If your site requires a lots of resources to perform well, then you might want to seriously consider going with a dedicated server.
Although they are going to be pricier than shared hosting or a VPS, 100% of the server’s resources will go toward running your website. This makes it far less likely that you’ll ever run into a situation where you have maxed out the server’s CPU.
For the highest level of performance and speed, dedicated hosting is the way to go.
What makes a resource-hogging website?
Now that you understand how volatile a resource-hogging website can be, especially when hosted on the wrong type of server, it’s important to know how to identify which types of websites fall into this category.
Any website that has a large amount of media files on it is going to use a lot of server resources. This means things like portfolio websites, especially for photographers and videographers, are going to draw a lot of CPU.
Another type of website that consumes a lot of resources is gaming sites. With all of the motion graphics and real-time input that needs to be processed, it’s quite common for these gaming sites to spike CPU usage to 70% or higher, especially when run on a shared or VPS package.
A lot of web traffic is another common perpetrator of CPU overload. After all, the more people that are visiting your site at any given time, the more resources that are going to be required.
So if you have a popular eCommerce site or anything else with a high traffic volume, then you should really consider switching to a dedicated server to avoid any potential issues with slow loads.
Should I get a VPS or a dedicated server?
Unless they’re running a very small site or a personal blog, most people tend to be better off choosing either a VPS or dedicated server.
Both of these types of web hosting are more efficient for sites that require more resources and higher consistency.
But you’re still having to choose between two very solid options for web hosting in Canada, which isn’t always easy to do. So the question remains, should you go with a VPS or a dedicated server?
VPS hosting offers more than shared hosting, given that it:
- Sets aside a predetermined amount of server resources for your exclusive use
- Can be adjusted quite easily to increase your slice of CPU and RAM
This makes VPS appealing to businesses with a fast-growing audience.
A VPS is also going to be much cheaper than a dedicated server, which makes it great for small or medium-sized eCommerce businesses that can’t spend thousands of dollars a year in web hosting costs. This is also ideal for personal sites with large files (i.e. photography/videography portfolios).
Dedicated servers provide a lot more freedom to customize the server, which is great for more tech-savvy people who know their way around these kinds of systems.
The main draw of dedicated servers is the fact that you get 100% of the server’s resources.
If you have a large site, particularly one that also contains plenty of files or receives high-volume traffic on a regular basis, then you’re likely going to want to take advantage of this vast bump in server resources.
Tips on choosing the right hosting provider
If you’ve reached this point in the guide, then you likely have a pretty good understanding of what web hosting in Canada is like and what server packages might suit you.
But to help make your journey to find a web host easier, here are a few additional tips.
1. Check out customer reviews
It goes without saying that you’ll want to go with a reputable web host. And who would know better than customers how good Canada’s most popular web hosts are?
Here are customer reviews from Trustpilot for the five web hosts mentioned above (out of five stars):
- GoDaddy — 4.7 (63,526 reviews)
- HostPapa — 4.7 (1,150 reviews)
- Hostinger — 4.6 (13,560 reviews)
- HostGator — 3.9 (2,995 reviews)
- Bluehost — 3.8 (5,433 reviews)
You can check the latest Trustpilot ratings here here.
2. Insist on 99.9% uptime
As mentioned earlier, a website that can’t be reached does nobody any good.
When you see an uptime service figure on a web host’s landing page, this is what it refers to — the amount of time in a day they guarantee your site will up and available to your visitors.
Don’t settle for anything less than 99.9% uptime, the industry standard.
3. Pick a web host with packages suited to your technical skills
If you’re someone who doesn’t have tech skills beyond drag and drop, then you might want to look for a full-service provider that does all the heavy lifting for you. Look for terms like:
- One-click domain name setup
- Automatic updates
- WordPress pre-installed
- One-click site restore
Someone who has experience building websites, or has partnered with a professional web designer, will have greater leeway to choose the exact combination of features they want in web hosting. Read the fine print and don’t be afraid to ask questions about what is and isn’t included.
4. Look for 24/7 help
Unless you’re a web professional, you likely won’t have any idea what to do if something goes wrong with your web hosting.
If you partner with a reliable web host, you won’t need to. You’ll be able to just call or chat with a well-trained technician anytime day or night. That means less down time and more potential customers seeing your website.
Which provider is best for web hosting in Canada?
You’re now at the point where you should be ready to choose your own web hosting service. But which one is the best in Canada?
The best web hosting provider in Canada is going to depend on your individual needs.
Owners of very small startups might find all they need with a reliable provider who offers inexpensive shared hosting. However, others might be looking for reputation and quality customer support as their main shopping points.
But regardless of your site’s specifics, you’re going to want a web host that does all of these things quite well. And when it comes down to it, the provider with the best average score across all categories for web hosting in Canada is GoDaddy.
With shared hosting, Managed WordPress (including eCommerce WordPress hosting), VPS and dedicated servers to choose from, it offers an option for just about every type of website.
And that doesn’t even get into the many additional plans they offer like Web Hosting Plus. This offers:
- The same amount of server resources as a VPS
- The ease of use of a shared hosting plan
They also boast a guaranteed uptime of 99.9% and 24/7 phone support. And on top of that, GoDaddy prices are some of the lowest of any providers in Canada.
Time to make your choice
When choosing a web hosting service in Canada, there are a lot of things to consider. From what level of traffic you expect to receive to how much you’re willing to pay, everything needs to be factored in.
If you only remember a few things from this guide, let it be that:
- Shared hosting is for small fish
- VPS is for big fish
- A dedicated server is for whales
You’ll want to pick a provider that offers packages suited for your type of website.
Now go out there, pick the perfect web hosting service in Canada, and bring your website to life!
Image by: Jordan Harrison on Unsplash