We’ve checked out dozens of host providers and used over a decades’ worth of data to build the most up-to-date ranking of the top web hosts in Canada.
By: Ryan Perry
Last Updated December 30th, 2017
Since the summer of 2016, we’ve been purchasing and testing all the major hosting companies in Canada.
Most hosting review sites just take the hosts offering their favorite affiliate programs, and then put together positive reviews, which is the opposite of how it should be. We analyze the data to ensure that the hosts we choose as the best live up to that title.
Since we have a unique background, it gives us the tools and experience necessary to figure out which hosts give you the most bang for your buck.
If you want to skip all the analysis and go straight to the recommendation, our top choice is Siteground. It has the fastest datacenters and the most free features, which can lead to $300 in annual savings compared to other hosts. There’s free protection for transfers/backups/SSL/hacking, and if you need assistance, there’s 24/7 support available.
Who We Are
Before we get into the technical breakdown of different hosting providers, I’ll introduce the team behind this guide. We’re a three-man group, and we have a digital marketing agency called Castle Media.
I’m Ryan, the author of the guide. I’ve been working in web design since the early 2000s, which means before the time of Facebook and even Myspace (which may sound like the dark ages or the good old days, depending on your opinion of social media). I’ve hosted hundreds of websites across Canada and the United States, and during that time, I’ve seen plenty of hosts come and go.
As the data analyst, John runs the numbers for us. He spent two years managing pay-per-click (PPC) ad campaigns on search engines and social media networks, and he has been with our team for over three years now.
Kim kept track of test results and used her graphic design experience to create the visuals you’ll see in this guide.
If you want to learn more, head over to our about page.
How We Collected the Data
Over the past decade, we’ve had an internal system that tracks our client websites. This system covers our entire portfolio, which encompasses 1,110 sites as of October 20, 2017. We took our internal site tracker’s history, exported the data and used different types of cross comparative analyses.
Using This Guide
We wanted to provide plenty of valuable information while keeping things simple to understand, which is why we ranked our top hosts in numerical order.
It’s a standard ranking system with our number-one recommendation at the top, followed by number two and so on. To avoid unnecessary information, we’ve only included our top four choices. Those include three that made our cut for providing the highest quality, and one that is popular, but lacking in a few key areas.
What Type of Businesses Can Use These Web Hosts?
Any of the hosting companies listed can handle heavy traffic. If your site gets up to about 500,000 views per month, you’ll be fine.
Keep in mind that every web host offers scalable service plans, and you can scale up as necessary.
Our Selection Criteria
Reliability (Uptime and Downtime)
Website uptime and downtime determine how reliable a host is. This is obviously a key consideration for any business, as downtime can be a major issue. It looks unprofessional and can be highly detrimental to your brand.
Good web hosts have very little downtime, and on those rare occasions when they do go down, it’s typically planned to fix something.
This means that you get advance notice, and a quality host will also try to have this downtime at the most convenient time of day.
Site speed is another factor that is important for your professionalism, as well as your search engine optimization (SEO). We’re used to fast loading speeds, and most people aren’t going to wait longer than a couple seconds.
Our metrics from the previous decade gave us plenty of data to compare the average loading times across all the largest cities in Canada, including Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. We then checked these results next to the average U.S. speeds. The top recorded load times we found were just 226ms, whereas the slowest were over 2,850ms.
Customer support gets overlooked sometimes with all the attention paid to the features web hosts offer, but it’s an important item to consider, because there can be a big difference in support quality from one host to the next.
One may answer your questions in less than a minute, and others may keep you waiting for a day or more.
Fortunately, the three web hosts we recommend all provide prompt support and have representatives who are so polite that they could be from Canada.
Our top choice even has some customer service awards to its name. Yay! 🙂
We were able to rate customer support without any tests since we’ve used these hosts for years. Here are the signs of topnotch customer support:
- Support available 24/7
- Live chat service
- Agents who are native speakers of your language, friendly and can solve technical issues
- A fast response time without any outdated ticket systems
The One Thing to Avoid When Looking for a Web Host
When it comes to web hosts, never go with the cheapest option.
You definitely get what you pay for with web hosting. There are all kinds of scams in the web hosting industry, as people offer cheap service to score customers who don’t know any better. These hosts often make millions while using very low-quality servers, which leaves them vulnerable to security breaches.
It would be easy to say this, and then move on without mentioning who to avoid. But we’ll tell you two of the worst offenders:
When you use cheap web hosting you’re basically signing up with this guy – – – >
GoDaddy – Don’t let the marketing fool you. GoDaddy has low-quality service but doesn’t mind charging you a premium for add-ons that would be free with other hosts.
Network Solutions – Poor service and low-quality servers combine to make Network Solutions a terrible choice in web host.
If you go with a cheap web host, you may save money initially, but you’ll either have far fewer features or you’ll need to purchase all kinds of upgrades and end up paying more anyway. When you decide to switch to a better provider, it will be a hassle and you’ll wish you had gone with a quality provider from the beginning.
I know keeping business spending to a minimum is important, but saving a few bucks on web hosting isn’t worth the issues you’ll experience later.
Here are the significant problems you’ll have with a cheap web host:
- Potential Security Breaches – One cheap web host called 000Webhost had 13-million user names and passwords leaked.
- Everything Costs Extra – A typical discount host could charge $80 for SSL, $30 for your domain registration and $30 for basic privacy protection, which comes out to $140 per year.
- Poor IP Neighbourhood – This makes your SEO more difficult.
Best Web Hosts in Australia – Reviews for 2017
1. SiteGround – The Best Overall Choice with High Marks in Pricing, Speed, Support and Uptime
Starting at $3.95 per month
Average uptime of 99.95%
Average load time of 475ms
Siteground is easily our favorite web host. We use it for just about every one of our personal sites, and most of our new client sites also use it. It’s a bit more expensive than some other options on this list, but it’s still very affordable and less expensive than many hosts.
This host excels when it comes to customer
support, which it has available around the clock to answer just about any technical question. There’s a reason it has multiple customer support awards.
Since it has data centers all over the world, the speed and uptime is excellent. Siteground offers one-click installation, allowing you to install WordPress with ease. It has free SSL, which you need if you’re doing any sort of e-commerce.
If you’re new at this, SiteGround is user-friendly. You can get a site or blog setup quickly and easily just like in our guide on how to start blogging.
2. HostGator Cloud Hosting – Our Second Favorite
Starting at $2.99 per month
Average uptime of 99.4 %
Average load time of 657ms
Free features – Email, SSL, site transfers, site builder, daily site backups
Websites and gators may not seem like two things that just go together, but HostGator has been making it work for quite a while. It’s the web host of choice for thousands of online businesses and blogs of all sizes.
HostGator is excellent in terms of uptime for a low price. It has helpful customer support agents, and it’s easily scalable, allowing your site to accommodate any level of traffic.
3. A2 Hosting – High Speed and Low Load Times
Starting at $3.92 per month
Average uptime of 99.1 %
Average load time of 601ms
A2 is a solid web host all around, with high uptime, excellent speed and good customer support. We’ve chosen A2 for many of the hosting packages we offer, and we’ve found that it performs quite well throughout Canada.
4. Bluehost – Doesn’t Make Our Cut
Average uptime of 99.74%
Average load time of 1.765ms
We aren’t going to link to Bluehost and we wouldn’t recommend you venture to its site yourself, unless you want to see its ads for the rest of your life because of its sophisticated retargeting.
Bluehost isn’t a terrible choice and it used to be great, but its performance has dipped noticeably over the years. Page speeds have gotten much worse and load times have gotten higher. The host also charges you for just about everything, and it’s certainly not a good choice for business sites.
You may have heard good things about Bluehost. Its ads talk about how Bluehost is the best, and there are many positive reviews of Bluehost online. Here’s what you should know about that – Bluehost has an affiliate program that pays a substantial amount for referrals. Many of those review sites touting Bluehost are doing so because they can make a tidy sum for it.
What Hosting Options Are Available?
It can be tough to judge different hosts because of all the different options and prices available. Some are very cheap, only costing $1 or $2 per month, and there are even some free web hosts available. As we mentioned, you don’t want to go too cheap on your web hosting, but it’s a waste to get a powerful hosting package you don’t need.
We advise keeping it simple to start and upgrading as necessary. Most providers, including SiteGround, have flexible plan options that let you scale as necessary.
Which Type of Hosting Is the Best Choice?
Shared hosting is undoubtedly the cheapest option, and with this type of hosting, you’re essentially renting space that you share with other sites. The cost of getting such inexpensive hosting is that this is the least powerful hosting option. Shared hosting works because most sites get small amounts of traffic, which means they can share server resources without facing performance problems. Setup is simple when you get a shared hosting plan.
The next step up from shared hosting is a VPS, which costs a bit more but also has more power. Even though you don’t need to pay for your own server, a VPS functions similarly to one, and you have full control over it. This does make the setup and management process more involved.
One option that has been growing in popular in recent years is cloud hosting. It has some similarities with a VPS, but the key difference is that the server gets distributed over a large number of computers instead of having its own dedicated physical address.
For the user, that means loading times are very fast and this is easy to scale. If you need more speed or disk space, you can instantly upgrade through your hosting company. Overall, this is an excellent option for business sites.
If you want the best of the best, then dedicated hosting is the way to go. As the name suggests, you get an entire server to call your own, and its only job is keeping your site performing smoothly. This is the most powerful option, but it also can be difficult to set up and manage, and it will also cost you the most.
Reseller-based hosting is a bit of an offshoot instead of a completely different type of web hosting. How it works is one party controls the server, and another party sells hosting as if they owned the server. It’s compatible with any of the types of hosting mentioned above. For example, you could choose a reseller that offers a dedicated server or cloud hosting.
It’s common for resellers to buy in bulk and get many high-capacity servers. After that, they provide parts to individual sites. If you’re planning to go with this option, you’ll need plenty of technical knowledge.
Your Hosting CMS
Your content management system (CMS) is what you use to handle all the content on your site, including making modifications to published content and uploading new content. Each CMS has its own interface, with certain CMS working with specific hosting options or being ideal for specific types of websites.
If you only knew about one CMS, it was probably WordPress, as it’s easily the most popular choice. Although it came out way back in 2003, the last few years have seen it rapidly increase in popularity, and it’s now the CMS of choice for blogs and small business sites.
WordPress has many benefits, with perhaps the most significant being its range of customization options and tools. It’s very secure, installation is a breeze and it’s easy to find support when you need it. If this is your first time creating a site, I’d highly recommend you choose WordPress.
There is a bit of a learning period, but that’s true of any CMS, and the popularity of WordPress means it’s wise to know how to use it.
PHP has been around a long time, and it originally stood for personal home page. It uses server-side scripting, and many popular CMS, including WordPress, Drupal and Joomla, use this PHP script.
Although you don’t need to understand PHP to set up a site in your CMS of choice, you will need a PHP developer if you have some very specific apps you’d like your site to run.
You may know Java as that thing you need to update every now and then. Its main function is web apps, and if you’re on a site with impressive graphics, you can bet that it’s using Java. Java used to be much more popular on smaller sites.
Even though its popularity has declined a bit, it’s still all over some major e-commerce sites, including Amazon and eBay. If you want the most high-end visuals and features on your site, then Java is just the ticket.
When it comes to CMS options, Joomla is likely the second biggest behind WordPress, although there’s still a large gap between the two. One reason Joomla isn’t nearly as popular is because it’s not particularly user-friendly. Unless you love Joomla, I’d advise going with WordPress, which is also what I tell all our clients. You’ll get up and running faster and I think it’s also a better choice from an SEO perspective.
Choosing Between Windows-Based Hosts or Linux-Based Hosts
You may remember a section about dedicated servers. Hopefully you do, as it wasn’t that long ago. Well, every server needs an operating system (OS), and the two options here are Windows-based hosts or Linux-based hosts. Here’s what makes them unique.
Windows has been Microsoft’s OS for decades, and if you go with a Windows-based host, that means you can use Window’s databases and apps, along with ASP.Net and other complicated scripts. PHP and MySQL are also options. You’ll typically pay a bit more for Windows-based hosts than Linux-based hosts, and even though crashes don’t happen often with either, they tend to occur a bit more when you choose Windows.
Microsoft may be a giant in the computer industry, but Linux is what most servers use, because it’s the industry standard. You can run almost any application on Linux, the servers are super reliable, and you’re good to go with most of the modern programming scripts. You may see the term “LAMP” when researching Linux-based hosts, and that stands for Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP.
How Does Unlimited Hosting Work?
It’s common to see providers offering unlimited plans, with the word “unlimited” possibly referring to storage, bandwidth or email. Make sure you check the fine print on these, as that offer can be a bit deceiving.
What it usually means is the provider hasn’t set resource limits, and that unlimited offer applies to reasonable situations. It’s not intended if you’re getting a million pageviews per month. The offer is basically a way to bring in customers. Just check the speed and don’t get drawn in by an ad. Unlimited bandwidth doesn’t mean much if you need to deal with slow speeds.
Wrapping It Up
That’s a lot of information to process. The best way to use this guide is to reference it as you evaluate web hosts, keeping your specific needs in mind. Most importantly, don’t shop entirely based on prices. Quality is always most important, especially with something as important as your website.
That does it for our reviews. If you have any questions, just leave a comment below and I’d be happy to answer anything that comes up.