Canadian Web Hosting promises to be powerful – and backs that up with an impressive 60-day money-back guarantee – but is it really as great as it makes itself out to be? When I put it to the test, it did deliver on its power promise, and there were some other things I liked about it – but it’s impossible to ignore the bad points. If you’re looking for powerful hosting for a great price, I’d suggest you check out Hostinger’s latest deals.
Affordable Hosting – Unless You Want Managed WordPress
Maybe the creative team was taking a break the day Canadian Web Hosting decided on its unimaginative business name! It’s a bit of a mouthful to say (not to mention, type – and I’m going to be typing it a lot in this review), so I’m going to take the liberty of abbreviating it to CWH.
The big question is whether you’re better choosing a small Canadian company or an international web hosting provider, like Hostinger or SiteGround, if your website visitors are exclusively located in Canada.
As its name suggests, CWH provides hosting services from its Canadian data centers, located in Vancouver and Toronto, so no matter where in Canada your website visitors are located, your website should load quickly. Few international hosts actually have data centers in Canada, so that’s one advantage that CWH has – but I wanted to find out if there are other reasons to choose it.
CWH offers a range of hosting types, including shared hosting, shared cloud hosting, managed WordPress hosting, VPS (virtual private servers), and dedicated servers.
For this review, I tested CWH’s Lite shared hosting plan – the cheapest and most affordable one. All shared hosting servers run on CloudLinux OS for better performance. I was pleased that at least CWH aren’t advertising this as cloud hosting as some hosts do. The shared cloud hosting plans that are available are built on a proper cloud infrastructure (and cost roughly three times as much as regular shared hosting).
I tested all aspects of CWH’s hosting service, including evaluating features, scrutinizing performance, and battling with customer support to get issues resolved. I did all this to bring you an in-depth, hands-on review of what it’s really like to host your website with CWH and give you all the details you need to know before you decide to sign up.
My TL;DR of the whole experience is that CWH has decent performance and most of the essential features, but there are some bad parts of my experience that you really need to know about.
Average Set of Features – with Some Essentials Missing
I have a list of essential features that I think every host should offer at the very least. These include things like free domain names, SSD storage, a backup facility, 1-click installer, the ability to host multiple websites via add-on domains, and, most importantly, free SSL certificates.
Unfortunately, although Canadian Web Hosting provides some of these (SSD storage, 1-click installer, and add-on domains), there are two glaring omissions that will add significant costs to your total hosting bill.
Domain names are not included free with any of CWH’s plans, so you will either have to register a domain with CWH when you sign up or purchase a domain from a third party and point the nameservers to CWH.
A free SSL certificate is included only on the most expensive plans in each hosting type – and that’s only for the first year. CWH doesn’t support free Let’s Encrypt SSL certificates (although the knowledgebase says it does, the support agents told me it doesn’t).
This means you’ll have to purchase an SSL certificate in order to avoid your website being labelled as “not secure” in browsers. You can lose a lot of visitors by not having an SSL certificate. Although CWH is not alone in forcing you to purchase an SSL when you could get one for free, there’s really no excuse for hosts to refuse to provide Let’s Encrypt SSLs.
Another thing you need to know about CWH is that its storage allowances on some plans are not particularly generous. The Lite plan comes with just 2GB of SSD storage and the Express plan offers 10GB. The expensive Enhanced plan does offer unlimited storage, though.
The 2GB storage limit is small compared to what most international hosts offer (Hostinger’s plans start at 10GB, at much lower prices) but it seems to be a fairly common practice amongst Canadian hosts. As you can only host a single website on the Lite plan, as long as you’re not planning on using your website as a portfolio of hundreds of HD images, the 2GB limit shouldn’t hold you back.
Canadian Web Hosting provides 10GB of backup space, but before you get excited about that, you should be aware that this isn’t a backup-and-restore tool that you can easily use yourself. Rather, the backups that CWH advertise are merely courtesy backups that are taken once a week and kept only until the next backup day. You have to pay a $35 fee if you want to restore your website from a backup copy and the backups are not in any way guaranteed.
Managed WordPress Plans
If you’re not on such a tight budget, the managed WordPress plans offer some specialized WordPress features including automatic updates for WordPress and daily automatic backups. The servers on these plans are also optimized for WordPress to deliver faster page loading times.
There are three managed WordPress plans to choose from, but the lowest-priced Essential plan doesn’t include malware scanning or hosted email mailboxes. There is a big leap in price between the Essential plan and the Standard plan.
Free Website Transfer
If you already have a website but want to move it to Canadian Web Hosting, you can submit a support ticket to ask for a free website transfer. It’s handled by an expert team that will check that everything has transferred over successfully.
As well as offering this service, CWH also has an incentive for moving your website over to its servers, in the form of compensation if you’ve still got time left on your existing hosting plan. If you have six months or less left with your current host, CWH will add that time onto your new hosting plan at zero cost to you.
A lot of smaller hosts like CWH have started to put limits on bandwidth (sometimes quite strict limits), putting you at risk of your website being unavailable if you experience a run of unexpected traffic surges. CWH doesn’t put any limits on bandwidth, so that’s one less thing you need to worry about.
60-Day Money-Back Guarantee
Most web hosting companies offer some kind of money-back guarantee, but it’s usually limited to 30 days. With CWH you get a full 60 days – double what its competitors offer. If you decide that it’s not right for you, you can simply reach out to support to ask for a refund and for your account to be cancelled.
It’s not a no-questions-asked policy, though – you will be asked why you want to cancel and if there’s anything CWH can do to make you change your mind.See full list of features
Ease of use
Not Particularly Beginner-Friendly – and I Encountered Problems
I’ll be straight with you – my experience with setting up my CWH account and test website was incredibly frustrating and I really wouldn’t recommend it if you’re new to web hosting. The only straightforward part of my experience was purchasing the hosting plan and domain name.
Managing Your Account and Using cPanel
CWH uses an account management system called Cloudash. I’d never used it before, and, to be perfectly honest, I kind of hope I never have to use it again. Compared to the WHMCompleteSolution account dashboard that a lot of web hosts use, Cloudash is unnecessarily complicated. I spent far too much time clicking links in the hope that I’d be able to find the setting that I was looking for.
As you can see in the screenshot above, there’s a blue Action button at the top right of the panel. That’s where a lot of the functions are hidden – but it means a lot of clicking through different screens (each of which have their own action buttons), which gets really frustrating after a while.
It felt a little bit like falling into a rabbit warren of endless clicking on action buttons before I got where I wanted to be. If I hadn’t needed to explore all areas of the dashboard for this review, I would probably have given up! Beginners beware – CWH probably isn’t for you.
You do get cPanel for managing your webspace (at least on the shared hosting plans). I’m not the biggest fan of cPanel, but compared to the Cloudash dashboard, it’s much more user-friendly. From cPanel you can do things like setting up email addresses, installing applications, and managing PHP settings.
If you opt for managed WordPress hosting, you don’t get access to cPanel. CWH insists that with managed hosting you don’t need access to a control panel because if you need any settings changed, you simply submit a support ticket. However, as you’ll see in the support section, I’m not too happy with the level of support you get, so this could be a problem.
Connecting a Domain and Installing WordPress
If you choose managed WordPress hosting, WordPress will be automatically installed for you (because with no cPanel, you couldn’t install it yourself if you wanted to). You’ll be given the login details once WordPress is ready to be used.
If you choose regular shared hosting, you will have to install WordPress yourself. CWH uses the Softaculous 1-click installer, which is incredibly easy to use. In theory, installation should be simple. Your domain is automatically linked to your webspace (or, at least, you’re led to think it is), but I encountered a problem that took four days to resolve.
When you buy a domain through CWH, it can take up to 48 hours to resolve. Because cPanel is accessed through your domain name (rather than through a direct link in Cloudash), you have to wait until your domain name has resolved (which is when your domain name takes you to your webspace) before you can install WordPress.
DNS (domain name servers) update overnight, usually, but I ended up having to contact support to have my DNS configured to point to the IP address of my webspace. I’ll explain more in the support section, but the TL;DR is that it took way longer and was much more complicated than it ever should have been.
Decent Page Loading Times, but Reliability Is Not So Great
A web host’s performance is one of the most important deciding factors for me when I’m evaluating whether or not to recommend it. As more and more people are browsing the web on smartphones and tablets, the more important it becomes for your website to load quickly. I always conduct a lot of performance tests on a test website to get the most accurate results possible.
The good news is that even on the shared hosting plans (which aren’t optimized for WordPress), Canadian Web Hosting performs pretty well. The average page loading speed is 1.5 seconds. It’s not the fastest, but it certainly beats Google’s recommendation of a maximum of three seconds for a page to load.
For reliability, however, CWH is not so great. Over the monitoring period, it had an average uptime of 99.89%, just shy of the 99.9% minimum uptime that you should expect from any host.
To test CWH’s performance, I signed up for the Lite shared hosting plan and (after the issue with the domain not resolving properly) installed WordPress. I use the same customized SimpleShift theme to test all web hosts (so it’s a fair battle). It’s a theme that’s designed to look pretty much like your average e-commerce one-page website, complete with text and non-optimized HD images.
Unlike some hosting review sites, who think testing a blank WordPress installation is going to give legitimate performance results, I want to give you the most accurate results from a real website. If you’re wondering why I use non-optimized images, well, that’s to give web hosts the opportunity to give me optimization advice (which CWH didn’t really do, unfortunately).
The test website was online for around three months and was available at autonomous-shoes-canada-k.ca. The screenshot below shows you part of what it looked like.
GTmetrix is my performance testing tool of choice because it gives you a lot more data than just the page loading speeds. I mean, the page loading speed is still super important, but Google looks at other factors when it’s evaluating the performance of your website, so I do, too.
As I said before, the average page loading speed was 1.5 seconds. I run a lot of tests before I give you the average, and I test at different times and on different days to see if your website could be affected by increased pressure on servers during peak hours. Across all the tests I did, the fastest page loading time was 1.1 seconds and the slowest was 2.9 seconds.
The other metric that I look at with GTmetrix is the Performance Scores – in particular the PageSpeed Score, which measures how well optimized your website is. PageSpeed is a tool that Google uses, and your PageSpeed Score can have an impact on where your website sits in search engine results pages (SERPs).
As you can see in the screenshot above, CWH achieved a PageSpeed Score of 67%. The average score for websites is 75-76%, so CWH’s score is below average. The score could be improved by using a WordPress optimization plugin, but it would be difficult to get the score up to 90%+, which is what the best web hosts can achieve. Remember, though, that I was testing regular shared hosting, so the server wasn’t optimized for WordPress.
Sucuri Load Time Tester
Normally, I use the Sucuri Load Time Tester to compare with GTmetrix and to see how well a host performs when being accessed by a more global audience. In this case, however, the results I got were virtually useless, since CWH’s firewall and other security features seem to be blocking the IP addresses of the servers that Sucuri is using for testing.
This does show that CWH’s security features are decent – but it’s also pretty frustrating from a testing perspective.
The average uptime across the three months of monitoring was 99.89% (equivalent to 47 minutes of downtime in a month, compared to the 43 minutes that’s allowable under the 99.9% uptime guarantee.) In the screenshot below, however, you can also see that uptime for the last 30 days of the monitoring period was only 99.78%.
It might not seem like a huge difference but in fact, 99.78% is equal to 90 minutes of downtime in a month – more than double the 43 minutes acceptable at 99.9%. You can claim compensation if your website’s uptime falls below 99.9%, but the compensation amounts are relatively tiny – and they won’t make up for any business you lose during the periods of downtime (or customers that look elsewhere when your website is often unavailable).
Support is available 24/7 via the ticketing system, but phone support and live chat are only available Monday through Friday, 6:30 AM to 6:00 PM PST. I’d actually recommend you use ticketing support since my experience with live chat wasn’t all that great… and I had to submit a ticket anyway.
It’s worth noting that Canadian Web Hosting advertises 24/7 phone, live chat, and ticket support on its sales pages, but elsewhere on the website the hours stated above are listed. It’s all a little confusing,but when I logged into my account outside of business hours (and even sometimes during them), live chat definitely wasn’t available.
I had mixed experiences with CWH’s ticket support and the amount of back-and-forth necessary to get issues resolved was really frustrating. The problem I had with installing WordPress due to a DNS issue (as I mentioned in the Ease of Use section) took three days and seven messages in the ticket thread to be resolved!
Actual response times for each message I submitted were pretty good (under an hour in most cases), but the responses themselves were less than great. In one message, the support agent asked if I wanted WordPress to be installed for me – I said yes – but in the next message, I was told how I could install WordPress and advised to phone if I wanted someone to talk me through the procedure.
My other main encounter with CWH’s ticket support was regarding optimizing my website. The response time was, again, quite good, but the response wasn’t particularly helpful. Other hosts have been able to give me concrete actions to take in order to improve my website, but CWH didn’t even direct me to an article about optimization (probably because it doesn’t have one in its knowledge base!)
Speaking of the knowledge base – that is another source of support, but don’t expect much from it. There isn’t even an article about installing WordPress in it and some of the information is, sadly, out of date.
I did use the live chat system but, since the agent really just ended up telling me to submit a ticket, there’s not a lot to say about the live chat support. Except, perhaps, that you have to go through a pretty annoying AI bot before you can chat with a human, so you’re better off just submitting a ticket to save on the frustration levels!
Some Plans Are Affordable – but Watch Out for Extra Costs
Canadian Web Hosting’s pricing is a mix of really affordable plans for basic shared hosting and much more expensive plans if you want managed WordPress hosting. Because not all plans include SSL certificates, you’ll have to factor in the extra cost (which is actually almost as much as the cost of a year’s hosting on the Lite plan, virtually doubling the cost of your hosting).
The costs for shared hosting are pretty average compared to other Canadian hosting providers, but the managed WordPress plans cost a lot more than some of CWH’s rivals. Bluebird Hosting, for example, has WordPress-specific plans with more features, but at roughly the same price as CWH’s basic shared hosting plans.
You also need to check how much your hosting is actually going to cost you, since the advertised price for hosting is based on you paying upfront for two years. The minimum term for your hosting plan is one year – there are no monthly or quarterly payment options, unfortunately.
You can pay for your hosting via credit or debit card only, but all major credit cards are accepted. As I’ve already mentioned, there’s a 60-day money-back guarantee on hosting plans (the cost of domains and SSL certificates won’t be refunded) so you can request a refund if you decide that CWH isn’t the right host for you.
Cancelling Your Account
If you do decide to cancel your hosting account with CWH, you’ll have to submit a support ticket since there’s no cancellation button or form in your dashboard. When I cancelled my account I was asked to reply to the ticket response with the reason why I wanted to cancel (which I’d already stated in my initial ticket, so clearly this is just an automatic response) and to confirm that I had taken backups of my files.
The message does note, however, that if you don’t reply to the ticket response then the hosting account will be deleted after seven days anyway, so it’s not essential to actually reply.
Canadian Web Hosting is most certainly not for beginners, unless you choose managed WordPress hosting. I do like its 60-day money-back guarantee and the compensation you get if you switch to CWH before your plan with your old host is over, but those are probably the biggest highlights.
The issues that I had with the domain name and customer support, plus the poor levels of uptime, make it pretty hard for me to end this review on a positive note.
My best recommendation is to look elsewhere for your hosting, I’m afraid. Bluebird Hosting is another Canadian hosting company that offers better value for money and the best performance out of all the Canadian hosts I’ve tested.
There is a wide range of hosting services available, from budget-friendly shared hosting to fancy dedicated servers. The best hosting for your website will depend on your specific needs. If shared hosting isn’t enough for you, there are several cheap and reliable VPS hosting services available.
How do I choose a hosting plan?
Try to estimate the size of your website, and how many visitors you think you’ll be getting each month. Since most web hosting providers will let you easily scale up your plan, it’s always the most cost-effective to start small and upgrade later.
Ari is passionate about web hosting and design and has been building websites with WordPress for over ten years. When he’s not testing web hosts, you’re likely to find him trying (in vain) to train his three beagles (who are better at training him than he is them!)