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When a host claims to be “blazing fast”, I can’t help but be sceptical, so I had to put Web Hosting Canada (WHC) to the test. As I expected, there are definitely faster Canadian hosts and I encountered a couple of other issues – but there are a few things about WHC that I like.
Web Hosting Canada (which is a bit of a mouthful, so let’s call it WHC from now on) is one of a growing number of Canadian web hosting providers.
It’s based in Montreal and offers a range of web hosting services, including shared web hosting, managed WordPress hosting, cloud hosting, and dedicated servers. It has two data centres, one on the East Coast near Montreal and the other on the West Coast, close to Vancouver.
Having multiple data centres means that no matter where in Canada your target audience is located, they should experience fast page loading speeds. Since few international hosts have data centres in Canada, this gives WHC a definite advantage over its international competitors.
I wanted to see what it’s really like to host a website with WHC, so I signed up for a low-cost hosting plan and spent three months testing out features, running performance tests, and asking questions using WHC’s technical support system. This is a hands-on, in-depth evaluation of my experience to help you decide if WHC could be right for you.
The TL;DR of my experience is this: WHC is a low-cost hosting option that performs better than some of its Canadian rivals, but I have some concerns about its technical support and its pricing after the initial hosting term.
To compare the best web hosts, we hosted the same WordPress website on each one and tested performance, customer service, and value for money. Check out the results here.
Although Web Hosting Canada has regular shared hosting plans, its managed WordPress plans are similar in price and offer more value-added features, so I will be focusing more on the WordPress plans in this review. However, let’s begin with a quick overview of the regular shared hosting plans.
There are three shared hosting plans: Starter, Pro, and Enterprise. Each includes “unlimited” storage and traffic – subject, of course, to the acceptable use policy. All three include email and free website migration. The Pro and Enterprise plans also offer one-click restore from a backup and allow you to host unlimited websites on a single account.
Managed WordPress Hosting
As I said above, WHC has separate managed WordPress hosting plans that include lots of value-added features. I was excited by the low cost of these plans – they only cost a little more than shared hosting. However, I was disappointed to find out that the low cost doesn’t continue – after the initial term is over, the renewal prices are double what they initially cost.
Unlike the shared hosting plans, these plans have storage limits. The basic plan, WP Go, includes 10GB of SSD storage, and the most storage you can get with WordPress plans is 50GB on the WP Beast plan. However, unless you’re building a huge e-commerce website, these limits shouldn’t be a problem.
Managed hosting features include automatic updates, an anti-malware firewall, one-click staging so you can make changes to your website without causing any interruptions to your visitors, and LiteSpeed premium caching for even faster page loading.
Free SSL Certificates Automatically Installed
On all plans except Starter, you get a free SSL certificate that WHC automatically installs on your domain for you. Having an SSL certificate is essential. If you choose the Starter plan, you’ll end up needing to pay extra for one anyway. I’d advise avoiding Starter – the next plan up is better value and offers more features such as WordPress optimisation and a free domain name. Alternatively, opt for WP Go.
Daily Backups and More
With WHC, you don’t have to be on a high-priced plan to get features like automatic daily backups. While some hosts will class backups and options such as Cloudflare CDN as “premium features”, WHC includes them in all plans.
Optimised Servers – Even on Shared Hosting Plans
With the exception of the Starter plan, you can benefit from servers that are optimised for WordPress even if you don’t opt for managed WordPress hosting. Optimisation features include performance acceleration for faster page loading times and enhanced security filters to make your website less vulnerable to malicious traffic.See full list of features
Ease of use
Simple, Beginner-Friendly Setup and Management
The most difficult part of signing up with Web Hosting Canada is deciding on the best plan for you! It only took me a few minutes to go through the checkout process and get my account set up. It can take around 24 hours for the domain name to start pointing to your webspace, but every other aspect of your account is set up in minutes.
Managing Your Account and Using cPanel
WHC has a customised WHMCS (Web Host Manager Complete Solution) dashboard for managing your account. This is a popular dashboard that many hosts use, and it’s incredibly beginner-friendly. You can manage billing, domain names, and your hosting services easily, and the section for managing your hosting has a quick link to your hosting control panel.
Your hosting space is managed in cPanel. While this typically isn’t the easiest control panel to use, due to its vast array of icons, WHC’s customised cPanel has the most frequently used tools pinned at the top of the dashboard. This makes using cPanel much more beginner-friendly than usual.
Connecting a Domain and Installing WordPress
If your plan includes a domain name, WHC will automatically connect it to your hosting space – although it can take a day or so for the DNS (Domain Name Server) to resolve. Even before that, though, you can install WordPress using the 1-click installer Softaculous. Alternatively, use the quick shortcut to the App Installer (WHC’s name for Softaculous) on the account dashboard.
Average Uptime but Mostly Fast Page Loading Speeds
A web host’s performance is one of the most important factors in determining its suitability. Your website load speed can drastically affect the number of visitors you get, since no one wants to wait for a web page to load. If slow page loading is going to lose you visitors, it doesn’t matter what great features your host offers or how cheap it is!
I spend a lot of time testing performance, which includes speed, optimization, and reliability, using a number of tools. While WHC wasn’t the most impressive Canadian host I’ve tested, it was pretty good. It achieved an average page loading speed of 1.8 seconds, which is well below the three-second maximum page loading speed that Google recommends. It also got a decent uptime score of 99.96%, so it meets my minimum reliability expectations, too.
I use the same process for testing every web host that I review, which I’ll explain briefly here, but if you want the full details of how we test web hosts at Website Planet, you can check out this article.
After signing up for Web Hosting Canada, I installed WordPress and uploaded the customised SimpleShift theme, designed specifically for testing hosts’ performance. Some review sites use an empty WordPress website to run performance tests on hosts, but to provide a real-life result, I use a test website that looks like a one-page e-commerce website or landing page. It has buttons, text, forms, links… everything you’d expect to find, plus non-optimised HD images. I use non-optimised images so I can test the kind of optimisation advice that a host’s technical support agents offer.
The website was available at autonomous-shoes-canada-n.ca and you can see what it looked like below.
GTmetrix is my first choice for testing web hosts’ performance because of the range of scores it provides. Performance is more than just how long it takes the page to load, after all, and GTmetrix reports on points like how well optimised your website is, using Google’s PageSpeed Score tool.
As you can see in the screenshot below, WHC achieved a pretty good PageSpeed Score, with 88%. The average website gets a score of around 75%, so WHC is already well ahead without the use of any optimisation plugins.
WHC’s average page loading speed score was 1.8 seconds. I ran tests at different times of day to see whether pages would take longer to load during peak times. WHC did have a couple of loading times over three seconds – the longest was 3.5 seconds – at peak times, but mostly it achieved times of 1.4-1.9 seconds.
Some other Canadian hosts have achieved page loading speeds of around 0.5 seconds. So Web Hosting Canada is certainly not the best performing, but I was still fairly happy with its speeds. I wouldn’t describe them as “blazing fast” though!
Sucuri Load Time Tester
I use the free Sucuri Load Time Tester tool to see how quickly the test website loads when accessed from different locations around the world. Sucuri uses a traffic-light system for at-a-glance interpretation of speeds.
In this case, I’m not sure the red and amber highlights for the Canadian locations are really justified. 1.4 and 1.9 seconds are not bad scores, especially not when compared with the other times highlighted in red (e.g. 5.1 seconds for Los Angeles). There is, however, a relatively long period between connection and first byte, which could be why Sucuri has highlighted the total in red.
There may be a simple explanation for long first byte results. It’s not uncommon for web hosts’ server firewalls to block or restrict Sucuri’s testing bots. Sometimes that results in a “could not test website from this server” message, but other times it just causes a delay between connection and page loading.
The main thing I want to point out with these results from Sucuri is that while WHC is excellent when accessed from within Canada, its performance rapidly drops off once you get beyond New York. WHC is not the best choice if you have a mix of Canadian and global website visitors. If this is the case, you’d be better off with a global host like Hostinger.
I used UptimeRobot to constantly monitor my test website over the three-month testing period. It shows every moment of downtime, even if it lasts less than a minute, so I can easily test the host’s reliability. WHC has a 99.9% uptime guarantee. My website’s uptime score was 99.96%. That’s good, but not great. 99.96% still allows for 25 minutes of downtime in a month.
To put that into perspective, the best web hosts I’ve tested have received uptime scores of 99.99% or even 99.998%, allowing for under five minutes of downtime a month. Even though WHC’s score is satisfactory, it still allows five times as much downtime as hosts scoring 99.99%.
WHC has 24/7 support via phone, email/ticket, and live chat. It even has a toll-free number to use if you’re located in Canada. When I tested its support by live chat and ticket, I found that the response times were pretty good.
My average wait time to be connected on live chat was less than 30 seconds. When you start a live chat, you can choose the type of agent you want to be connected to: sales, billing, or technical help. The chat widget will tell you if the type of support you want is currently online. Only technical support is 24/7; sales and billing are restricted to business hours for live chat.
Ticket support response times were also good. In most cases, I got a response from WHC within 45 minutes. The responses themselves were not the most professional, however. I’m not keen on an agent directing me to an article rather than giving me instructions themselves. It’s not a deal breaker, but I prefer support agents who take the time to provide step-by-step instructions. On my first technical support ticket, I was given a link to an article – but the link wasn’t even clickable!
My next encounter with WHC was an actual technical issue that I encountered when installing my theme. This issue happens often, because web hosts tend to set the maximum file size in WordPress ridiculously low. The response took a little longer than the first one because the agent had to actually do something to fix the problem, but I still only had to wait 35 minutes for the issue to be resolved.
My final question for WHC was about WordPress optimisation; the question I ask all web hosts. This time, it took over three hours to get a response. While the response was polite (and the link was clickable in this one), I wasn’t given any actual advice, but rather directed to GTmetrix. Other hosts have given me much more detailed information and advice, so this encounter was disappointing.
WHC does have a pretty decent knowledge base withs detailed tutorials for solving basic problems and getting the most out of WordPress. If only the support agents could be as helpful as the knowledge base!
Plans Start Off Affordable but Renewals Are Pricey
Like many web hosting companies, Web Hosting Canada will lure you in with heavily discounted hosting plans and then shock you with the full price when it’s time to renew. In WHC’s case, the discounted prices are up to 50% cheaper than the full price plans. They’re very affordable to begin with, but may strain your budget in the long term.
With WHC, the advertised prices are also conditional – you only get that really low price if you pay upfront for a three-year plan. The plan-length discounts also apply to renewals, so the cheapest option with WHC is to sign up for three years and then renew for another three years. Choosing a shorter term will cost much more.
I don’t like either of these pricing tactics, but WHC is certainly not alone in using them. The good news is that WHC doesn’t use auto-upselling (where add-ons are automatically selected at checkout) so you can check out without scrutinising your basket for hidden extras.
WHC accepts payment via Mastercard and Visa, as well as PayPal or wire transfer (Canadian bank accounts only). If you change your mind within the first 30 days, you can cancel and get a full refund – minus the cost of your domain name, which cannot be refunded.
Cancelling Your Account
It honestly couldn’t be easier to cancel your account with Web Hosting Canada. The request cancellation button is on the right hand side of the hosting management panel and the form is super-simple to complete. I liked that I could just select the appropriate options, check the box for turning off domain auto-renewal, and choose when I wanted to cancel. The form literally took less than a minute to submit.
I signed up with Web Hosting Canada (WHC) and ordered a new cloud server.. after 3 hours of waiting while the order was stuck in "pending", I received an email from them asking me to FAX -- yes fax -- my drivers license and credit card to them. Wtf? I have accounts with several hosting companies for my business and for clients... between Digital Ocean, Linode, Vultr, UpCloud, Clouda.ca, and a few others, I spend hundreds of dollars each month. NONE of them have EVER asked me for my ID! I emailed WHC and told them to cancel the order and give me a refund since I never even got access to the server I paid for. So far they're giving me the runaround, so I'm preparing to do a chargeback through my credit card company. Horrible, horrible service, with ridiculous, arcane business practices. I went and signed up at LunaNode instead and had a new server up and running within maybe 2 minutes, which is as it should be... just like every other cloud host I work with. Something is seriously wrong over there at Web Hosting Canada.
Web Hosting Canada is a decent web hosting service with a few faults which make me cautious about recommending it. I like its WordPress hosting features and that it offers optimised servers on almost all plans, but it’s certainly not suitable for everyone.
If you’re on a budget then WHC might not be the host for you, given that you have to pay upfront for three years to get the lowest prices – and pay double when you renew. Hostinger is cheaper and faster.
However, if you have a bigger budget and don’t mind using the knowledge base in lieu of high-quality human support, WHC might be worth trying. If you find it’s not for you, there’s always the money-back guarantee to fall back on!
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!)