As a Canadian web hosting business, we often hear comments from our customers that they can get what they perceive as a better deal by transferring their hosting to a United States based hosting operation.
But is it really a better deal?
There are some reasons why it is still better to go with a Canadian host if you are a Canadian business or a Canadian consumer.
1. Privacy and confidentiality has become a big issue especially in the US. Following the 9/11 tragedy the US was shocked into passing several laws that made email and all cyber forms of communication more susceptible to government interference. As I write this, it is not clear on what the status of those initiatives is today. Legislation like the US Patriot Act, and the Cyber Security Enhancement Act and the pending 2007 version (HR2290) contribute to a very grey situation on privacy and freedom of expression or even civil liberties.
So potentially by having your email flow through a US based server there is more of a possibility that at some point in time some interpretation of US law or a new US law would open your private correspondence to an increasing system of scrutiny.
In the earlier part of this decade, the FBI was known to have implemented the system called Carnivore since renamed DCS1000. This is a system that sits on the wire at the ISP or web hoster and can examine emails passing through the network. This is done by sniffing packets according to the operators criteria. In addition there was legal provision for the ISP themselves to alert authorities under certain circumstances if they suspected something.
2. Again for security reasons there is a push towards stronger data retention laws, similar to the existing laws in the EU which may require the hosting company or ISP to retain all data for anywhere between 6 months to 2 years. So even if you have deleted that particular email message from your inbox, there would still be a copy of it floating around at your service provider. I can assure you from my knowledge of email systems it is quite simple to direct the software to keep a copy of all correspondence flowing through the system and there is no notification to you that this is happening.
3. Does your website rank on Google when you select the "pages from Canada" option? While Google does not reveal exactly how it determines if your site is in Canada or not, it is well known that the IP address can make a definite difference on whether or not you show up in the Canadian results.
Recently a major telcom provider moved thousands of its customers to a florida based hosting service and suddenly these sites dropped out of the Canadian results. This is the kind of thing that could be devastating for a small business that relies on Internet search for doing business.
When shopping for a Canadian host it is not enough to select a Canadian Web Hosting company you need to ask them where their servers are and if those are flagged as Canadian IP addresses.
4. Buyer beware! This saying truly applies to the web hosting industry. Recently I spoke to a developer who decided to try one of the much hyped cheap hosting companies. She discovered that the cheap plan worked only enough to avoid it being false advertising. In order to get anything done at all with the website she had to purchase several upgrades and start over again each time. In the end the cheap hosting plan now cost as much as a normal hosting plan through a Canadian hosting firm.
Another example, was a potential customer that phoned me inquiring about dedicated servers. After I told him the price, he said he could get the same deal from a company in the USA but they included managing the server. So I was curious and checked this out. They do offer "management lite" for only $10 a month, but what is management. My definition of management includes server configuration changes, security updates , technical support, server backup etc. Their definition of management is "we will monitor your server 24/7/365". So what does that mean? Is that any more than simply pinging the server to see if it is still working ( a service most Canadian hosts include for free). Interestingly this same hosting provider claims to offer a free control panel at the top of their page but when you look at the plan details there is a monthly charge for the control panel.
It all depends on how you define words. What does management mean? What does 24/7 support mean? What does "Free" mean. The bottom line is that you cannot assume what your understanding of a service is but rather you need to read all the fine print closely. Please note a bad hosting company can exist in any country.
Now to answer the original question, if none of the 4 reasons above apply to you then yes the US based hosting can be significantly cheaper and possibly a good deal.
Partner in Chinook Webs
October 5, 2007, updated 2015