TL; DR: Web hosts come in all shapes and sizes — large companies that provide robust, powerful services, and smaller shops that can give customers more personalized attention. CanSpace Solutions aims to give its clients the best of both worlds. In the hosting and domain registration business since 2008, CanSpace keeps a small business mindset by focusing on quality customer care while also implementing strategies that allow for growth. We spoke with CanSpace Founder and CEO Sunil Singh about how the company has benefitted and adapted to factors like the fall of the Canadian dollar, changes in server security, and hydroponic power.
In 2011, the Canadian dollar was strong. During some months, it was worth slightly more than the US dollar. Toward the end of the year, the value of the loonie — as the Canadian dollar coin is called — began dropping. For Canadian web hosts like CanSpace Solutions and CEO Sunil Singh, the fall actually presented rich opportunities.
“Because of that, a lot of people realized their hosting prices were just going up and up,” he said. “All these Canadian companies were paying in US dollars; they were paying $20 or $30 per month, and that started slowly creeping up as the currency fell.”
Facing the rising prices and concerns over political developments in the US, many Canadian companies that used US hosts decided to bring their data back to Canada. Increased enforcement of the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act, coupled with privacy fears following the 2013 National Security Agency data mining scandal, influenced how people managed their websites and resulted in a mass migration of Canadian companies back to Canadian hosting.
According to Sunil, who started CanSpace in 2008, the Canadian web hosting market is presently experiencing a similar boom. In addition to hosting some of Canada’s largest corporations and government organizations, CanSpace boasts a very low turnover rate.
“We don’t really lose a lot of clients,” Sunil said. “But we do gain ones from competitors — a lot of American companies, actually. We like to think that we offer some of the best web hosting in Canada.”
Competitive Prices with a Small Business Mentality
It’s not just a point of pride for Sunil that CanSpace can offer lower prices than many of its competitors — it’s a business philosophy.
“All registrars essentially offer the same service,” he said. “We’re just registering a domain for you and passing that off to the registry. I realized that we could offer much lower prices than our competitors were presenting.”
With prior experience in the industry — he started and sold another web hosting company in the late 1990s — Sunil knew what it took to get things up and running to maintain a profitable business and keep customers happy.
“The idea is ultimately to offer the most competitive prices and still treat customers like a smaller company would,” he said. “We’ve grown long past that small company but maintain that same mentality. To this day, we still have the lowest prices on .CA domains.”
As the industry continually expands and consolidates, Sunil said hosting customers are growing weary of mergers and acquisitions. CanSpace, however, offers a stable alternative.
“A lot of times, people call us because their host has been bought out by one of these giants like EIG,” Sunil said. “They want to make sure we are not on that path, and I can assure them I have no intention of going down that route.”
The Importance of Hosting on the Homefront
Costs for bandwidth and hardware have historically been cheaper in the US, leading many Canadians initially to choose a US-based hosting provider. Now that prices have more or less equalized, according to Sunil, Canadian customers can now find better prices for their first choice — keeping their data locally with a Canadian company.
“We’ve always had all our servers in Canada,” he said. “This is a requirement from a lot of our government clients, for example. They, by law, have to house all of their data in Canada.”
Sunil told us the first question CanSpace staff members are often asked when a prospective client calls is whether the company’s datacenters and offices are in Canada. For many customers, Canadian hosts typically work out better in terms of cost, convenience, business strategy, and, in some cases, a legal obligation.
“The industry is really kind of standardized,” Sunil said. “A lot of folks are offering very similar features these days, so it’s not even about that. They call and want to know, are we in Canada, is their data going to be in Canada, are they going to be charged the Canadian dollar, things like that.”
Serving the Range of Corporate Giants and Grandmothers
The hosting and technology requirements of CanSpace clients can vary wildly, Sunil said, because the company’s customers come from all corners of commerce.
“We don’t have a specific target market,” he said. “We’re essentially serving everyone from grandmothers selling necklaces online to bigger clients, companies, and agencies.”
On a given day, CanSpace’s customer service team helps small clients set up and design their WordPress blog or fulfill the more demanding security needs of large companies. While there are many DIY options for web hosting that can be had for cheaper, such as Amazon Web Services, having superior support is key to success for many businesses.
“I think people realize that you can certainly get cheaper hosting, but then you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing and no one to support you,” Sunil said. “People sometimes try to go it on their own and just realize they’re spending tons and tons of time trying to support their own servers and infrastructure, and it’s just not worth it.”
The goal at CanSpace is to make the technical aspects of web hosting simple and worry-free so clients can focus on running their business.
“It always makes sense to just focus on what you’re good at or what you should be doing, which is building your site and building your business, as opposed to supporting the infrastructure behind it,” he said.
Security and Stability Pave the Way for Innovation
In the years Sunil has been in the web hosting business, he has seen many changes to the industry — one of the biggest changes being the cost and availability of good security, he said. While attacks used to be more commonplace, they are much fewer and farther between as SSL certificates have become widely affordable.
“In the past, it was something you could charge clients exorbitant money for,” Sunil said. “Certificate prices have come way down from where they use to be. Now, it’s an expectation that it just should be there.”
Compared with what Sunil called the Wild West of years past, exploits and vulnerabilities are better under control. Instead of a compromised site impacting several clients on a shared hosting server, customers’ sites are quickly restored and back online.
“Back in the day, a DDoS attack could bring down any hosting company at all,” Sunil said. “We haven’t had an incident like that happen in the last five years. We’re very happy with our strength to hold up those sorts of attacks.”
The company keeps a low carbon footprint with an eco-friendly, modern power solution. CanSpace servers are powered by the Beauharnois hydroelectric generating station in Quebec.
“Quebec is 99% powered by hydropower,” Sunil said. “It’s fully renewable energy, it’s green, and there’s virtually an infinite supply of it. The same water is also used to cool the datacenter, so power and infrastructure costs come way down.”
With the growth of the Canadian web industry, influenced by economic and political factors, Sunil said CanSpace is dedicated to building out capacity to support its many new and returning clients.
“We have been growing up fairly rapidly over the past five years since the Canadian dollar fell down, so we’ve looked at scaling up our overall level of staff to support that influx,” Sunil said.