TL; DR: Celebrating two decades of Canadian web hosting, Cirrus Tech offers a balanced mix of high-value and high-performance infrastructure designed to help its global customer base grow its online presence. The family-owned host oversees more than 15,000 websites and more than 100,000 domain names, all while delivering above-average 99.99% uptime. Director of Sales Mehdi Salek gives us the scoop on the new features and products awaiting customers, ranging from enhanced performance and updated security measures to a one-of-a-kind plan that combines dedicated server resources with the ease of use of a shared web hosting account.
Whether it’s ecommerce entrepreneurs looking for a competitive edge in page load speed or healthcare application developers wanting a hosting provider that offers enterprise-grade security and reliability, the experts and engineers at Cirrus Tech illustrate various web hosting trends with the customers they serve.
For the longtime Canadian web host, staying competitive in a crowded industry means delivering everything customers need to grow their online presence. In addition to server management and around-the-clock customer support, that even means staying abreast of international data privacy regulations and the political landscape.
Cirrus Tech prides itself on providing everything from robust dedicated servers to shared hosting — and even a unique blend of the two — for the last 20 years. According to Director of Sales Mehdi Salek, the company considers itself to be in the service industry rather than just a tech organization.
“Our features and services are based on the information we get from our customers,” he said. “It all comes from our engagement with our community and the feedback we get from our clients.”
New CDN and SSD Solutions Show a Renewed Focus on Performance
Capitalizing on trends in the industry Cirrus Tech has noticed, such as increased collaboration between Infrastructure-as-a-Service providers and the leaders and developers of popular applications, the company has spent the last few years revamping its infrastructure to stay ahead of the competition.
Now, most hosting products — including all new and upcoming offerings — feature solid-state drives. The more modern storage devices can read and write data up to 20 times faster than traditional hard-disk drives.
Doubling down on the performance upgrades, Cirrus Tech is also putting the finishing touches on a solution similar to a content delivery network. The product, called Accelerator, offers a one-click method to distribute your website files around the globe without going through the hassles of configuring and maintaining a CDN.
“It basically does the same functionality of CDNs but without the complexity,” Mehdi said. “We take the complexity out, and, with the push of a button, your website will be populated on multiple servers in different parts of the world, which will reduce the load time. Your website speeds will be much faster.”
The emphasis on decreased page loads especially resonates in the ecommerce realm, particularly in the health food and diet industries that are popular in Canada at the moment, according to Mehdi.
“I think every month or so, we get a client who says, ‘I’m running an online business selling nutrition, and my website is not running as quickly as my competitors. What happens if I migrate to you guys?’” Mehdi said. “We’ve been getting a lot of customers who are looking for better performance and faster load times.”
Best of Both Worlds: Dedicated Resources and Shared Hosting Simplicity
New in 2019, Cirrus Tech launched a unique product that helps customers with growing businesses bridge the gap between crowded and sometimes ineffective shared hosting solutions and the overly complex setup and management of dedicated, cloud, or virtual servers. Called dedicated website hosting, the service enables customers to concentrate on running their business while Cirrus Tech takes care of the tech stuff.
“With dedicated website hosting, you’re getting all the features and advantages of a dedicated environment but with the ease of use of shared hosting or traditional website hosting,” Mehdi said.
With shared hosting, hundreds or thousands of customers share server resources. Although it’s an economical and usually reliable service for individuals and small businesses, one customer’s website can be impacted by others on the same server. Perhaps another client was sending spam and got the server’s IP address blacklisted, Mehdi said, or another site owner begins overusing the computing resources and impacts the performance of your site.
“In order to mitigate those concerns, what we did was introduce an isolated environment,” he said. “You are the only user on that specific server, so all the resources are dedicated to you.”
The virtual environments can scale alongside customers’ needs instantly as they choose to upgrade memory, CPU, and SSD storage capacities. Site owners will enjoy access to a user-friendly control panel that allows them to manage their site as they were used to on traditional shared hosting plans.
“We will manage the underlying technology and infrastructure, and you just worry about your website,” Mehdi said. “By doing so, you get rid of all the challenges you used to face on shared environments, and you don’t have to apply updates to the operating system or control panel. We will take care of all of those. You just concentrate on doing your thing.”
Monitoring and Adapting to Data Security and Privacy Regulations
Although the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, has been implemented since May 2018, Mehdi said the company is still seeing aftershocks of the international laws and overall global political climate.
For example, many Canadians opted in years past to host their websites in applications with more affordable hosts based in the U.S. But, in the wake of several high-profile data breaches and concerns over data privacy at companies like Facebook and Google, Mehdi said Canadians are now bringing their information and web hosting accounts back to Canadian soil. In fact, an increasing number of Americans are now looking to host their data in Canada, as well.
“The U.S. is always late when it comes to the party about privacy and security,” Mehdi said. “When it comes to privacy, the way it goes is that Europe starts first, then it’s Canada, and then the U.S. will consider it in about 10 years or so.”
Cirrus Tech was one of the thousands of web hosting companies scrambling to update their infrastructure and Terms of Service documents in the lead-up to GDPR enforcement, he said. The company added features on its account management portal to enable customers to transparently see what type of information is being collected, what Cirrus Tech does with the data, and why — and ask the company to remove their information.
In the company’s role as a domain name registrar, the GDPR also had a big impact on the WHOIS database, which documents the identities and contact information of domain owners.
“The domain contact information used to be available publicly unless you ordered WHOIS privacy as an add-on,” Mehdi said. “Because of the GDPR, all the registrars basically introduced a concept called a gated WHOIS. You basically need to have a valid reason to be able to access the domain contact information.”
Working With Clients on App Hosting, Migrations, and Hybrid Solutions
Moving forward, Cirrus Tech has several irons in the fire to continue expanding its product portfolio and better serve customers. In addition to the perpetual improvements to infrastructure located in the company’s three Toronto-area datacenters, the Cirrus Tech team is concentrating on improving its services around security, application servers, software-defined storage, and complete customer services like free, no-downtime migrations.
“We’re positioning ourselves for small businesses and corporate or mid-sized businesses looking to do more sophisticated hosting solutions,” Mehdi said.
The company is currently engaging with healthcare application providers about how Cirrus Tech can provide the secure, stable hardware for such sensitive information. According to Mehdi, the company’s datacenters are fully redundant and built on business continuity and disaster recovery considerations.
“App designers have their own requirements, risk assessments, and security concerns, so we’re working with them to show how they can deploy their applications on our servers and how to have secure connections with their clients and clinics,” he said.
Once the company officially launches its Accelerator CDN offering, attention will focus on a software-defined networking project aimed at helping businesses more effectively leverage their cloud and on-premises networks.
“You can connect your on-premises infrastructure to our cloud environment in a secure fashion so you can access your servers and have a hybrid solution,” he said. “Our technical team is always kept busy, but that’s what this industry is all about. You have to stay busy to remain competitive.”