When individuals and businesses shop around for a hosting company, they tend to look for things like uptime guarantees, an easy to use platform, good customer support, features and price. One aspect that doesn’t tend to be top of mind is the physical location of the servers that will be hosting the website, or what country the hosting company calls home. You may argue that it doesn't matter where you host your website as it is mirrored all over the world to provide redundancy in case of outages. The reasons location matters, however, relate to a lot more than just redundancy, and primary among them are Canada's stricter privacy requirements when it comes to handling personal data. But the benefits don't stop there, so let’s dive right into the list shall we?
US Patriot Act
Enacted after 9/11, the Patriot Act was brought in to help tighten the security of the United States against terrorist organizations and legalizes surveillance on individuals, organization and assets located within US soil. The act has broad powers that can impact businesses that host their content, data, e-commerce, etc, in the US. If you have data that physically exists in the United States, then it is considered fair-game to be accessed and/or monitored under the Patriot Act. This means that your business records, financial records and email correspondence can all be accessed without a warrant and without your knowledge when your data is hosted on US-based servers.
CISA and The Ongoing Facebook Dumpster Fire
Signed into law in 2015, CISA was touted as a legislation that would make it easier for technology companies to share user information with other private entities and government in the case of perceived cybersecurity threats. User information encompasses things like web server logs, IP addresses, types of data targeted by attackers, and a variety of other informational sources that may contain CTIs or “cyber threat indicators”.
To address privacy concerns, companies are supposed to remove any information at the time of sharing to be personal in nature and not directly related to the CTI or cybersecurity threat. That’s right, the onus is the company to strip and redact personal user information when they share data, but it ultimately has no teeth because CISA protects them from legal liability for the data they share.
If there is one thing we have recently learned from the Facebook Cambridge Analytica fiasco, it’s that companies are often incredibly, and sometimes criminally, negligent when it comes to the protection and handling of our personal data. This was one of the major concerns with CISA from the beginning, and the focus of criticism by tech giants like Apple, Google, and Twitter. As the Wikipedia page for CISA notes “opponents question CISA's value, believing it will move responsibility from private business to the government, thereby increasing the vulnerability of personal private information, as well as dispersing personal private information across seven government agencies, including the NSA and local police.”
If you’re troubled by the lackadaisical way too many technology companies treat personal information, you can and should take greater control over your data. One way to avoid the CISA firehose is to host your personal or business website on servers located in Canada, or another country that offers more robust privacy protections.
Privacy Requirements In Canada
Between PIPEDA and the additional regulations mandated by Canadian provinces, service providers that work in various sectors - e.g., MUSH (Municipalities, Universities, Schools and Hospitals), crown corporations, non-profits, etc. - may be entirely prohibited from transferring public data outside of Canada and, in some instances, even their province. Understanding how PIPEDA and the provincial regulations affect your business is critical when it comes to choosing a webhost.
As noted in the introduction, most hosting companies have redundant facilities all over the world, but as the reach of the acts like Patriot and CISA can still impact non-US companies that host in the United States. Canadian hosting companies, like Webnames, offer hosting that utilizes mirrored hosting sites in Canada, and potentially in places like Ireland and the UK, but not the US. While Canada is not a wholly safe harbour for corporate data given Bill C-13 which allows government agencies to get a warrant for online data, phone records and digital tracking if they have “reasonable grounds for suspicion,” the onus on law enforcement to show reasonable grounds is certainly more stringent than the warrantless powers that the US has over data hosted there.
Canadians Care About Location (Canada), Location (Canada), Location (Canada)
With 69 percent of Canadians reporting they have concerns about the security and privacy of their personal information if it is stored or routed through the U.S., we're seeing a powerful growth in awareness around data privacy and greater understanding that where you host your website matters (a lot).
Faster Load Times
If you're primarily doing business with Canadians, consider hosting your data closer to them! Geographic proximity of your data centre to that of your customers can reduce latency, thereby increasing the speed of your website content, applications and other online services. As you already know, site speed matters a lot. The benchmark since 2015 has been that webpages should load in about 2-seconds for an optimal user experience, and every second beyond that will increase your bounce rate significantly. Now, if your webpages are poorly optimized and full of load time killers this is not going to fix your woes, but if it's performance is good, it's another competitive advantage you can leverage.
Shop Local ... Canada's Internet Infrastructure is Solid
For many years, the Canadian government has invested in the expansion of broadband and fibre services. Partnering with provincial governments, the national and regional telecoms, as well as local governments, the goal has been to bring internet access to as many Canadians as possible. Hosting companies in Canada, like Webnames, have been able to reap the benefits of this well planned and well-funded network backbone. Our servers are located in and near major Canadian population centres, which increases connections speeds for Canadian customers. When you host your website in Canada you can rest easy that there are many stakeholders who are deeply invested in continually improving the speed and robustness of internet connectivity across the country.
Choosing to host in Canada helps protect your company data, helps protect your user’s data, helps protect your email correspondence, helps future-proof your online presence in the face of platform changes, and contributes to the speed and stability of your website. What’s not to love, eh?