Choosing a hosting company
I have had good experiences with Siteground and bad experiences with Hostgator, GoDaddy and Media Temple. A good local option is Dynamic Hosting, but be aware that hosting with a Canadian company is usually more expensive (this fluctuates in comparison with US companies based on the exchange rate). Whichever host you choose, read reviews before signing up for service.
Choosing a hosting plan
The minimal plan offered by your hosting company of choice is what you want. This is usually called “shared hosting”, meaning your site will be stored on a server that is shared with other people. With this plan, you can host one site and often one email address of your choice.
The intermediate plan offered by most hosting companies is usually called a “reseller” plan, meaning that you have the ability to host multiple sites for multiple clients. If in future you wish to do this, you can upgrade your plan by contacting your hosting company’s support services.
Most companies will let you choose how many months or years you want to sign up for at once. Be advised that the monthly hosting fee will get cheaper if you sign up for a longer period, and the lowest rate (often the one advertised on the front page) will only be available if you sign up for multiple years.
Choosing a domain name
Choose something short and simple, without acronyms or special characters. If your business name is long, you may want to use only the first one or two words. Buying more than one domain is common and you can forward multiple domain names to the same website.
When searching for the availability of a domain name, you may be offered other similar domain names if they are available. It’s smart to buy both .ca and .com versions if available. Canadians tend to trust and appreciate .ca domain names, but if you want to appear international, .com might be best. Avoid uncommon suffixes, such as .biz, since they tend to be less trusted and have a greater chance of being filtered as spam.
Buying a domain name
If possible, it’s convenient to purchase your domain name from the same company where you are hosting your site. If this is not possible, such as if your hosting company does not have .ca domain names for sale, then it’s not a big deal.
Websites and domain names are connected using domain name server (DNS) addresses. When you purchase a hosting plan, you will get an email with your account information, including two DNS addresses, usually structured ns.companyname.com. These two addresses are needed by your domain name, so that it knows where to direct users who search for your URL.
You will need to log into your account where you bought your domain name and find the place where you can enter your DNS addresses. This is sometimes mysterious and worth googling if you’re having trouble. If you get frustrated, contact support and ask for help. When you change the DNS, it can sometimes take up to 48 hours to take effect. You’ll know if it worked if you go to your domain name and reach a placeholder page for your hosting company.