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Two of the first steps in building your interactive website is obtaining your domain name, such as myinteractivewebsite.com from a domain registrar and selecting a web host for your website. Some companies register domains and provide servers to host websites. There are not major differences in price between domain registrars. The wholesale annual cost of a domain name is about $8 per year and registrars charge about $12 to $15 per year for domain names (especially after the first year). However, there are major differences between the policies of various registrars. There are also major differences between the policies and prices and reliability of different web hosts. So it is important to spend some time on each of these decisions.

If you have read any of my past Joomla instructional websites or books, you know that I do not recommend hosting any website in the United States or using any domain registrar in the United States. In this section, I will explain my reasons for changing domain registrars and web hosts and the process I used to find a new domain registrar and a reliable non-US web host. It is not easy to find a good reliable web host. With so much profit to be made in the web hosting business, the bad web hosts greatly out number the good ones. If you are thinking about moving your domain name out of the US or getting a new web host, we present some useful advice in this section. Then in Section 1.4, we describe the exact steps of securing and/or transferring your domain name and web hosting to a new registrar and web host.

Why you should move your online business (domain name and web hosting) to a non-US server
On August 8, 2013, the NSA forced Ladar Levison, the owner of a small secure email business called Lavabit, to either turn over all of his data or shut down his online business. Ladar chose to keep his promise to his customers. He shut down his business. Until it was shut down by the NSA, Lavabit had 400,000 users – all of whom lost access to their email accounts. One of Lavabit's customers was Edward Snowden. The NSA justified shutting down Lavabit with what they call the “Three Hop” Rule which, according to the NSA, gives them the right to all of the data of anyone who has any relationship to anyone who has any relationship to an NSA suspect. Since Snowden is an NSA suspect and since the 400,000 Lavabit users are on the same email database as Snowden, the NSA got to download all of the data of all 400,000 people. In case you were wondering, those 400,000 people were just the second hop. Anyone who knows any of those 400,000 people is the third hop. In other words, nearly everyone in the world is included in the third hop.

"This experience has taught me one very important lesson. Without congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would strongly recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States.”
Ladar Levison, Founder of Lavabit

I too am deeply concerned about the NSA attacking and/or shutting down online businesses that it does not like here in the United States - including important online privacy businesses such as Lavabit, Silent Circle and the TOR project. I am also concerned about NSA treatment of whistle blowing heros such as Jacob Appelbaum, Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden – all of whom have been driven out of the US simply for defending online freedom and online privacy. In order to protest the NSA takeover of the Internet in the US, and in order to protect my own websites and those of thousands of my students from a NSA takeover, I have decided to move my websites and online business to servers located outside of the United States.

I have several reasons for writing this instructional article explaining to others how to also move their online businesses. First, I teach courses in building interactive business websites. I have helped thousands of business owners build their own interactive websites over the past 20 years. Over one hundred thousand folks have used my online courses to build their own websites. I have helped countless political activists – including folks from the Occupy movement - build their own websites. I want my students websites to be safe from being shut down by the NSA. Second, I am worried about my own online business websites. Some of them have been critical of the NSA and other powerful people. I do not want any of my websites and databases to be shut down by the NSA either.

My third reason for writing about the dangers of using US web servers is that I was shocked that NSA harassment forced Jacob Appelbaum to leave the US about a year ago. Jacob was a researcher at the University of Washington and one of the lead developers of the Onion Router (TOR) project. He is one of America's brightest young computer programmers and security experts. Jacob is certainly not a terrorist. If the NSA is allowed to attack and drive out bright young people like Jacob Appelbaum, Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden, then outspoken trouble makers like me might be next. So moving my websites to a safer place is the first step in my own potential getaway plan.

You may not think the NSA is out to get you and that your website is still safe in the US. But the NSA is hundreds of times bigger than you think. As Jacob Appelbaum recently said, “The NSA is worse than your worst nightmare.” The following video describes several shocking tools the NSA uses to hack online businesses. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vILAlhwUgIU

So if you want to make sure your online business website is safe from the NSA, then keep reading. If you still think this article does not apply to your online business, then please listen to this Ladar Levison video. He did not think it would happen to him either. This is one of the most shocking videos I have ever watched: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ui3KpztUzVg

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Ladar is the guy in the white shirt. The guy next to him is his attorney – who is trying to keep Ladar out of jail. Here is one of the things Ladar said in this video:

What I’m opposed to are blanket court orders granting government access to everything. If the American people knew what our government was doing, they would not be allowed to do it anymore. What we have seen in recent years is their willingness to use those laws in ways personally I consider to be unconstitutional, unethical and immoral."

Edward Snowden noted: “America cannot succeed as a country when individuals like Mr. Levison have to relocate their businesses abroad to be successful.”

The next day, another US email encryption provider, Silent Circle, shut down. Another US “secure” email service, Hushmail, caved and handed over their database to the NSA. Once people realize that their data is not safe with Hushmail, they too will go out of business.

The lesson here is that the only safety for your online data is by moving your data, website content and email service to servers which are located outside of the United States. For those not familiar with US history, our Founders fought a Revolutionary War over this issue. King George issued “General Warrants” allowing his (NSA) agents to terrorize the colonists. The whole point of the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution was to eliminate General Warrants and require Specific Warrants stating the exact things to be taken and the reason they are taken before a person's property – or their online business website and database – could be seized. The NSA has brought back General Warrants and sadly both the US Congress and the US federal courts have authorized this massive invasion of privacy.

In addition, the NSA and other US agencies have shut down thousands of other online businesses without a court order merely by asking US hosting companies and US domain registrars like GoDaddy to shut them down. US web hosts always comply – even without a court order. The problem with shutting down online businesses without a court order is that there is no opportunity for the online business to defend themselves in front of a neutral judge before they are driven out of business and their reputation is destroyed. This is not only a violation of the 4th Amendment of the US Constitution. It is a violation of basic human rights.

The US is not a safe place for any web related business
I was pretty upset at how the NSA treated Ladar Levison. He was a guy who worked hard for more than ten years to set up his online business. Then the NSA moved in and shut down his online business. If the NSA can do this to Ladar Levison, and thousands of other online businesses, they can shut down any of us who have an online business or social organization or political website. Sadly, neither the US Congress or US Courts have been willing to stand up to the NSA. So much for our 4th Amendment right to privacy. This means that no online business is safe in the US. If your online business is not safe in the US, then it is time to move it out of the US. This article will tell you how to move your site to a safer country - one not run by the NSA.

GoDaddy ignores the US Constitution to take down innocent websites
On January 9 2014, a freedom supporting domain registrar in Canada called Easy DNS won a huge victory when a British arbitrator agreed with them that a registrar cannot take down and block the transfer of a domain name just on the say so of law enforcement or anyone else who does not have a court order. What happened was that in 2012 a US Domain Registrar, GoDaddy.com (the world's largest domain registrar) took down a domain called JotForm.com just because of a request from the US Secret Service. Jot Form is a small online business that help folks create online forms. See their website below. Apparently someone made a “bad” form using JotForm's online interactive web tools.

Even worse, GoDaddy, ruined JotForm's business reputation by redirecting their website to a page called NS1.SUSPENDED-FOR.SPAM-AND-ABUSE.COM. JotForm.com became unreachable and JotForm's two million user-created forms all stopped working. 700,000 of JotForm's customers were harmed along with JotForm. JotForm immediately contacted both GoDaddy and the US Secret Service and offered to remove any offensive form. But both GoDaddy and the US Secret Service refused to help them or provide any information as to what the actual crime was. One of JotForm's customers, the owner of a multimillion dollar Canadian company, stated: “I will now have to question purchasing any more services from US Internet related providers."

Contrary to the US Constitution, GoDaddy did not ask for a court order. Sadly, this sort of take down happens quite often with GoDaddy and other US web hosts. “Somebody with a badge out of a box of Cracker Jacks can probably email your registrar right now and tell them to unplug your domain name from the Internet and there's a good chance they'll do it... Take out a domain name, you shut down it's voice, it's message or it's economic activity. You make it go away.“

A Canadian registrar named EasyDNS, helped Jot Form get their domain name back. EasyDNS went to Verisign (the domain name wholesaler who controls the dot com extension) with a "request for enforcement." Verisign refused to enforce the ICANN rules. EasyDNS appealed that ruling to the National Arbitration Forum who ruled in their favor saying:

No court order has been issued which would prohibit the transfer of the domain names from the Registrar of Record to the Gaining Registrar. Therefore, there is nothing in the Transfer Policy which authorizes the Registrar of Record to refuse to transfer the domain names.”

The following is from the Easy DNS website blog:

For many people, a domain name is more than a piece of digital real-estate, it is their livelihood, their ability to express themselves freely and connect with others. Recently, GoDaddy removed a domain off of the Internet with no notice, no due process and no concern for any impact their actions might have caused. Jotform.com was taken offline at the request of a single U.S. government employee. No court hearing, no motions, just a simple request. Removing jotform.com off of the Internet was a spineless act by GoDaddy, devoid of any consideration for due process...

This continual attack on due process in relation to domain names is an attack on the very principles of free speech and free enterprise. Some of our competitors are accomplices in this trend to trash domain ownership rights. It needs to stop...

Millions of small business owners have their online business domain names currently hosted by GoDaddy or other US domain registrars. My advice is if you want to protect your domain name and online business, the first and most important thing you need to do is move your domain name registration to a Canadian registrar. The cost of having your domain name registered in Canada is nearly the same as having it registered in the United States. The benefit is that whoever wants to take down your website will have to see a judge and get a court order in Canada whereas in the United States websites can be taken down in minutes without any court order.

I have moved all of my domain names to a Canadian web host and domain registrar called CanHost. You will not lose any time you have already paid for at your current US Registrar as CanHost will credit you all of that time and then add one additional year to your domain registration when you transfer your domain registration to them.

January 13 2014 GoDaddy joins the Evil Microsoft Empire
In 2014, the hosting situation here in the US got even worse. GoDaddy and NSA PRISM partner Microsoft announced a “partnership.” Microsoft had already taken over the upper management of GoDaddy so it was just a matter of time before this happened. All new GoDaddy customers are automatically given a free Microsoft account. The announcement said that “older GoDaddy accounts” would be moved over to Microsoft over time. At the same time, GoDaddy announced they were increasing the “restoration penalty fee” for anyone who let their domain name annual fee lapse to $80!!! Here is the statement from GoDaddy.

GoDaddy is therefore following the Microsoft Monopoly model of charging their customers fees which are ten times higher than what they should be. As Linux is much more secure than Microsoft Windows, I have severed all connections to GoDaddy. In Section 4.4, we will describe the exact steps for transferring your Domain Name and web hosting to FullHost.

The NSA Economic Doomsday Machine
For the past 20 years, the one bright spot of the US economy has been our lead in technology and cloud computing. However, businesses and individuals do not want their data handed over to their competitors or handed over to the government. Just take a look at how the NSA handed over Airbus data to Boeing. Businesses will increasingly migrate their data to places they view are safer.

The systematic takeover or closure of companies such as Lavabit, Silent Circle, Hushmail, Microsoft, Google, Apple, AOL and all of the other “partners” of the NSA mean that all of these companies will eventually be driven out of business – because their business model cannot succeed when their potential customers know they are being run by and for the NSA. All of their employees will lose their jobs. Some economists have estimated that American technology businesses could lose over $100 billion just in cloud computing contracts worldwide over the next three years as businesses move their data overseas to avoid the NSA. However, cloud contracts are just the tip of the iceberg.

As people around the world realize that companies such as Microsoft and Apple – or any US based web hosting company - cannot be trusted to protect their data or their privacy, the total economic loss to the US will be in the trillions of dollars and millions of US technology workers will likely lose their jobs – all thanks to the cyber monster called the NSA.

As Jennifer Granick of the Stanford Center for Internet and Society recently put it:
”The U.S. government, in its rush to spy on everybody, may end up killing our most productive industry. Lavabit may just be the canary in the coal mine.”

How will the US economy be affected if online businesses leave the US?

It will not be good. Many studies have confirmed that nearly all job growth in the US and around the world comes from small new companies. Much of this growth has been in Internet startups. One of the most comprehensive reports, written in May 2011 by McKinsey Research called Internet Matters, The Net's Sweeping Impact on Growth, Jobs and Prosperity:

It has become obvious that the Internet is changing our lives—the way we work, shop, search for information, communicate, and meet people. Two billion people are now connected to the Internet...Almost $8 trillion exchange hands each year through e-commerce... The Internet accounted for 21 percent of (world) GDP growth over the last five years.”

According to this report, the largest sectors of the economy are housing, banking and health care. This is followed by transportation, education, agriculture and energy. While the Internet is not yet counted as a separate sector of the economy, if it were it would rank higher than agriculture, energy or education as a percent of world GDP. The report concluded that the average British citizen spends more than $1,000 per year in online shopping. In short, the Internet is the future of business in the US and in the world. The report notes that most this Internet related economic growth has been in the US. However, thanks to the Snowden revelations, that is likely to change as new Internet startups move to European servers in order to escape from the dangers of NSA created hacker attacks. The NSA has made a critical blunder in destroying the Internet industry in the US. Congress has made an equally critical blunder in allowing the NSA to destroy this important American industry.

What about just getting your own private server?
You could just purchase a private server for your business. Don't get a Windows server because the NSA has instant access to those things. However, if your server is in the US, the NSA still has access to it. After all, Ladar Levison had his own private servers and the NSA still took them anyway. The bottom line is the web server and the office controlling the server must be outside of the US.

The second reason that a private server is not a good option for most small business owners is that servers (which are just fancy computers) must be kept up to date to maintain their security. Ladar Levison is a computer programmer. So he was able to keep his private servers up to date. For the rest of us small online business owners, a hosting plan at a web hosting company is a much better and less expensive option. So the goal is to ditch our US hosting company and move our website and database to a non-US hosting company.

Which country to move our web hosting to?
This decision to move my online business out of the US led to months of research into where to move my websites. At first, I was thinking about Germany – mainly because this is where Jacob Appelbaum and Laura Poitras are located and I figure they might respect privacy more in Europe. However, I could not find a good small business hosting option that had English speaking support. There is also the issue of latency or the amount of time it takes to load a web page. It adds about one more second for a web page to go back and forth to Europe. So I decided to move my websites to a web hosting company in Canada for a couple of important reasons. The first is that I and most of my students speak English. I wanted to find a web hosting company where the staff spoke English as a first language and where the knowledge base (or instructional articles) was written in English. Also there are almost no latency problems with using a Canadian web host and most of my students are here in the US. I am aware that Canada is a member of the NSA program called “Five Eyes” and is also a member of the freedom-restricting TPP trade agreement. However, Canadian courts have a much better track record of protecting internet freedom and privacy than almost any other English speaking country.

In particular, Canada is not directly under the thumb of the NSA. The NSA would at least have to get a Canadian warrant in order to take down your online business. Canada's Privacy Act, which took effect in July 1983, limits the amount of personal information the government can collect, use, and disclose. Canada’s Communications Security Establishment (CSE)—the agency responsible for gathering foreign intelligence—is forbidden by law from monitoring domestic communications. Mike Broadfoot, chief executive officer of Solium Capital in Calgary, calls Canada’s privacy laws the “gold standard.” “There is a structural advantage in Canada in that the privacy protection is more stringent,” says Lloyd Switzer, who runs Telus’s 10 data centers in Canada.

Canada is also very close to my location here in the United States. There may come a time when I need to follow in the footsteps of Jacob Appelbaum, Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden and leave the US. In addition to moving my websites to Canada, I may eventually move myself to Canada. One of the many benefits of running an online business is that it can be run from nearly any country. In addition, there are nearly one thousand web hosts to choose from in Canada and all have fast internet connections to the US.

How difficult is it to change web hosts?
It is not difficult to change web hosts but the actual steps you will need to go through will depend on where your website is being hosted now and whether you are using an industry standard control panel called cPanel. More on this later. You should create a backup of your business website. But you are not likely to need it. Most good web hosts will do the transfer for you for free if it is a simple cPanel migration. There may be some down time of a day or two. But it is better than having your website and online business permanently shut down by the NSA. In Section 1.4, we will describe the exact steps for migrating your websites.

Which Canadian web host?
This is the toughest question. Small business websites are more complex than personal websites in that they must manage a lot of content and images in a database with a content management system such as Joomla. They also have a lot of traffic. It is therefore important to get a web host that offers a large amount of data storage (more than 5 GB) and a large amount of data transfer (more than 50 GB). Because many business owners are not very computer literate, it is important that there be an actual person for them to talk with or exchange emails with about their website. It is also important that the web host have a good knowledge base explaining how to build and run a website. After several days of looking at hundreds of Canadian web hosts, I found a web host in BC called Canhost.ca which offered most of what I was looking for. Below is more about them and why I chose them.

Looking for Goldilocks in a non US Web Hosting Company
Within Canada, there are nearly one thousand web hosting companies. Because I am not merely looking for a web hosting company for me, but a web hosting company I can recommend to thousands of my students, I did extensive research on nearly all of these Canadian web hosts.

Question #1: Are they really a Canadian Web Host?
The first problem I ran into was that many hosting companies which claim to be “Canadian” hosting companies actually have some or all of their servers located in the United States!

In addition, many supposedly “Canadian” web hosts are actually owned or run by US corporations and therefore are subject to US laws – and subject to the NSA!. I am not an attorney. But I do know that any business with even a partial location in the US will be subject to the oppressive laws of the US. I therefore narrowed my search down to web hosts that had all of their servers located outside of the US – and had an ownership which was entirely in Canada. Here is how you can determine if a web host domain is actually registered in Canada: Go to http://whois.domaintools.com/

Then enter the web host domain name in the search box to find out who owns the Domain name. If the domain name is registered to a Canadian address, then the company is likely in Canada. It is also important that ALL of the servers of your web host be located outside of the US. To tell where a server is really located, go to the following link. http://www.dailychanges.com/

Then enter the domain name of the web host in the search box. You will then see information like the following for every server registered with this domain name.
This will tell you how many servers they have, who runs the servers, where the servers are located and how many domain names are on each server.
What this program does not tell you is how fast the server is or how much space the domain names are taking up on the servers or how much free space is left on the servers.

To show you how bad the web hosting market is, some “Canadian” web hosts had their domain names registered at GoDaddy in the US and were listed as belonging to American corporations. Even worse, when you look for their servers, some so-called web hosts do not have any servers – meaning they are farming out the actual hosting to some unknown third party. Then if you call or email then, I found that many never returned either phone calls or emails!

Thankfully, Canhost has servers in Canada and their ownership is in Canada.

Question #2...Are they a medium sized web host?
Even after eliminating all of the non-Canadian web hosts, there were still hundreds of truly Canadian web hosts to be weeded out. The second thing I was looking for was a medium size web host. The problem with a very small web host is that it is too likely they will go out of business. In fact, about twenty percent of the web hosts I researched had gone out of business in the past year or two. Both I and my students (most of whom also own small online businesses) need a web host that we can count on to be around for the long run. On the other hand, extremely large web hosts tend to have poor customer service and/or extremely overloaded servers. This means that novices (which are most of my students) have trouble getting good answers to their questions and their websites are slow to load. I wanted to find a web hosting company that was small enough to build a personal relationship with their customers but large enough to stay in business. Canhost has been around for more than ten years which confirms that they have a sustainable business model.

Question #3... Do they offer reasonable prices?
The third important factor was a middle of the road pricing structure. There are web hosts that offer extremely low cost hosting. But there are at least four problems with rock bottom pricing. First, extremely low cost host may not make enough revenue to stay in business. Second, they may not offer enough disc storage space or other features important to the needs of growing online businesses. Third, cheap web hosts are very likely to overload their servers causing websites to be extremely slow to load. Fourth, and perhaps most important, cheap web hosts are not able to pay for a knowledgeable service staff which is so essential when people run into problems with their websites. Small online business owners are always running into problems with their websites and these problems need to be fixed immediately. A knowledgeable web hosting staff is therefore every bit as important as a low price.

On the other hand, there are also problems if a web host's prices are too high. Web hosting is a very competitive business. A web host whose prices are double that of their competitors will also have trouble staying in business.

Most of my students are starting new online businesses on a very limited budget. So just as a web host can charge too little, they can also charge too much.

Canhost's pricing structure is right in the middle of the pack. They offer a VPS hosting plan under $20 per month which includes 20GB of disc space and 4 GB of RAM. This is more than enough for a starting small business. Then as your business grows, they have other plans which you can upgrade to over time.

Question #4... Do they offer essential features such as a DNS Manager?
A DNS Manager is essential for routing your website to your VPS IP address as well as for custom email routing. It is shocking that very few web hosts have DNS Managers. Thankfully, Canhost has an excellent DNS Manager.

Question #5... Do they understand the importance of Linux servers?
I also wanted a web host that promoted and used Linux servers rather than Windows servers. This was not merely because Windows includes a back door to the NSA but also because Linux servers are much more reliable and faster than Windows servers. Linux servers are much less likely to crash due to hacker attacks. Linux servers are also more compatible with popular PHP based applications such as Wordpress and Joomla. Canhost offers Linux servers.


Why the Vast Majority of the Worlds Most Active Websites run on Linux
Microsoft has bribed, bought or taken over the world's largest web host, GoDaddy in an effort to fool folks into thinking that slow, unreliable and unsafe Microsoft servers are somehow gaining ground on fast, safe and reliable Linux servers. GoDaddy in turn has moved a huge number of “parked” domains from Linux servers to Microsoft servers in an effort to “pad” Microsoft numbers. However what matters are websites that are actually being used. A March 2014 study by Netcraft confirms that people who really know what they are doing choose Linux servers in overwhelming numbers. Microsoft may be able to fool some of the people some of the time. But they seldom fool anyone who does actual research. When your online business is on the line, you would be crazy to use anything other than a Linux server. Below is the chart from Netcraft which analysis websites actually being used since the year 2000.

Given that Apache, Nginx and Google are all using versions of Linux as are most of the “Other” group, it is reasonable to conclude that at least 80% and possibly 90% of all active business websites are running on Linux servers while only 10% are running on Windows servers (either paid by Microsoft to use Windows or simply not paying attention or not caring about the performance of their website). Netcraft monitors about 920 million active websites. The March 2014 survey saw Microsoft lose 15.8 million websites in just the past month! Meanwhile, Apache gain 3.2 million websites and Nginx gain 5 million websites in the past month!

Netcraft also analyzed the server programs used by the one million most active websites. These are typically very large companies that have an entire staff of computer technicians and web consultants. Thus, this group tends to use the most cutting edge technology. Above is the chart of the servers used by the top one million most active websites. This survey is 2008 to the present.

Once again, Windows is at just over ten percent. Given how slow and unreliable Windows servers are, it is surprising that even ten percent use Windows. Apache has fallen from 70% to 50% while Nginx has risen from 0% to 20%. The reason Nginx is gaining ground on Apacheis because it is slightly faster than Apache and this matters to really busy websites.

Question #6... Do they offer a free Lets Encrypt SSL certificate program?
SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer. SSL is a protocol that allows your customers to browse your website pages anonymously and securely. You can tell if a web page is secure because the beginning part of the link will begin with https rather than http. HTTPS stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure.

There are some minor drawbacks to SSL in that it can slightly slow down your website loading time. Therefore not all of your web pages need to be secure. One of the many benefits of Joomla is that it offers excellent support for SSL configuration of your business website. You can select which web pages load with SSL and which do not.

SSL prefixes are typically used for special “secure” web pages where your customers enter private information like their credit card number or medical information or attorney-client privileged information in order to prevent hackers from gaining access to this information.

SSL requires two things. First, the page information is encrypted. Second, the page provides a special certificate stating who owns the page. This certificate is called an SSL certificate. You need to get this certificate from your web host. But not all web hosts offer this and some who do charge a fortune for the service. Canhost offers free SSL certificates.

Question #7... Do they have a good knowledge base?

Many VPS providers do not offer any instruction as to how to use their VPS. But CanHost has more than 200 tutorials which you can see at the following link: https://www.canhost.ca/hosting/index.php?rp=/knowledgebase/tag/VPS

Here is a tutorial explaining how to use the CanHost DNS Manager: https://www.canhost.ca/hosting/index.php?rp=/knowledgebase/275/How-Do-I-Manage-my-DNS.html

So in the next section, we will explain how to set up a Canhost account and get your domain name(s) from Canhost.