Does It Matter Where Your Site Is Hosted?

Hosting Around The GlobeIn theory, every site on the Internet is accessible to every user. Packets flow across networks from server to browser unhindered — although it won’t be like that for long if some companies have their way. Every point on the network is connected to every other point, so in principle it shouldn’t matter where a site is hosted: London, Novgorod, and Cape Town are just as reachable from Chicago as anywhere else with a connection.

Unfortunately, physics, and technical and economic realities get in the way of the Utopian view of the Internet. We all know that site speed is important. Slow sites are ineffective, regardless of their purpose. Conversion rates are eroded by poor performance, bounce rates increase, time-on-site takes a dive, and even SEO takes a hit.

One of the major causes of poor performing sites is latency, and the distance between client and server is a major — although not the only — cause of latency. Light can travel around the globe seven and a half times a second, but networks achieve nowhere near that sort of speed. Signals through copper and even fiber travel more slowly, and no network connection is a straight line between server and client: there are many routers, switches, and servers between a browser and the server on which a site lives, each of which adds a slight delay.

Of course the signal has to go there and back, so the time taken is doubled. The cumulative time is known as the round-trip time, which can be measured in seconds for sites on opposite sides of the globe.

Even when networks are functioning perfectly, round-trip times for geographically distant connections can be significant, but when something goes wrong — a failure in a cable or an interconnect between networks — packets are rerouted through even less efficient routes, adding more time.

In short, the closer the better, but only up to a point. Your server can be housed in a data center next door to someone browsing your site, and they’d still get terrible performance if the data center has poor bandwidth, equipment, and a low-grade connection to the network providers that make up the bulk of the Internet. Location matters, but so does the quality of the connection. A bad data center next door can be worse than an excellent data center 1000 miles away.

Some of the latency problems caused by distance can be mitigated with content distribution networks, but not all of them. That’s why FutureHosting provide multiple international points of presence. If your intended audience is in Paris, your site will perform well if it’s hosted in Chicago, but it’ll do better if it’s hosted in a premium data center in London.

Our Virtual Private Servers can be hosted in Chicago, IL and Santa Clara, California; Miami, with excellent connections to the growing Central and South American markets; London, for very fast connections to the EU; and Brisbane, Australia, for sites targeting Australian, Southeast Asian, and adjacent markets. In short, wherever your readers, clients, shoppers, or users are located, FutureHosting can offer hosting that gives them the best possible performance.

Image: Flickr/stevecadman

Matthew Davis is a technical writer and Linux geek for Future Hosting.

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