Australia or US-based Hosting?

Note: This is a re-post of this same-titled entry on my blog.

I wrote this quite a while ago on Whirlpool forum over a debate on Australian verses overseas (usually US-based) web hosting. Thread has since been closed (not my fault 🙂 but I think I will jog down my thoughts here, looking at what is the most suitable web hosting solution for Aussies.

My take is this:

  • If a site is geo-targeting Australian audiences and utilising lots of HTTP connections, then Australian host is better.
  • Otherwise, choose an US hosting because it is cheaper and provides more space/bandwidth.

Server Location, Latency and Bandwidth

We all know that it takes a 3 way handshaking to initiate a TCP connection. Therefore to start a HTTP connection, 12ms to Sydney and 180ms to LA round-trip time will be boosted to at least 18ms and 270ms — more if the server is in US East Coast or in Europe. So for sites where there are many external links (JS, CSS, images, etc) they do add up, if each request is on different HTTP connections in cases where HTTP Keep Alive has been turned off, and there exists restrictions on the number of simultaneous connections.

The performance and latency can also be quite noticeable in interacting with those “Ajax” web applications where clicks, keyboard inputs and even mouse movements might trigger a HTTP connection to be established. Assume that web server takes no time to process that request, feedback might range from “instantaneous” to “half a second later…

However, both Australian hosting and US-based hosting can easily saturated a 1500kbps ADSL connection, which is currently the fastest in Telstra-enabled exchanges (though you might need a good US shared-host to do that). In this case, 12ms vs. 270ms of TCP initiation time does not really matter, when both of them will take 5 minutes to bring down that big AVI file. So for sites that have few large files (video, mp3, etc) then maybe US-based hosting is a more economical choice. (Hint: DreamHost offers 20Gb storage + 1Tb bandwidth, from USD$8 per month [affiliated link])

So for sites geo-targeting Australia, maybe the best way to do it is to have 2 hosting plans — one in Australia and one in the states. Put all your interactive scripts in the Australian host, and all the large media files overseas.

Supporting Australian Business

I believe there are other reasons than just network capacity/latency verses bandwidth/storage cost. For some, having your websites hosted by a local company can sometimes be important.

  • They might prefer to support an Australian business.
  • They might prefer to have support during business hours.

Server Location & Search Engine Optimisation

Server location is also important to search engine optimisation (SEO). To have your website prioritised in Google Australia’s SERP, or not filtered out when “pages from Australia” option is selected, you really need to have either,

  1. An Australian domain, which are either .com.au, .net.au, .org.au, etc.
  2. Served from data centres located in Australia.

Getting (1) is trickier, as unlike domain registrars for the global TLD, .au domain has a much stricter requirement. For example you must be a registered business in Australia to have .com.au/.net.au. Obviously you can fill up forms and get an ABN. Alternatively, you can also get an Australia-based web hosting.

Anything else?

Update: After setting up a site on Australian-based cPanel-powered Jumba, I can feel why many Australian business chose to host on shore than moving overseas. The reduction in latency has just so much effect on the overall responsiveness. Especially when working inside SSH.