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You want to choose the best hosting for your business in China, but it can be a confusing game. The Chinese firewall is now world-famous for creating a digital wall between the Chinese mainland and the rest of the world – social media, file sharing, and even hosting for your website can create big problems if you don’t know your options clearly. There are also important legal issues to take into account, as well as more obvious things like site loading time and reliability. So….Let’s weigh up the options.
Some China Hosting Factors To Consider
So, we mentioned the firewall. The “Great Firewall of China” as it is known, is simply a filter that the Chinese government uses to block certain data from outside China. How and why certain material is blocked is the kind of topic you can study for the rest of your life….For now, we only focus on your website that needs to be stable and fast for users inside the PRC.
Hosting Inside Or Outside China?
The most obvious answer for dealing with the firewall is to just put your website on a server in mainland China. That makes perfect sense – put your server as close as possible to your target market with no blocks or filters – great! Except for the legal and paperwork needed…. If you host in China and you put out any content, then you need an ICP Number from the Chinese government.
What Exactly Is An ICP Number?
ICP stands for Internet Content Provider (Bei-an (备案 in Mandarin). You need to get this from the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. This gives you the legal right to operate your website inside China. After you get your ICP Number, you can host your website in China on a nice fast China-based cloud service – the same way as any Chinese registered business. Note: You must complete your licensing process and have it issued before you can go live with your website – with no exceptions.
If you host inside China and having a .cn website, you will be able to rank easier in China’s main search engine, Baidu. However, this isn’t as important to your marketing operation in China as Google is to your global audience (see our links at the end of the article for more on this).
So why don’t we all just host in China? Well, an ICP Number is definitely not a simple and easy task. In short, if you don’t have a registered Chinese business, then you can’t apply. In theory, you could apply through an agent, but that will expose you to some risk.
A third party controlling your hosting and data is not something we recommend from a security and safety point of view. There are different kinds of ICP License that relate to different categories. We don’t want to go into any more detail on that now, but if you are curious, check out the links at the end of this article.
What Are The Hosting Options Outside China?
If you can’t host your website inside mainland China, then as close as possible to the PRC is the next best option. In the immediate area and with top speed hosting you have Japan, Korea, Singapore, and Hong Kong.
Japan and Korea are great. They have reliable, fast and stable servers. The only problem with either of those options is that they are high cost compared to other options in the region. There is no direct benefit to using a Korean Or Japanese server over any other.
Singapore is a solid option in terms of global speeds and has some good providers, but we don’t recommend them for the best speed and reliability for the mainland as they are a bit further away and this is not most efficient for serving China.
Hong Kong is the best option overall for hosting a China facing website.
Why Choose Hong Kong For My Website In China?
Hong Kong is governed by Beijing and so is fully a part of China politically. However, it has retained some benefits from its previous status as a separate political zone. Hong Kong doesn’t currently block traffic in the same way that mainland China does, meaning that it doesn’t have a firewall causing all those internet headaches we mentioned earlier. What this means for you, is that you don’t need a license to host there. As a result, you don’t need an ICP Number or any paperwork in order to launch your China-friendly site. Hong Kong has a special relationship with the mainland Chinese internet where it is directly connected, meaning that any traffic that isn’t subject to censorship flows in faster than it would from say a server in Singapore. It is directly hooked up to China.
What Hong Kong Servers Mean For Website Speed In China
The direct hook up to the Chinese internet means that Hong Kong is the perfect choice for anyone who wants to have fast delivery inside China without the hassle and paperwork needed to host one inside China directly. Here at Eggplant digital we have been hosting our own site in Hong Kong for years and this solution has also worked with great success for our clients outside of China. We’ve had success with everything from simple blogs right up to large e-commerce solutions.
Is Hong Kong A Good Solution For Non-Chinese Traffic?
This is always the next question. Hong Kong has been blessed with superfast internet connections for years and the servers there are second to none. Global delivery times are fantastic from fast Hong Kong servers – this page came to you from our data centre there! We use Hong Kong just as much for non-China traffic as we do for PRC traffic when we choose servers our non-Chinese clients, so we’re happy to recommend it as the best overall solution to this problem.
- If you’re interested to know more about any of the topics included, check out these articles for some more in-depth analysis.
- If you’re looking to set up a server in Hong Kong take a look at our recommendation for managed hosting.
- If you want more detail on some of the points mentioned, head for these articles