There’s no denying that country-based hosting can play a huge role in the success of a website, and Iceland is known for fantastic speed, privacy and service. However, what about the Bahamas? The tropics have long been a safe haven for US businesses looking to fly under the radar while still keeping things legal, and it looks like choosing the Bahamas for web hosting can offer similar benefits. When Microsoft was found in contempt of court in 2014 for not giving the US government customer emails which were stored in Ireland, which was technically immune from an American search warrant, it brought up an issue many corporations are struggling with: Does where they store data matter?
Of course, when choosing a web host, you also need to consider how prone the region where servers are kept is to natural disasters, theft, etc. too. (Bear in mind that many Bahamas ex-pats say fear of hurricanes are vastly overrated). That’s a foundational consideration, but for enterprises like Microsoft the bigger conundrum is security and privacy. In the end, the court decided that since Microsoft was a US company that owned the data center in Ireland, it was vulnerable to search warrants.
Where in the World…
The decision in the Microsoft case has made some international businesses decline to do business with US companies regardless of where data is kept. It’s just smarter for businesses that might be prone to such probing to choose businesses based in, and doing business in, countries with looser rules regarding government data collection. The easy answer? The Bahamas, of course.
You might think of this region as a place for vacations, sun, surf and keeping your investments protected—but now it’s also getting a great reputation for web hosting. When compared to other Caribbean countries, the Bahamas offers fantastic internet infrastructure and the data privacy laws are favorable to business owners. It’s been 20 years since Canadian Richard Douglas moved to the Bahamas to find out what it had to offer the IT industry. Data centers have been booming here since the 90s and by 200 Douglas had co-founded the growing hosting company Secure Hosting.
Having it All
According to Douglas, “I actually tried to go to other countries besides the Bahamas to look at opportunities but there were no reliable internet connections. Bahamas was really the only country that had set up subsea fibre and high speed internet that we were used to in North America. It’s very close to the US, so it was easier to set up there.” Simultaneously as Douglas was setting up shop, the Bahamas brought in key IT figures in the legal, telecom, accounting and audit community to get data protection secured.
This led to “consultation between the private and public sectors…the government ended up creating a data protection law and privacy law which specifically addresses personal privacy and protection of corporate data in the Bahamas,” says Douglas. In other words, if Microsoft had chosen Bahamas instead of Ireland, the court ruling may have been in their favor.
Sun, Surf and Security
The Electronic Communications and Transactions Act and Computer Misuse Act was put into effect in the Bahamas in 2003. There’s also a 2003 Data Protection Act, which guarantees that any data stored here can’t be transferred to other countries. Douglas notes, “The Microsoft case really (highlights) the reasons why you should be careful where you put your data.” Unfortunately, most people still don’t realize that if they’re using the biggies like Microsoft, Google, Amazon, etc. as their host in London, Singapore, etc., they’re still under American jurisdiction. It’s not a “local version”, but the American one on sabbatical.
For website owners/companies that need a lot of security, where their host is located matters a great deal. When shopping for a web host, ask about office and data locations. Remember that even having a sales presence in the US means the company has a US presence. If the executives, board members, etc. are American, the web host could also be under US jurisdiction. However, “a lot of organizations are afraid of the Patriot Act,” says Douglas. Going with a Bahamas company can get around that—and remember that this is also a tax-free country.
No taxes on corporate earnings, inheritance, personal income, capital gains, sales or dividends? No wonder they call it paradise.