It’s pretty obvious what the perks are when you go offshore for things like manufacturing and labor: It’s a lot cheaper. However, how does offshore work when you’re talking about web hosting, which can be found at a high quality and for free right here in the US (with a little digging, of course). First thing’s first: It’s not possible to get free, quality hosting for dedicated servers (which is when your company/website pays to have one server solely “dedicated” to you). Free hosting is only available for shared servers, which is actually more than enough for many small businesses. There’s a reason dedicated servers are so expensive, starting with the fact that they can easily go for $200,000.
It’s natural to want to look for technology that hits close to home—after all, you’re a proud “locavore”. However, when it comes down to it, your customers deserve the best no matter what. Your web host’s uptime can be critical for your customers who depend on your website being up and running (well) all the time. Performance of your website is partly your web host’s responsibility, and maybe that free web hosting package you found doesn’t come with the quality you need.
Getting More Offshore
How quickly your website loads depends on a lot of factors, but one of them is how far that data has to go (the distance between your webpage and the host). That’s why if you live in Portland, Ore., you’ll have a quicker/better response time if your server is in Seattle rather than Miami. However, it’s not just about you. Your customers could be anywhere around the world—or even the country (America’s pretty big). That’s why a lot of east coast-based companies (or companies with a lot of customers on the east coast) are looking to Iceland for offshore hosting. Surprisingly, Iceland is closer to New England than web hosts in Silicon Valley.
There’s no denying that Iceland has become a big hub for hosting. Plus, if you have a lot of European customers, they’ll enjoy a quicker response time than if you had a server in the US. However, if you adore your US-based host, don’t worry. In the grand scheme of things, that “quicker response time” is going to be minimal and should only be a concern if you’re committed to offering the absolute highest performance levels.
In 2013, those invasive surveillance moves by the NSA were a trending topic and it’s still worth noting. There have been plenty of defensive moves since then, especially from the EFF, but it’s looking like US providers aren’t totally out of the chaos—however, note that this is only for US providers. With the NSA, they have zero control over offshore servers, so you know the data stored is safe (at least from the NSA). There are various laws in different countries when it comes to data access, but Iceland is well known for stringent data privacy protection (even more so than the EU!).
Currently, legislation is picking up steam to make these rules even stronger and integrated into the International Modern Media Initiative in Iceland. What does this mean for your website? Even if privacy isn’t a major concern for you, that doesn’t mean your customers aren’t concerned about privacy. No matter where your host is located, they should prioritize account protection (at the very least with two-factor authentication).
Iceland? Don’t You Mean “Green”-Land?
Eco-friendliness and going green is (and should be!) a hot topic. Did you know that basic web hosting actually consumes a lot of energy? In the US, energy is largely gleaned from the “power grid” which relied on fossil fuels. As websites get more traction, they use more energy—which means your carbon footprint is getting heavier. This leads to more greenhouses gases, more pollution, and less greenness from your website.
In Iceland, power comes largely from hydropower and geothermal sources. Icelandic hosts are naturally “green”, which doesn’t just make you feel good but also attracts your own customers. Is it time to go offshore? Maybe. It depends on where you are, where your customers are, and what your priorities are.