Physical Location Matters When It Comes to Web Hosting

Believe it or not, location of a server is not something that many webmasters or website owners take into account when they progress through the planning stages for their websites. Other factors are obviously taken into account such as cost, allotted space, security, bandwidth, email accounts and more. However, location of the server is definitely one of the many important aspects that any web hosting client should use to determine the value of a web server.

When we think of the internet and the users that are on it, we often picture them using high speed internet to access websites and content. However, this is simply not the case. Services like dial-up internet still account for a high percentage of how some users access the internet. Because of this, seconds of loading time mean everything, and if it takes longer than is really necessary for a website to load for some of your users, this could be bad news down the road when you see that many visitors don’t return.

Many times, the webmasters and website owners don’t realize that location is not only important to the user, but it’s also important to them. You will need a server that is relatively nearby so that you can quickly upload files to the server from your location every time. This may not seem like a big deal, but for websites that constantly need updating, crumbs could definitely add up to loaves.

In turn, you could lose a lot of productivity just because your upload times are taking longer than usual simply because of location. Just think; there are so many other things you could be getting done rather than waiting longer than usual for files to upload to your server.

No matter the location you choose, you should always be looking for ways to compress your files, cut down on file sizes, and cut code so that your users’ browsers don’t have to read/download as much content. You can use simple image editors to cut down on file sizes for images and reduce loading time.

Additionally, you can use tools such as Yahoo!’s YUI compressor, Google’s Closure Compiler, or JSMIN to simplify and cut down on JavaScript coding. You could even look for ways in the HTML and CSS portions of your website to minimize on coding. Depending on the amount of time you spend editing your content for faster loading times, you could increase your website’s loading time by a lot.

Don’t forget that search engines take the location of your website’s server into account as well. There are actually many different versions of Google that cater to different areas in the world. For example, Google.com caters to the US market, while Google.de caters to Germany. If your website is hosted in Germany and you’re trying to reach a US audience, your website won’t perform as well as an identical one that is hosted in the United States. Not only is this because of location, but it’s also a result of longer load times.

This is merely because Google wants to deliver relevant information to its users. In addition to delivering relevant information, Google wants to give its users a pleasurable experience with one of the most complex and intelligent search engines on the web. This is why Google would be more prone to rank a page that has a fast load time higher than a slower loading page. Google doesn’t want to serve a website that has slow load times to a user because too many incidences of this could reflect back on Google as being an unreliable search engine.

The information thus far should give you a pretty good idea of what server location to go with. Your next item of business is choosing between a VPS (virtual private server) or a CDN (content delivery network). In a nutshell, a VPS is a virtual “partitioned” server that resides on a larger server with other clients.

The VPS functions very similarly to a dedicated server, but it still technically shares resources with other clients on a server. On the other hand, a CDN is a network of servers that are stationed in various locations across the world for the purpose of quickly and easily delivering content to users on a location basis. A user trying to access your website will automatically download data from the server that is stationed closest to their location for the fastest load times.

A VPS is more well-suited for a small business that aims to deliver content to a limited amount of visitors in a specific location. For example, a local movie theater or dentist’s office could find the most use and economical value out of a VPS. On the other side of the coin, a CDN is perfect for a business that is growing rapidly and a large audience. Additionally, webmasters and website owners could benefit more from a CDN if their target audience is spaced out location-wise.

Another wonderful benefit of a CDN is that if one server in particular happens to go down, the entire network doesn’t suffer. In fact, this isn’t an issue for the user at all because he/she can just be redirected to another server, or even the next best server in terms of location. It is also common that websites that are based on content delivery networks have better experience with ranking high in search engines because of the multiple IP addresses associated with them.

Overall, this has been a lot to take into account in terms of just examining the location portion of planning a website. However, making intelligent decisions pertaining to location will not only help your page load times for your users, but it will also benefit you in the areas of uploading to your server and search engine optimization. In turn for picking an intelligent location and server setup for your website, you’ll experience a rise in traffic, returning visitors, new visitors, productivity on your end (as well as the user’s end), and much more.

Maria A. is a product specialist at InMotion Hosting.  She regularly writes articles to explain the difference between virtual private servers and dedicated servers.

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