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|The importance of hosting Top Sites in China; Myth or Reality?|
I was under the general impression that in order to build any large scale China web site (similar in scale to Baidu, Sina, netease, etc.)you needed to host your servers locally in China and ideally in multiple metropolitan centers ie. Guangzhou, Beijing, Shanghai etc. etc.
Is this correct? is it possible to build a large scale web site that Chinese users can access at comfortable speeds and host the servers outside China? ie. in USA, Singapore or Hong Kong? Does anyone have any first hand experience on this?
Lei Ho mamamo, welcome to WebmasterWorld.
It is certainly possible, as attested by the large number of high traffic sites that Chinese users visit every day. However, if you are targeting China specifically, then you should be aware that all Internat traffic in China is funnelled through State owned pipes and can be filtered at any time. Thus, you could find your traffic turned off at the source at any time, without notice, and without redress. This happened to Google, it could happen to anyone.
Welcome to WebmasterWorld mamamo!
If you were looking to build a site of that size you might want to look into hosting in multiple locations/countries, but being inside China would be important. As Woz said, you've got the great firewall of China to contend with. ;) That's one of the reasons we're seeing Google fighting to get itself inside the country now.
woz and bill have welcomed you enough :)
I'll just add my 2 pence and say
in china, and also out of china ...
in china is crucial for your chinese audience
Thanks for the replies.
My understanding is that the issue of having content filtered and traffic turned off at any time is inevitable in dealing with the China market. Whether you are on the inside or outside of the great firewall that's the price you have to pay so I guess you just have to be wary of your content and play by the rules.
1) Can a foreign company host their servers in a Chinese data center?
2) Does a foreign company need an internet content license (ICP) in order to host their site in China.
3) Can a wholly owned foreign company apply for an ICP? My understanding was that you need a 51% stake held by a Chinese partner?
My original understanding was that in order to scale a Chinese web site to size of Sina / Baidu etc. you MUST be hosted in China. The network infrastructure in China was intentionally built to make access outside slow thus forcing content providers to move inside the great wall and subject to greater regulatory controls.
Now, if it is possible to host the same scale web site OUTSIDE of China, say with multiple servers across the free world (USA, SINGAPORE, HONG KONG etc.) It makes life a heck of a lot easier. You don't need to deal with setting up a local Chinese company, a local content license (ICP) a local partner etc. etc.
I'm trying to determine if it's really necessary to go through all the hassle of setting up inside China. Prior to visiting this web site I was under the impression it was the only way to go. Now I'm not so sure, perhaps hosting externally is the way to go?
you raise some excellent questions, to which I am afriad I have no answers as such.
best you get someone on the ground in china to clarify 100% whats taking place.
>> 3) Can a wholly owned foreign company apply for an ICP? My understanding was that you need a 51% stake held by a Chinese partner?
I think you are probably right about this although I am not 100% sure about it. But it was before WTO. Since China is a member of WTO now, China was forced to open this market to foreign companies in some special industries such as banking, ICT, car etc. You can simly make a phone call to your embassy in China, they should know about the recent development.
If you are going to have a site like baidu.com & sina.com (which I do not really think that you are going to have that big), you definitely needs to go into China. China has limited bandwidth connected to other countries. Sites hosted within China is a lot faster than outside China.
Guoqi thank you for your comment.
But why do you think we are not going to have a site that big? you think there is no more space for big sites in China?
>If you are going to have a site like baidu.com & >sina.com (which I do not really think that you are >going to have that big), you definitely needs to go >into China. China has limited bandwidth connected to >other countries. Sites hosted within China is a lot >faster than outside China.
>> But why do you think we are not going to have a site that big? you think there is no more space for big sites in China
According to Alexa data, sina.com.cn rank Nr.5. Baidu.com rank Nr. 7.
If I am right, you are not a Chinese and you want to build a site to complete with the Nr. 1 site in China? You have to prepare at least 100 million $ capital in order to do this?
If you are so rich, may I get some projects from you?
The server(s) would definately need to be hosted from within China, as noted all traffic is funneled through China Telecom and the speed in/out of the country is horribly slow.
I lived there for a couple of months on business and even on ADSL it reminded me of the old 2400bps dial-up days when trying to access my site, even through SSH.
My company is in the process of working out a deal to piggy-back onto a direct line to Hong Kong just to get the VPN to work, otherwise it's too slow to the US for the firewalls to link up. So I guess if you can afford to lease a line out (which would be VERY expensive, and would require significant government contacts) you could go that route.
As with anything we are all entitled to our own opinions. However If you feel that building a site in China that can scale to the size of Baidu or Sina would require a US$ 100M investment, lets just say I repectfully disagree with your point of view.
FOREIGN INVESTMENTS IN CHINA
This is to give you a general idea. However, if you plan on doing something big, you'll need lawyers anyway.
[edited by: Woz at 7:35 am (utc) on July 11, 2005]
[edit reason] made link live [/edit]
>> Sina would require a US$ 100M investment
to build maybe not, but to get 10% of their traffic, yeah. It doesn't happen overnight.
What I see with sina is that it is a big mess of information. Anything less messy and of course also without that moving ads stuff and popups, is an option much preferred and will be popular with at least a big portion of the visitors.
What about hosting out off china, but nearby, such as Taiwan/HongKong? Wouldn't that solve the prolbem of bandwidth and speed, yet still avoid the govermental difficulties?
I know their are colocators in Taiwan.
>>> I lived there for a couple of months on business and even on ADSL it reminded me of the old 2400bps dial-up days when trying to access my site, even through SSH.
I am moving my operation back to China, and this is exactly what I am very afraid of! I am very afraid that my business will be destroyed simply because of the horrible Internet speed.
Any one in China now has any recommendations/tips on how to increase the speed in visiting foreign sites from China?
Host in Hong Kong will be better.
Host in Chian is very trouble,
not good for all.
For other people's problem, I guess you just need to host in China if you are targeting in mainly China's visitors
For my personal problem, I own 10-20 directory sites, I need my people in China to check every submissin, I am afraid that the speed in visiting foreign sites from China will be very horrible.
Any one has suggestions/tips for my problem? Any one living in China now?
>>>> What I see with sina is that it is a big mess of information. Anything less messy and of course also without that moving ads stuff and popups, is an option much preferred and will be popular with at least a big portion of the visitors.
I completely agreed with this! That is in my plan now. e.g. a Chinese version of better craigslist.org
At least in my eyes, you need to host your web site in China sooner or later. Otherwise you have no opportunities to establish a large scale web site targeting china market.
There are so many reasons that i can not describe fully will limit the development of your future web sites.
have a deliberate thinking please, not be that childish. Forgive my frankly speaking.
Hosting in Hong Kong or Taiwan will not help, close isn't going to cut it as all traffic is still choked in Beijing.
As for the messy sites, I have never seen more clutter in my life, but this is nothing new to them, hell, watching TV over there is likely to give the average person a seizure. Drove me nuts but they didn't seem to mind it in the least.
There is a way to improve the speed and the performance by having your servers hosted in HK, where generally has better server management. Some HK ISPs have a dedicated trunk of bandwidth directly connected their HK data center and the data center in China. They all work with big China ISPs such as China Telcom and China Netcom. You can consider the setup is something like your traffics in China are going through a private highway to access the information from your server hosted in HK. Let me give you an example and you will have better idea:
Try this url: [linkwan.com...]
to trace this website "http://www.2456.com"
you will see the the route started directly from Shanghai and all the way through a private connection to Singtel, which is the data center in HK. The site is hosted in HK for the visitors in China.
Of course, to host your servers in China can be a good idea, but server management is another issue that you must aware. One more thing, there are only few important internet exchange in China and not all of them have sufficient bandwidth to support all the visits. Some big sites in China do host their servers outside China like Alibaba and Globalsources.
Wolf07 - Great info, will look into the possibility of hosting in HK with a direct line to China.
I think with alibaba and globalsources it makes sense for them to host outside of China as their main target audience is users OUTSIDE of china.
In HK, there are not many ISPs have proper setup with direct connection to China. Try Singtel or PCCW. Make sure you specify on the dedicated bandwidth. The price should be a certain amount for 1MB increment. If budget is not a priority concern, then you can go for a co-location solution and do the load balance for the servers located in both ends. But then make sure the whole management go through the HK data center. I had bad experience having my servers installed in Shanghai with local management over there. It turned out like a mess. But it was years ago experience. I am sure now is way more better. I just become more consicous.
These days Alibaba and GS are both having huge traffics from China for those exporters looking West. They both have a lot of db uploading activities, so the China bandwidth is still necessary to be properly maintained.
Oh one more thing. Assuming you are running a business website, then the content won't be a problem passing through the great firewall :) However, be consicous and politically-correct when doing the file naming. I had encountered a case for a file name "#*$!x/upload.asp" in my server hosted outside China and then it was blocked by one of the local ISPs in China (not all). I tried to resolve that with the ISP and then ultimately I had to rename my file to go for an easy way. Sound weired? But it does happpen. In China, full of excitments, but then takes time to learn and adopt.
A fascinating thread and topic, and there is so much more to this issue than meets the eye. Bill and I had a few word about this behind the scenes and came up with a list of potential challenges in hosting a large site purely in China.
Please Note, for the record, some of these challenges are a product of cross-cultural differences, and are noted purely as a challenge to doing business in China. They are not meant as racial vilification.
1) Language & Culture
Lets face it, Chinese is a different language, and Chinese culture is also very different from Western Culture. So communication could be a problem from the start. If you speak the language then you would be OK, if not, then how are you going to communicate about server set-up etc. I used to think that most Internet Savvy people in China would be able to speak enough English for this to be not a problem, experience taught me otherwise.
And understanding the culture differences would also be a challenge, not only from the point of view of producing something aimed at that culture, but you would also need understanding on the other side so that "they" would produce/service to you expectations, not theirs.
China is an emerging country, and with great potential. At the moment, from my observations, there seem to be two standards of production and service:- Very High Quality, and Not. There seems to be no middle ground at the moment, perhaps this will change. So you would need to hunt around for a service level to meet your expectations.
Again, you would need to hunt around for someone with the experience to be able to handle hosting such a big job. The challenge here is making sure you find someone who can, not someone who only says they can. The culture of "loss of face" can be a difficult one to understand and counter for a westerner. If you ask if a company can do something for you, you run the risk of them saying they can just to avoid losing face, which leave you with a problem at crunch time. Sometimes it is more about knowing the questions to ask.
4) Flexibility and Adaptability
What do I mean by this? Simple. How quickly could your chosen Mainland Host adapt to major problems or crisis to keep your site running under pressure. Or, to put is simply, could they cope with major traffic boost to your site if it were Slash Dotted?
5) General uncertainty with this new website registration law
This one has been covered a little above, and we have a thread going here [webmasterworld.com] about it. This would definitely require some investigation.
6) Government Control - Great Firewall, Content Restrictions
This is a major point and one not to be taken lightly. The Chinese Government has ultimat control over whether your site will succeed as it has ultimate control of where it even lives. All information is already funneled through Govt pipelines, so any 'untoward' copntent would be snipped in a heart beat. But they could also decide to shut you down on a moments notice and almost without reason. There have been many cases of this in the past. One which comes to mind is the direct marketing industry where US companies spent many millions of dollars investing in new business in China, only to have the whole industry shut down overnight. This could happen to your site.
7) Overall System Stability
This goes to reliability of equipment, connections, internal infrastructure, backup systems, emergency protocols, etc, and so on. All these need to be in place to ensure un-interupted service. Does your chosen host have all these protocols and systems in place?
8) Have we missed anything? I am sure there is more.
I don't wish to appear alarmist with all this, but there are perhaps many more considerations to be made when choosing to host in China, and perhaps similar countries, than hosting elsewhere, be it USA, India, Belguim, or wherever, and so such an important decisions should not be taken lightly.
As the Scouts say, "Be Prepared."
PS, My thanks to Bill for assiting with this.
|8) Have we missed anything? I am sure there is more. |
Compartmentalization: For every task there is a different "guy" so be prepared for some long phone calls.
Back to the original subject, no if you are starting a site to compete with sina.com.cn you don't need your site hosted in China. You need your server farm to be constructed in China.
I am a Chinese, and not a pure IT professional.
If your target is Chinese visitor, I would say you must place your servers in China, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou. The reason is very simple, while you want to be a website like sina, sohu, 163, baidu or alibaba, you need shorten the distance of physical route, and avoid the tough firewall.
If you want to be a ICP as sina, you must get a local partner, just because China MII doesnĄ¯t allow foreign company running this business solo. But, you can grab 50% share.
Sina.com.cn is registered by a tiny Chinese private company (in the name of CEO, Mr. WangYan), the total investment is extremely low at 1 million RMB ($125,000). By contrast, Sina.com is registered in a small isle country, Kaman Isles.
And you must allocate deals with local media companies, such as TV, News Agency, Radio, Website, News papers, to share content.
In China, a website is not legal if it publish news, and not allowed to have journalists, so you must have your news source form a huge number of legal agencies.
That's what I can remember, but I am not 100% sure.
Dancing on the Chinese wire is a bit of crazy, but a fantasy.
Forgive my poor English.
Hope you could understand what I wrote.
Very good post. As a native Chinese, I can confirm that what Woz said are to the point.
>>> If you ask if a company can do something for you, you run the risk of them saying they can just to avoid losing face.
Losing face is one of the reasons, the other reason is that many Chinese companies will try to get any orders they can get. When there is an order, most of they will just tell you, "yes, we can do it!", even they has no idea what that order is about. After they get the order, if they are not able to do it, they will go to son of friend of his sister's classmates... So it might not be a good idea to ask a Chinese company, "Are you able to do this?", the answer will always be "yes".
Losing face is also a very important thing you have to remember. It is possible that if you let your Chinese partner lose face once, you will lose him/her forever.
>>> If you want to be a ICP as sina, you must get a local partner, just because China MII doesnĄ¯t allow foreign company running this business solo. But, you can grab 50% share.
Yes and NO. As far as I remember, this is the rule of a few years ago. I am not very sure about the recent development. But even it is the same, you can find a solution to this problem.
For example, You can check sina.com to see what they did. Sina is on Nasdaq stock market, the main business of Sina is sina.com.cn. But remember that Sina DOES NOT own sina.com.cn, because the RULE does not allow sina.com as a foreign company in Nasdaq stock market to operate in China.So Sina.com.cn is owned by CEO of sina.com. There is a special contract between sina.com.cn and sina.com. This contract makes sure that all profits made by sina.com.cn will go to sina.com. There is also a special agreement between sina.com and CEO of sina.com, when CEO of sina.com leave, he has to give his ownership of sina.com.cn to the next CEO.
I guess you find all those information in Internet since Sina is a public company.
This sounds like complicate but you want to do business in China, you have to respect the culture there and accepte all those strange things there.
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