We see it all the time – Australian small business owners asking for recommendations for an Australian based hosting service. Reasons range from wanting to support Australian businesses, to having someone local they can talk to, or to pay in Aussie dollars.
Whatever your reason, it’s like asking for recommendations for a blue car – totally the wrong criteria to be basing a decision on!
So, before you lock yourself into a host that may not actually work best for your business, I figured it was time to clear up a few misconceptions…
Myth #1 – Google Prefers Local Hosting
This one may have been true at one point in the very early days of SEO, although no-one can really say for sure.
The theory was that if you had a .com.au domain, having your site hosted in Australia helped prove that you were actually an Australian company. And apparently this enticed Google to rank you better for searches done by Australians.
However, most reputable SEO practitioners today agree that it now plays little, if any, part in determining search engine rankings.
What Google have stated is that they give preference to fast loading sites.
And if you think that this means you need to have Australian hosting, then read on to Myth #2.
Myth #2 – Local Hosting Will Serve My Site Faster
Again, this may have been true once upon a time, back when international links were quite slow.
These days, with high speed optical fibre links connecting the globe, transit times between continents no longer has any real impact on site load times.
It takes only a few milliseconds for data to cross an entire ocean, and a few more to get across a continent. Considering it probably takes 2-4 seconds for your site to load for the average visitor, the time the data takes to get around the world is not even 1% of the total load time.
In fact, the biggest factor in load time is how well your site is constructed – the theme used, the number of plugins utilised, etc.
The second biggest factor is the quality of the host you use – how fast their servers are, the bandwidth of the connections between their data centres and the internet, etc. In fact, you’re better off having a good quality host on the other side of the world than a sub-standard one in the next city.
Besides, if you’re running an online business, chances are your visitors are coming from all over the world. This means wherever you host your site, it will be close to some visitors and half a world away from others.
Myth #3 – Local Hosting Supports Local Businesses
OK, I get the ethical argument here. We want to support local businesses too.
And if you’re prepared to pay a premium to employ someone in your own country then more power to you.
But just because the person/company you’re choosing to host with appears to be local, doesn’t necessarily mean your money is staying in the country.
A lot of the smaller hosts, and even a few of the well known names, are actually resellers of the big (overseas) hosts. This means they buy hosting space from one of the big hosts, split it up, and resell it under their own brand.
So, not only is your site likely to be physically hosted overseas (which may or may not be a problem for you), but a good portion of the fee you’re paying is also going overseas.
Myth #4 – It’s Easier To Get Hosting And A Domain Name In One Place
Once upon a time you could only register Australian domains (eg, .com.au) through Australian companies. I’m sure some of the other country specific domains had the same restriction.
Therefore, overseas hosts couldn’t provide registration for your domain – you would have to register it separately and “hook it up” to your hosting.
Although this restriction has been relaxed, many hosts still don’t offer registration for all domains.
However, whilst it might be “easier” (at least initially) to register your domain through your host, there are good reasons why you probably shouldn’t:
- You’ll generally pay more to register a domain through your host than through a dedicated domain registrar. Yes, I know some hosts offer free domain registration, but they’ll generally build this into their cost (or charge you for domain “extras”)
- If you need to move to another host at some time in the future, it’s much easier to re-point your domain if it’s registered externally – no need to transfer the domain name (which can be a real pain).
- A good domain registrar will offer additional features that website hosts will often charge for, like protecting your privacy.
Myth #5 – Local Hosting Is Cheaper
This one just blows me away!
Hosting is an expensive business – costs for servers, internet connections, security measures, etc all add up. Not to mention the staff costs for development and support.
There are only 3 ways I know of to offer low hosting costs and still stay in business:
- Have a very large number of customers to spread the costs over
- Cut costs (and therefore quality) on infrastructure and/or staff
- Buy space wholesale from big overseas hosts and resell at a low margin
The reality is that hosts based in smaller countries (like Australia) just don’t have the volume of customers to spread the costs over, so are not able to afford the best equipment.
And if they resell from overseas hosts, they generally don’t have the resources to support it properly (a condition of reselling hosting is that the reseller is responsible for customer support).
So whilst you may find a cheaper plan from a local host, it certainly won’t be the same quality as the better overseas hosts.
Myth #6 – I Need Local Support
I get the desire to have a local number to call – who wants to pay international rates for support (especially when you’re already stressed because your site is down).
But does it really make a difference if that call is answered in the next suburb or half way across the world?
What’s really important is that support is available 24/7, because websites are rarely considerate enough to break during business hours.
It’s no use having your call answered in the same city if you have to wait until the next morning for it to be answered. And most of the local hosts only offer business hour support, or best case 6:00 am to 10:00 pm. Your site deserves better than that!
Yes, the language barrier has been an issue with overseas support in the past (and still is for some hosts). However, there are good overseas hosts that have 24/7 support that you can understand.
Pro Tip: Always contact support prior to signing up with a host – it will give you a good insight into what you can expect when you need support later.
Myth #7 – I Want To Pay In My Local Currency
Yes, it’s true that most hosts charge in USD.
And the fluctuating exchange rate is generally not kind to us Australians.
So being able to pay in local currency is appealing.
But this doesn’t mean your options are restricted to Australian hosting companies.
Some of the best hosts now offer plans priced in local currencies – for instance, SiteGround has plans priced in AUD for Australian customers.
The Reality Of Hosting
Where you host your site is an incredibly important decision.
Get it wrong and you can spend way too much of your time dealing with technical headaches. This is time that could be better spent on reaching and serving your clients.
Your focus should be on getting a quality host, whether or not that host happens to be local.
Besides, unless you are running a “bricks and mortar” business, and are only looking for customers in your area, there really is no such thing as “local” anyway. With an online business, what’s close to some of your potential customers is half a world away for others.