Deciding on the perfect dedicated server location comes down to one important factor – audience location and whether you serve a local/regional, national or global audience.
New site owners won’t have historical website analytics data to know for certain where their audience resides. For existing site owners, it’s important to know where traffic originates, what location actual buyers are residing in and where the target market lives. It’s great to know what’s worked in the past. But don’t let that knowledge obscure your targets of the future. Understanding where your target audience resides is important in choosing your perfect dedicated server location.
With Host, you’ve got your pick of 3 incomparable datacenter locations, one in Europe and two in the United States. The EU datacenter is in Amsterdam, providing access to eight different interconnected datacenters providing connections through 65 different connectivity providers and four different internet exchanges via AMS-IX. Seattle is home to the Host west coast datacenter which provides multiple tier 1 and tier 2 connectivity providers via Seattle Internet Exchange (SIX). It’s a state of the art facility with premium connections throughout the western half of the United States and into Canada and the Pacific. Atlanta is where the Host primary datacenter is located, with INAP, providing unmatched connectivity across the east coast of America and into Mexico and Central/South America. Core services are hosted here for all global services. All Host datacenters have unrivaled server uptime and can provide high speed services to audiences anywhere in the world. That said, choosing a server location closest to the primary audience is a way to ensure the fastest possible user experience.
For businesses who serve a relatively small geographic area, whether that be a city, county, state or group of any of these (such as those with a somewhat small radius in terms of miles), you’re considered to be a local business and as such you are concerned with a specific target audience. For local businesses serving a closely packed audience, finding hosting closer to the business and the audience is worth checking out, even if it means paying a bit more than cheaper hosting a great distance away.
When your target market, or audience, spans a large geographical area, such as all of the United States, or even multiple time zones (but not the entire country), you’re looking to regional or national providers who offer high performance from various points within the target area. Websites aiming to serve a distributed audience that’s confined to a single country, or large slice of one, need to look at hosting within the country of their target audience.
It’s all too easy as a business owner to think, “I’ll sell to everyone, everywhere”. It may sound great, but there will undoubtedly be primary market(s), secondary, and so on. It will pay to work from most to least and focus on large segments first. With international hosting, it’s important to find servers that are connected through multiple network providers so that requests from different locations can be routed through the fastest possible paths. This is also a time when Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) become more of a necessity than a nicety.
Visitors expect pages to load quickly. Slow sites lead to unhappy users who don’t buy from you and instead bounce away. Satisfaction and speed go hand in hand. To get the best possible experience, servers need to be as close to the target audience as can be achieved. Every second counts. We’ve compiled the signals that let visitors know you can be a good site to buy from in this two post series on trust signals.
A Content Delivery Network is a means of taking your website static content and making copies of it available in multiple locations so that your visitors see the copy in a location closest to them. If your audience is spread across multiple countries then a single dedicated server isn’t going to be ideally situated for everyone, unless those countries are bunched together closely. It’s at this point that you’ll benefit from a server which is primarily located closest to your highest priority cluster and then makes use of a CDN to provide high-speed access to users in various locations. Preferred hosting providers will make it easy for you to administer your server and connect to CDNs so that you can deliver fast page loads to an international audience.
The general principle that dedicated servers located closest to a target audience are the fastest does come with some caveats. First, server hardware quality, drive types and configuration (SSD, RAID) can make a phenomenal difference when it comes to delivering speedy responses. Server software configuration such as choice of web server, caching setup and a myriad of other optimizations can also greatly impact the time it takes for visitor page requests to get responses and load. Secondly, network connectivity, throughput, load and number of hops to reach the backbone can all influence performance. Physical location of a server is important, but how the data gets from the server to the website visitor is critical. Proximity takes a backseat when the network is congested, routed poorly, many hops or choked by low speed connections. Tier 1 networks cost more for a hosting provider but are what every site owner should demand.
When you read advice saying to choose a dedicated server hosting location near your audience, think of it as saying, “choose dependable dedicated server hosting that’s located near your audience”. There’s little point in selecting low quality hosting that’s going to mean your server is offline from time to time. Visitors and search engines alike don’t trust sites which are frequently unavailable and not responding to requests. It’s better to pick a dedicated server location a bit further away, but which will have great uptime.
It’s not hard to find insanely cheap dedicated server hosting. After all, doesn’t every site owner want to save some money when possible? The issue with choosing cheap hosting is that you often get what you’re paying for – ridiculously low prices go hand in hand with poor quality – and that translates into poor performance, uptime, support and results.
Choice of a country code TLD (ccTLD) can override server location for SEO purposes, sending search engines signals so that they are able to assign your website to the correct spot on the map, thus having you appear in the appropriate local and regional search results. ccTLD impacts location based search results by showing your site for relevant searches, not boosting your rankings across the board. However, when it comes to the speed with which pages are delivered to site visitors, having the server physically near those visitors plays a large role in that speed. ccTLD doesn’t have anything to do with how fast pages load.
Choosing the best dedicated server location is much more than just choosing the server nearest your target audience. There’s no point in having a close proximity server that’s offline much of the time, running on an overloaded network or outdated hardware. Look to established hosting providers with stellar uptime, top notch hardware and Tier 1 networks like Host. Getting full server management is a bonus as well.