Best blog hosting service to sidestep China’s Great Firewall?
Mar 26, 2008
Which is the best hosting service for a China-focussed blog?
WordPress.com, blogger.com and other free services can be blocked by the Great Firewall, so I need advice on where to host my blog. (It is currently parked with a very generous friend.)Should I use Dreamhost? A US-based service?
A Hong Kong-based service?My readership is divided between the US, China and Europe (in that order) so want to serve both as well as possible.
All thoughts welcome!
This posting on the China Hosting Blog includes 6 tips to how avoid your blog getting blocked in China. (The company that runs the blog, SinoHosting.net, promised to move your blog to a new IP address within 30mn if it gets blocked. Presumably they reserve the right to decide whether they will help unblock your or not.)
Great and highly detailed advice sent to me from Alex Bowman who is based in China and has clearly studied the issue:
I am not employed by any telecom companies, so none of this is insider information.The most important factor is probably the type of site you’re hosting and as you say your readership.
US Advantage: Fast for US and because of the variety and amount of connections to Europe fast for there too. Trans-pacific is a bit slower, adding around 300ms latency. For a basic HTML page this is not a problem (a couple of seconds), for a simple database-driven blog not really much of an issue (10 seconds), but something like a complex portal or community site, one serving lots of maps, flash or many large graphics the loading speed may switch many off (30 seconds+ loading time).
Hong Kong’s advantages: Fast for mainland China and Asia in general. This fastness for mainland China depends on the section of the Great Firewall you’re going through – it seems some of the machines that filter are faster than others. Worria.com is the fastest budget host for HK to mainland China connections at the moment, but this varies monthly. IDC is not bad. Hong Kong is outside the People’s Firewall, meaning it carries the same mainland-specific disadvantage as hosting anywhere else in the world – it is possible that it will be blocked.
The reason many, if not most, sites are blocked inside China (excluding well known news organisations, political groups or pornography sites) is because the computer they’re hosted on is blocked, not the site itself. China tends to impose blocks on IP addresses (the physical address of a computer, not the domain name) – this affects many because while they’re site has done nothing ‘wrong’ in the eyes of the law or the government it still gets blocked. The reason for this is budget hosts put a few, sometimes 20, sometimes 100s of sites on the same machine (and therefore the same IP address) – if one does something wrong, like host some porn or spam other websites, the IP address takes the blame and all the sites on that IP get blocked. If this happens it is possible to test if it’s an IP address or URL block and ask your host to change IP address, or even give you a private one that is yours alone.
Avoid shared blog providers like Blogspot, WordPress.com, etc. They are blocked.
Avoid Feedburner, while their basic RSS service (counting subscribers and no more) is fine, their email and track-click functionality are blocked (email is not blocked if the server, like gmail.com is outside China, but an email server inside China like sina.com would often block these emails). english.feedsky.com is an alternative that should work in both the West and the East. Or just feed the RSS directly, some people are obsessive about it, some are not.
The one issue which caused a lot of problems last year was a cable cut caused by an earthquake off Taiwan. Most Internet communication is done by cable, at that time China and much of Asia was cut off from the rest of the world, much like Iran has been cut off by the recent cable cuts/turn offs in the Middle East/Mediterranean. More trans-Pacific cables are being completed at the moment, reducing the likelihood of this happening again.I have non-complex sites on Dreamhost which do not have a problem and the speed is acceptable from the mainland. They’re cheap, support is fine, and fully featured.