During the last couple of years, offshore hosting has become more popular, and for good reason. In this article, we will cover the main benefits associated with offshore hosting, the reasons to host offshore, disadvantages, tips for a smoother experience, and why Switzerland is an ideal location for this activity.
To kick things off, offshore hosting represents the practice in which a website is intentionally hosted outside the owner’s residence country. There are numerous motives for which a person or business entity may choose to host their website on an offshore server.
1. Freedom of speech & press, or escaping censorship
This represents one of the main reasons explaining why some website owners choose to host offshore. While the world has evolved, and human rights such as the freedom of speech & press are protected in most countries by international conventions, this isn’t always the case. As such, there are still several countries which choose to censor, or ban certain types of content. With this in mind, when posting controversial content online, you need to be wary of your country’s regulations on the matter. If these rights aren’t well-protected, in an effort to avoid prosecution or censorship, the best move would be to move the content on an offshore service, located in a tolerating country.
The same principle applies to news websites that wish to post their content free of censorship. For instance, many news agencies in China choose to host their content offshore, as it helps prevent government censorship on sensitive matters.
However, there are times when offshore hosting providers offer better services overall. For instance, offshore locations might offer better security and up-time for your website, thus reducing the risks of dealing with attacks and downtime, or worse, customer data leaks. Speaking of data, most countries popular for offshore hosting have better data protection laws that favour the citizen, rather than the government.
2. Evading national regulations on running certain businesses
Apart from protecting freedom of speech, offshore hosting can also be used to evade certain types of national regulations. To put things better into perspective, numerous countries have banned online casinos, whereas other governments have issued laws preventing the sale of pharmaceutical drugs over the internet. Online video content such as pornography is also restricted in some locations. With offshore hosting, you can freely conduct your business activity on the international market, without serving national customers, regardless of your current country of residence.
Do keep in mind the fact that your website will have to respect the laws applicable in the country you have picked for offshore hosting. Choosing an offshore location doesn’t always entail the freedom to post whatever you want, especially if it is deemed illegal.
3. Increased anonymity for the website owner/s
For a variety of reasons, website owners might want to keep their hosting and other details anonymous. This is often difficult to attain, as a simple Google search can reveal a good amount of information about a website’s hosting provider. Luckily, some offshore locations offer completely anonymous hosting services. This means that customers won’t have to reveal any personal details, such as their names, address or bank account. For services like this, payment is often made through digital currencies, whereas communication is conducted via encrypted services, for increased privacy and security. Increased anonymity can also help protect websites against attacks carried out by competition, or prevent the sensitive data leaks.
4. Friendlier taxation policies
Chances are that you’ve heard about tax havens, and ideal offshore locations for storing money. With this in mind, there are numerous businesses dealing with harsh taxation policies, thus encouraging them to move offshore altogether. As such, establishing a legal business presence in another country is possible with offshore hosting. For those who do not know, some of the main destinations for this practice include Switzerland, Monaco, Panama and The Netherlands.
The advantages of offshore hosting
Apart from the reasons outlined above, there are several technical benefits associated with offshore hosting. These include:
- Gaining access to global exposure for your website, thus leading to business opportunities and website growth;
- Not having to abide by national cyber security laws;
- The freedom to choose a hosting provider that fits all of your criteria;
- Better data back-up alternatives, in international data centres;
The disadvantages of offshore hosting
Before outlining the disadvantages that are generally associated with offshore hosting, it is important to mention that most of these can be avoided by carrying out your due diligence when choosing the hosting company. With this in mind, some of the most common flaws are:
Oftentimes, offshore locations are expensive destinations, thus leading to considerably higher hosting costs. This isn’t always the case, as there still are numerous hosting providers offering their services for good prices. Additionally, some hosting providers might choose to quote higher prices, since they know they’re being used as an offshore hosting provider. Additionally, keep currency exchange in mind when planning out your costs, as fluctuations can either increase or decrease the price.
Generally, browsing speeds depend on your ISP, and on how close you are to the hosting location. As such, if you are based in an African country, yet choose to host your website offshore in Europe, browsing speed will likely be affected as well.
While not a disadvantage by design, hosting offshore might make it harder to get in touch with customer support of your provider, because of time zone difference. Additionally, the language barrier might also be a factor worth keeping in mind, so don’t choose a provider that offers customer support in Italian if you only speak English.
Why Switzerland is an ideal offshore hosting location
The common consensus on the offshore hosting market is that Switzerland is one of the best locations for this activity. As such, Swiss data centres are well-praised for their speed, security, efficiency and reliability. This is mainly due to the fact that most Swiss data centres utilize new hardware, and keep up with the best practices in the industry.
Additionally, Switzerland has a legal system that is protective of citizen rights such as privacy, freedom of speech or freedom of press. Because of its regulatory framework, the government rarely intervenes in private or business matters, unless an illegal activity is clearly taking place. Additionally, Switzerland is situated outside the jurisdictions of the United States and European Union. Therefore, data centre providers aren’t forced to comply and collaborate with foreign authorities, thus increasing data privacy and integrity.
Based on everything that has been outlined so far, offshore hosting is often ideal for numerous types of websites and businesses. As a final tip, it is essential to carefully research the countries, their laws, and company policies when picking an offshore hosting provider. Failure to do so can land you in a plethora of legal or operative issues that can affect your business. However, the process is pretty straightforward once you’ve finished your due diligence and chose a provider.