China web hosting is complex, and in this article we'll look at your options on how to deliver your site fast, and efficiently. Some options take 2-3 months, one option takes about 24 hours, each with its pros and cons.
The key reasons around web hosting typically revolve around i) Speed, and ii) Legality.
When most people research China web hosting, they come across countless articles telling them that they'll need to acquire an ICP Licence, a process which generally takes 1-3 months. This isn't true.
Well - strictly speaking, it is true, but the question you should be asking yourself is "do you need an ICP Licence?" and for 99.9% of companies, the answer is 'no'.
An ICP Licence is pretty much needed (we're generalising and will leave the nuances for another time) if:
i) You're building a tech company centered entirely around Chinese users, or
ii) You're an e-commerce company building out an entire onshore presence, including logistics, service centre, and a complete set of onshore advertising
If you're an e-commerce company, you can take payments offshore. If you're an informational site, your site should be accessible offshore. Shoot us a note at: firstname.lastname@example.org if you're uncertain on whether you need an ICP Licence/Registration or not.
If you can't read Chinese, then you're left with primarily two companies you should host with (we're assuming you're hosting a website, and not a building a full web app):
1. Alibaba Cloud: Preferred over Tencent with their more extensive CDN
2. Tencent Cloud: Still technically a strong provider although we find their interface is poorly translated (as of Jan 2020) often the result of machine translation.
There are a number of other companies like west.cn, xinnet, bizcn, 22.cn, but these require a native mandarin speaker/reader. Alibaba and Tencent are both friendly-enough for any offshore developer, where you can acquire your SSL, set up a CDN and they help you acquire and/or transfer the ICP licence although the process is still rather messy and will take 1-3 months.
In our experience, onshore hosting is thoroughly unnecessary given the sheer length of time involved, and for the avoidance of doubt, hosting in Hong Kong isn't a solution as the site's pages are still incompatible in China.
Sites typically don't work onshore for two reasons: i) Compatibility, as they rely on US library files/components, and ii) Speed, as they are delivered on US networks. To work around this, you need to address these components separately. Namely, you'll need to:
i) Remove third-party resources and host them locally, and
ii) Use a Chinese CDN
This is largely impossible if you're on Squarespace, Wix, or Shopify. If you're a developer, on Wordpress, Drupal or Joomla, it may be possible to some degree but doing so with a large site is incredibly complex and raises the question of how you intend to update such a modified site on a regular basis.
For all the work and time involved, it's far simpler to just Chinafy your site.
Chinafying bolts onto your site as a Full China Compatibility and Speed solution, allowing you to build your site however you like, and host it wherever you like. It works as follows:
Chinafy Duplicates the Public instance of your site, sets up IP-based redirection and then modifies the Chinese version for the Chinese Visitor.
This ensures that your global site is untouched, unchanged, and completely independent of the China version.
This second step continually involves replacing Slow, or Blocked Components with onshore equivalents (where possible), using higher-level compression, and moving all assets onto a single domain to avoid not only multiple TCP/SSL handshakes, but slow networks.
Chinafy then automates the (Identification, Extraction and Replacement) process allowing any future modifications to the Global site to be addressed seamlessly. For example, if you were to add a blog post with a Youtube video, this page is automatically identified and addressed within minutes on the Chinese version.
The final step is to deliver all files on the new Chinese site down optimized Chinese networks.
Chinafying a site yourself typically takes 18-24 months to do, but with our subscription, it happens overnight, or in some cases - hours.
With all the optimisations in this process, most sites end up with near-native onshore performance loading within a 3-5 seconds. This is all without having to spend months applying for the ICP, not-to-mention, having to build out a system to now synchronize your global website, with your Chinese website.
Reach out to us at email@example.com and within 24 hours you'll receive some Chinafied pages to test with and instructions on how to complete the process.
Still thinking about hosting in China? Now, think Chinafy.