Is Server Location still Important?


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Many people think that with the advent of cloud computing and the prevalence of mobile devices using cloud-hosted apps, that the physical location of computer servers is no longer particularly important.

However the location of servers relates directly to the actual service and speed of cloud-hosted apps and websites and even factors in how often they are available.

Here are a few factors to take under advisement when choosing server or data center location.

One of the advantages of using software hosted in the cloud rather than onsite is the idea that your data stays safe even if your building is affected by a natural disaster or other physical threat. This principle also holds true when it comes to the importance of server location. Servers are vulnerable to cyber-attacks from malicious hackers, but they are also at risk from the same tangible disasters that can impact a brick-and-mortar business or office–such as earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, fires and floods.

Of course, natural disasters can strike anywhere, but to safeguard the information stored through your cloud-computing applications, it’s best to choose a server location that is not located in an area prone to such disasters.

Similarly, servers located in politically or economically instable regions, such as the Middle East, might offer a financial advantage, but could also prove more prone to physical attack than those in countries that are not undergoing political turmoil.

Another reason to carefully consider the physical location of servers is that location can affect the speed at which the hosted websites load. This is particularly important when it comes to matters like local search or search on a mobile device.

Research shows that consumers will click away from a mobile website if its pages don’t load within three seconds–or less. Three seconds may not sound like a long time, but they can lead to a decline in sales conversions for the company. As much as we might like to think that the Internet has truly eradicated borders and physical constraints, the location of a data center does still factor into the efficiency of websites that are hosted there.

It may also help a website’s ranking on Google and other search engines if the server location to the geographical region served by that site. Using a server located in your home country is generally considered to affect search engine optimization, especially when it comes to local search. Even Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team, has gone on record as saying that relevant search results are determined in part by the IP address, which in turn is determined by the location of the server.

While the location of the server is one of the factors that can help increase the Google pagerank or other search engine ranking of a particular website, however, it’s probably not going to make or break that site’s SEO goals, so server location is something to bear in mind when in addition to other search engine optimization.

The average user of a computer or a cloud-computing application–say, the small business owner who may use software-as-a-service, the consumer who relies on eCommerce portals to purchase household items, or the 20-something who enjoys documenting his exploits via Facebook and Instagram–probably need not give too much thought to the debate over server location. Instead, it’s higher-level web admins and owners of multiple domains who could benefit from investigating the importance of server location vis-a-vis stability, security, website speed, and SEO.

Richard Larson is blogger and Brand Manager for He enjoys sharing online business and marketing tips and ideas.

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