Choosing the Ideal Server Location & Does It Even Matter?

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Ready to deploy a new server but unsure how to choose the ideal server location?

Server providers like Digital Ocean, UpCloud, Linode, and AWS have made it incredibly easy to deploy a server virtually anywhere, so you can pick the ideal server location.

But how should you choose your server locations? And how do professional SysAdmins choose the locations for their servers?

Why Does Server Location Matter?

The server that hosts your website can be physically situated at one of the thousands of available locations in different data centers across the globe (depending on your server provider of choice).

When you load up a website, a signal is sent from your computer to the server, and then onto the destination. If the server is far away, it’s going to take longer for that connection to happen.

Therefore, the location of your host server can play a crucial role when it comes to your website’s load speed, and by extension, its SEO.

One study conducted by KISSmetrics claims that 47% of internet users expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less. This percentage is even bigger among mobile users, who make up over 50% of Google’s users. Hardly surprising given the attention span of people today.

Google has indicated that site load speed is one of their algorithm’s main signals to rank pages. So, having visitors leave your page before it is even fully loaded is bad for SEO and results in lower conversion rates – drastically decreasing your business’ earning potential.

cables connected to a server

What Is Network Latency & TTFB?

Before choosing your ideal server location, there are various other factors that play an important role in selecting your ideal server location. Two of these factors are network latency and TTFB. 

What Is Network Latency?

Network Latency is the time taken by the site visitor to connect to a web server, their request to be processed and the server to begin sending data. It is measured in milliseconds. Network latency is affected by several factors, including:

Round trips: It is the journey taken by an object request (script files, HTML files, etc) to your web server and back to the user. Round trip is generally affected by the distance between the web server and user along with the number of intermediary points through which the connection travels.

Server performance: The correlation between server performance metrics — including server speed, available RAM, the hardware used and site latency.

Any small change in the latency can have some effect on the page load time and user experience. This becomes more important for eCommerce websites where high latency can improve the speed and user experience of the website. 

Measuring Latency through TTFB

Time to First Byte (TTFB) is the time taken by the user’s browser to begin loading a webpage after your server reaches an initial request. TTFB can be affected by three main factors:

  • The total amount of time it takes for your request to reach the network through the server.
  • The total amount of time it takes for the server to process the request and generate the response.
  • The total amount of time it takes for the response to propagate back to the web browser.

There are two ways to measure TTFB:

Actual TTFB: The total time it takes for the web browser to receive the first byte of data from a server. Network speed and connectivity can affect actual TTFB. 

Perceived TTFB: The time taken by the user to notice that the page has started to load. It is important UX and SEO metrics and is mostly influenced by the time it takes for an HTML file to parse.

Choosing Your Ideal Server Location

Choosing the ideal server location is sure not a child’s play. First, let’s see how others choose server locations. 

How Do People Server Location?

When was the last time you put some thought into where your server is? We ran a survey among RunCloud customers and here’s what they had to say:

  • 66.7% chose a server in proximity to their own customers;
  • 11.8% chose a server that’s physically close to themselves;
  • 3.9% didn’t really consider the location of their servers;
  • 17.6% said they are global and use CDNs.
Runcloud Survey on choosing ideal server location
Screenshot of our Twitter poll
facebook poll - ideal server location
Screenshot of our Facebook poll

So, what should you have in mind when choosing the ideal location for your server?

How To Choose Your Server Location?

Around 66.7% of the people in the above surveys preferred to choose the server location closest to the majority of the site’s audience. While choosing the ideal server location you should consider the important factor surrounding where your server should be located. For most people locating their server near to the majority of their users is the first choice. Perhaps, you should consider that while making your choice.

How To Reduce Latency?

There are different steps you can take at different points across the network to improve network latency. Like, making sure that the people on your network aren’t increasing your latency with lots of downloads or using up all the bandwidth. Also, check out the application performance to make sure that no applications are acting up in weird ways and putting pressure on the network. You can also subnet by grouping together endpoints that communicate frequently with each other. Using traffic shaping and bandwidth allocation measures also helps to reduce network latency. 

Use A Content Delivery Network To Reduce Latency:

One way to reduce your website latency is to use CDNs, thus improving your overall website’s performance and UX. Website latency can be reduced by any one of the following methods:

Content caching: CDNs cache and compress mirror versions of the web pages are stored in strategically placed data centres. Later, content is delivered to your users based on their geolocation, thus reducing round trip times and latency. 

Connection optimization: CDNs can optimize connections between users and origin servers through session reuse, network peering and TCP pre-pooling. Premium CDNs speed up the communication process further by routing traffic through a tier 1 network backbone that has the least amount of hops. 

Along with reducing latency, CDNs can also improve your site’s page load times through front-end optimization like image optimization, minification and file compression.

Which Server Location Is Right for You?

Price plays a large part when choosing a server, especially when you’re on a budget. Or, you may be tempted to get a server close to your location.

However, investing in a server that’s close to the majority of your site’s visitors can be a real game-changer, especially if you’re running an online business. After all, how fast your end-users can access the site, find an item, and make a purchase, is what can make or break its success.

How the Server’s End-User Proximity Affects Your Website’s Success

If your target audience resides in a particular area or country, then it makes sense to host your website on a server as near to them as possible. Right?

Having it hosted further away can be a serious obstacle, as the geographical distance between your server and your site’s end-users can exponentially increase the time it takes for them to access the website. This can lead to your site loading slower for its users, and, as a consequence, you could be losing visitors and conversions.

With that in mind, we recommend you consider the server’s proximity to your clients and site visitors as a priority when choosing your ideal server location.

Using a CDN to Change Your Server Location

What happens if your hosting provider doesn’t let you change your server’s location?

In this case, you have a couple of options:

  • Change hosting provider
  • Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)

It can be a hassle to switch web hosting, so using a CDN like Cloudflare can be an easy workaround.

A CDN is a collection of servers placed in strategic geographical locations, acting as a network for caching internet content.

A cached version of your site is stored at each location, so when someone tries to visit your website they’ll be connected to the nearest server on the CDN instead of having to go directly to yours.

Using one can significantly shorten load time by increasing the delivery speed of your site’s data that’s cached on the CDN. This is not the same as web hosting, however, since the CDN is used only for caching your site’s data to improve its delivery speed, not hosting it.

Ideally, you want to combine well-placed servers with a good CDN to get the fastest load speed for your site. There are also many CDN providers to choose from ― Cloudflare, Imperva, StackPath, and Sucuri, to name just a few.

Cloudflare is by far the biggest and most popular solution, and integrates seamlessly with RunCloud, making it easier than ever to manage your servers and moving them to your most ideal server location.

ideal server location

In Summary – Choosing Your Ideal Server Location

Choosing the ideal server location plays a crucial role in its success.

If you can afford it, host your website on servers as close to your target audience as possible. This will lead to more conversions, fewer visitors abandoning your site, and better SEO.

Secondly, getting a good CDN will also improve your site’s load speed significantly. CDNs cache your site’s content on a group of servers in important geographic locations, so that your site can be accessed much faster even if the server it’s hosted on is far away from the site’s visitor.

Lastly, if you’re looking for a way to easily manage your websites, servers, and connections in one intuitive dashboard, you’ll love working with RunCloud.

Hundreds of agency owners, business owners as well as experienced developers rely on RunCloud to build, deploy and operate their servers so they can focus on growing their business. Freedom to host servers with your server provider of choice, giving you full control of server location while managing them all in one centralized dashboard – RunCloud.

Get started with RunCloud today.

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