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I'm considering hosting a webapp to be used in northern Europe, but my current hosting provider is USA-based. I'm looking at about 17 hops from my machine to the hosting provider, and I'm concerned this will slow the webapp down.

I've noticed that my hosted wiki is running a lot slower than a clone on my LAN. It's reasonable enough that LAN != Internet, but how I'm wondering whether the hosting location makes any significant difference? For a webapp (not a static site), should I pick a local hosting provider to ensure a short response time, or won't it matter at all?

This is a very small webapp with few users, so it's not a performance problem in terms of user load. I just want to ensure shortest possible response time.

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4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted

By speed I assume you are talking about network latency and not server capacity (which will affect perceived speed but is not dependent on location) or bandwidth (which can affect perceived speed, but is unlikely to do so unless your site is heavy on multimedia content).

Typical cross Atlantic round trip will take about 80-100 milliseconds (or about 0.1 seconds). Moving the server to Europe would therefore have a maximum gain of about 0.1 second (more likely 0.05 seconds). So to answer your question, you need to consider if that is a valuable gain. Does the responsiveness of your site benefit from saving 50 msec?

To answer that you could consult this AlertBox article about Website Response Times.

To quote the most salient part:

  • 0.1 seconds gives the feeling of instantaneous response — that is, the outcome feels like it was caused by the user, not the computer. This level of responsiveness is essential to support the feeling of direct manipulation (direct manipulation is one of the key GUI techniques to increase user engagement and control — for more about it, see our Principles of Interface Design seminar).
  • 1 second keeps the user's flow of thought seamless. Users can sense a delay, and thus know the computer is generating the outcome, but they still feel in control of the overall experience and that they're moving freely rather than waiting on the computer. This degree of responsiveness is needed for good navigation.

Basically, while navigating from one page to another you need to keep the response time down to about a second (seamless experience). A difference of 0.05 seconds is unlikely to matter. Far greater gains are to be made in optimizing the rendering of the page.

However, if your site relies on a lot of AJAX-y dynamic effects that require a round trip to the server, then you need to start thinking in terms of 0.1 seconds (instantaneous response). In that scenario, saving 0.05 seconds can make a world of difference.

See also this AlertBox article Powers of 10: Time Scales in User Experience for more on the subject.

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I've just tested rtt between our company network in Germany and 3 servers in the US (speedtest.net), and the ping-times were between 120-190 ms. Compared to 30ms to a server in the UK. So if you start many connections on pageloads, or have many AJAX requests, then hosting in Europe, will be much better for your users. –  bdadam Nov 16 '10 at 8:12
    
In practice this answer is not strictly true. A ping has a very small payload so you are measuring the effects of latency without taking bandwidth into account. Our servers are monitored around the world and EU <> US adds 100 to 300ms. Still not a massive difference but significantly more than the roundtrip of a ping. Also location can also cause differences in search results and caching strategies that have a far larger effect. –  JamesRyan Feb 26 '13 at 13:02
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I would, while the difference will be small it all makes a difference. Users might be more confident that their data is stored in their own country. There are different laws governing data privacy and European Countries tend to be more protective...

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Short answer, yes. The less distance data has to travel, the faster it will get there. Using a CDN would be the easiest way to deliver your data worldwide in a quick fashion, because the CDN will determine which of their servers to use to deliver data the fastest.

That said, if it's a small project and you don't want to invest time/money in a CDN, I'd seriously consider moving your hosting to your country, just because I can't fathom how much longer it takes data across the ocean.

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The minimum roundtrip time from Europe to US is 56ms. Realistically, it's about 90ms. –  Lèse majesté Nov 15 '10 at 19:04
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YES IT DOES!

By moving your site/webapp to UE, whoever will visit it from UE will feel definitaly a noticable speed increase.

If it's the 1st time you are changing a webhosting let me simply advise you to think if it's worth the effort. Changing hosting is always a pain.

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