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I'm having trouble coming to a conclusion to my answer.

I'm in charge of the development of a potentially large site for Australia. The task now is choosing a server. We will need a a powerful server to cater for the system being built with all its features.

Personally I've have had better experience with hosts outside of Australia. Also the cost of services in Australia is considerably higher that other parts of the world.

Hence my questions is does the distance form a server to a client machine really matter when serving a website? From what I had read it does not make a huge impact.

Considering that we would need 24 hours support we could host anywhere. Also by sourcing externally from Australia we can get more for our money. Hence afford a server of increased power.

The site will run on a .com.au so it will need to point to that domain. Do we need to host in Australia?

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up vote 29 down vote accepted

Yes, it does matter. We run a .com.au SaaS application, and latency is quite important. It is physically impossible to get information from the United States to Australia in under 200ms, but we have a typical latency of 20-50ms from our datacenter in North Sydney to most of the east coast on Australia.

Yes, it's expensive to lease servers and datacenter space in Australia - but it's also worth it. I strongly suggest building these costs into your business plan. Even if you start small with AWS's new Sydney datacenter, and then scale out to your own co-located hardware later on, your heaviest customers will thank you.

(actually, no, they won't thank you, they will bitch and moan about everything, having no idea that you've cut latency by 150ms, but it would be worse if your server was elsewhere).

As a caveat though, it does matter what you're doing. If this is a blog, or even something like Server Fault, it's not a big deal. We're used to the internet being slow here anyway (have you used the internet in the US? Page loads are not even in the same ballpark as here). So if you're doing SaaS or something with a lot of synchronous calls, or sending/receiving lots of small pieces of data (like polling for status updates) then it's a fairly big deal. And if you're running a terminal server or something in real-time then it's a huge deal.

But if you're mostly running non-realtime things, then it might not be such a big deal for you. Best thing to do would be to try it - set it up on two servers, one here and one in the US, and give the two sites to the same person. Don't tell them anything about the change in location, and ask them to tell you if one feels more responsive than the other. Repeat that a few times and you'll have your conclusion.

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Ok cool. Based on what you said looks Aus may be the way to go. It is a SaaS system. It does contain ajax calls running but nothing that run consistently. However this could happen. I spose I should have mentioned that is needs to run reasonable on a mobile. Much time has been spent optimizing the responsive design for mobile. So mobile speed is a factor. So if money cannot improve the Latency then it would not matter how powerful the server is. What is AWS like? And servers you can suggest that a reliable and know what they are doing. –  Shane Dec 4 '13 at 2:38
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I've never used AWS for anything except poking around, so I can't really comment on them to be honest. We run our own hardware stack and co-locate it in a private datacenter. There aren't many DC's to choose from here really. I don't know where you're located but in Sydney there's Equinix and Globalswitch but they only lease to major players. Anyone else offering colocation is most likely inside one of those two facilities, and just manage the networking uplink infrastructure for you. There's also Maquarie Telecom, and Anchor. –  Mark Henderson Dec 4 '13 at 2:47
    
serverfault.com/users/1375/womble from Arrow used to hang out here and really knows his shit, although I haven't seen him around in a long time. –  Mark Henderson Dec 4 '13 at 2:48
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If there's a desire to host something on US territory but with a decent latency to Oz, Guam may be an option (there are few hosting providers and a single hop fat pipe to Sidney there). –  oakad Dec 4 '13 at 7:05
    
I'm in the united states and I've successfully hosted websites in europe. Getting a host for a month isn't that costly, so I would recommend you just try it. –  user606723 Dec 4 '13 at 15:06
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I don't know what kind of content you will serve but it may also worth looking at CDN services like Akamai that will help you improve speed and traffic to your server.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akamai_Technologies

http://www.akamai.com/

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