Many of our clients ask us if it's better to use Uganda hosting providers or the ones overseas.
We are always for supporting the local market however, I will approach this article from a technical standpoint, not a sentimental one. At the end of it, I hope to empower you to make an informed decision.
Why the choice of hosting is an important marketing decision.
Great hosting has to meet 4 criteria: Great speed, support, pricing, and uptime. A bad hosting infrastructure could make for poor user experience, loss of revenue, clients and potential leads.
We'll start by looking at how hosting affects website speed, effects of having a slow website and how Ugandan hosting fares.
Speed is a key factor in determining a great hosting company.
Page load time not only affects how your site ranks on google, but slower sites tend to have a higher bounce rate. "Bounce rate" is the percentage of visitors who visit only one page on the site and leave.
When dealing with eCommerce sites, a high bounce rate means site visitors are not converting, and page speed oftentimes is part of the problem.
As page load time goes from 1s to 3s the probability of bounce increases 32%
1s to 5s the probability of bounce increases 90%
1s to 6s the probability of bounce increases 106%
1s to 10s the probability of bounce increases 123%Source: Google/SOASTA Research, 2017.
How hosting affects page speed.
To understand how hosting affects page speed, one must know how page speed is measured.
Google uses the page metrics below to determine if a website is slow
Time to First Byte
This measures the time between the user's page request to when the browser receives its first byte of information.
This is the most important factor Google considers in determining a website's speed. As a result, a big "Time To First Byte" measurement could seriously affect your ranking in search results.
Google page speed tools showing the page loading process.
If you have a slow "Time To First Byte", the issue could be from your hosting provider.
There are other factors that can affect this metric e.g quality of code used to build your website. Therefore, we advise you to contact experts to help you investigate this issue before you blame it on hosting.
This is the time it takes for the site to display the first visuals. When a page starts rendering, the user gets to know that something is going on otherwise they could assume something is amiss!
This is when all the visual elements have rendered or can be seen by the user. This, however, does not mean the site has finished loading. There are other resources that are nonvisual that are still loading.
Once all the visual is displayed and background loading processes are done as well, the server sends a signal to indicate that the loading process is done.
This is usually considered the most accurate measure of load time, but not the most important as I pointed out earlier.
Page Complete happens when the browser stops receiving information for up to two seconds, its assumed loading is done.
All the above speed metrics have a direct relationship with the resources your server affords you.
Are websites hosted in Uganda slower than those hosted in the developed world?
Many Ugandans believe that local hosting providers are likely to provide inferior services. This negative stereotype could be due to their less glamourous landing pages.
In truth, most Ugandan hosting providers are hosting resellers. This means they don't manage the hosting infrastructure themselves. In most cases, these resellers host your website with the big players in the western world.
A site hosted by local servers should outperform that hosted overseas if the servers have the same specifications. The reason for this is data transfer happens over shorter distances.
A website hosted on a local server would mean shorter "Time To First Byte" and "Document Load" time. One must be mindful of the server infrastructure. The gains got from local hosting speed could be negated by poor infrastructure.
Therefore, your focus when you decide to host in Uganda should be on infrastructure specifications.
What to look out for in server infrastructure when hosting in Uganda.
A server is a computer that specializes in providing information or data to internet users. What determines how fast a household computer is similar to what determines the server speed.
Web Server Software Type
There are different types of software servers run on. Knowing the best type for the kind of applications your website will be running should help you make a choice.
Central Processing Unit (CPU)
Just like a household computer, the more CPUs a server has, the faster it will perform. If your website runs complex processes and queries, this is something you should be keen on.
Some CMS's like WordPress crawl to a halt when you have many plugins active. This is because there are a lot more processes taking place per request. If your server CPU's don't provide enough processing capacity, you will suffer slow speeds.
RAM is server storage that is easier to access or read than the hard drive memory. Just like humans access their short term memory easier, so do computers. RAM is like the short term memory of a server. The bigger the memory, the faster it fetches the information.
This is one of the aspects that will directly affect the user experience. Bandwidth is the rate at which the server can transfer data to the users who request for it. If your server bandwidth is low, a high number of concurrent users will make it crawl to a halt.
If the local servers meet your minimum requirements, then you should have an upper hand over over-sea hosting.
It should be noted that the advantage of hosting in Uganda is most relevant when your core users are local. If you have a global audience, then you should consider a provider who has servers spread over continents.
What to do if you are hosting in Uganda with clients outside the country.
If your webserver is in Uganda and you would like to serve clients in other countries, consider using CDN services.
A Content Delivery Network is a group of proxy servers that are distributed over many regions to allow faster content delivery. CDN services are inexpensive and are a great way to improve page load speeds as well.
Other factors that should influence your decision to host in Uganda.
- Support level: Big hosting companies often provide 24hr support services. Part of the support includes monitoring the servers at all times. If your servers are in-house, be sure to have ready to work engineers every time the server is down. If you are using a local hosting company, then they should be available 24hrs to match the bigger players.
- Uptime: Your local hosting provider should be able to guarantee at least 99% uptime. There is nothing more frustrating than finding your site down every other day.
- Reviews: Before choosing the local hosting provider, get some reviews from people who have used the same service.
Now you have all the information you need to make an informed decision when choosing a hosting provider.
If in doubt or need someone to hold your hand through this decision, don't hesitate to contact us. We'll be happy to extend our extensive experience in this field.
Ayebare is the Chief Digital Strategists and co-founder Campaign.
He has more than 10 years of experience in the digital field.
He has worked with several fortune 500 companies worldwide in various Engineering and Website strategy disciplines.