General Question

arturodiaz's avatar

How important is for web servers to be near your users?

Asked by arturodiaz (553 points ) November 12th, 2010

Hi, I am going to hire a hosting service on behalf of the my school’s magazine. We where using a local hosting service (we are in México) which has worked well but I am implementing several changes which I believe will start to strain the shared servers. Plus, we are getting more users every week. Right now I’m thinking in switching to Media Temple as I’ve used them and they offer a great service and have a much more developed infraestructure.

About 90% of our readers are mexican, and MT servers are probably in the US or somewhere more far. So my question is, how relevant latency becomes with web servers. Will we feel the difference or will it be just not noticeable .01 second difference?

Thanks :)

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8 Answers

HungryGuy's avatar

Makes absolutely no difference at all if your server is halfway around the world.

camertron's avatar

I’m going to have to disagree with @HungryGuy on that one – it absolutely makes a difference if the server is halfway around the world. In fact, professional hosting companies often give their clients the opportunity to specify which server farm they’d prefer their site be hosted on not only to ensure the company’s data is safe from natural disasters, etc but also so they can more speedily serve their clientele. For your magazine site, however, México is really quite close to any location in the United States (with the possible exception of Hawaii) which means you really won’t notice any difference in speed.

phoebusg's avatar

I’m liking @camertron ‘s answer more. It really depends on the website applications. If you have a lot of dynamic implementations, it may be better to have a server closer to the user. Given current network architectures, after light routers are implemented @HungryGuy ‘s answer will make more sense.

Right now the more hops between the end visitor and the server, the more latency and delays. Try playing with the tracert command or similar and servers around the world to get a hand’s on experience. You’ll get responses in milliseconds.

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

So, down to – simple site? Probably won’t feel a big difference. Highly complex with lots of dynamic elements CMS-based with AJAX , jQuery etc – you’ll feel some difference.

jrpowell's avatar

I use MediaTemple. I ran a traceroute on my site and the servers are in Southern California. Culver City to be exact.

poisonedantidote's avatar

I’m also going with it depends what the site or server is doing. If its just some guys blog with medium-low traffic, and its loading text and pictures, it really wont matter that much where it is. But if you are playing a fast pased mmorpg and a split second makes the difference between victory or respawning, then you want it to be close by.

It really only helps a little and makes little difference. It’s not like you can shave an hour off of much by having a closer server.

jerv's avatar

I believe that the number of hops required is more relevant than physical distance, especially if there is a satellite relay involved since satellites tend to kill your ping time. That said, I have reached pales in Jakarta directly with less latency than some servers less than 20 miles from my house, and when I lived in rural NH (where the telco infrastructure is hopelessly outdated) I couldn’t even ping my ISP server in less than 280ms, or about ten times what it takes me on my current ISP in Seattle.

arturodiaz's avatar

Thanks, is not a facebook-type heavily ajaxified website, but it is also not a very simple one. It runs on wordpress and has some ajax implementations, but not too much, connections here in mexico are not as fast as in other places so I have to keep the weight low, so no flash, or heavy images. Right now is about 150kb all in all.

I checked ping times, and for USA sites it gives an average of about 80–100ms for several american websites and 50ms for my current website. Is that a noticeable difference?

jerv's avatar

Well, for normal browsing I would say not. A difference of one-twentieth of a second, which is half the time it takes for a human to blink, isn’t really a big deal. It’s only when you are doing MMO FPS games where such a minor difference is truly noticeable.

When ping times go over 250ms then we get into the “might be an issue” territory, and when they get over a second (as mine often did when I was in NH) then there is definitely a problem.

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