After years of offering internet services in China a lot of our customers consider us experts on Chinese internet. I’ve observed that on top of our typical IT consulting, that we’ve frequently been called on by firms as their consultant for all things internet in China.
In China the first thing people think of is regulations and rules and it often sounds more scary than it is or has to be. Some firms have needlessly neglected the Chinese market over rules that may not even apply to their usage or simply over the concern of seeking an ICP license for hosting purposes (which is not all that hard if you have a presence in China). Don’t get me wrong, like any country there are regulations to be followed and understood, but most of these are well-documented knowns.
The biggest challenge aside from the known regulatory issues in China is finding quality and reliable bandwidth, both locally (for within China) and overseas (outside China). We get a lot of clients switching to us in China because they say our bandwidth is the fastest and most reliable.
A lot of people believe that a certain city or location guarantees their service will be slower or faster, but this is certainly not true whether you are on China Unicom or China Telecom. There are some things I will agree with, however, which is that Telecom seems to have overall lower ping to most parts of the world. But ping in China still does not guarantee better speeds for many different reasons and some circuits with higher ping have constantly outperformed to certain parts of the world.
There are many reasons why people have problems with the internet in China and I strongly believe one of the biggest factors is simply congestion. Even in many parts of North America users can attest that the internet has been slow for them at some point over the years and it becomes obvious during summer months there is more usage.
Now imagine the same thing in China only with a population of nearly 1.4 billion people (2015) compared to all of North America’s 533million. There is a high population density on most major centers of China and this is why home and office speeds have not been as fast as some other countries in Asia.
This is where I would always advise anyone who says “we want our servers only in Beijing and Shanghai” to think again. You are going to be dealing with a lot of internet congestion at the local level, more firewall issues and the chance of disaster impacting major metropolitan areas is much higher.
Our course has been different from the start, we avoid congested city centers and find less used fiber and provision our circuits on that basis. But it’s still not enough to rely on a certain area or even city. We’ve tested dozens of circuits in some areas and found that at best a handful will have good speeds and many will still only be good within China.
To find the right mix it takes a lot of time, testing and travel in China and is why we’ve been so successful in helping our clients get ahead in China.
Internet in China is a constantly evolving and complex subject to say the least, and what may have been true days, or weeks ago may not be true anymore. I always advise people that unless you have contacts in all parts of China and are willing to travel you absolutely must find a provider in China that is not restricted to a single area and is familiar with the networks strengths and weaknesses in all areas.
And last but not least, it’s about having the contacts to try and improve routing issues as 9/10 providers in China are not able or willing to respond to network issues on the backbone.
For those who are very serious about China they will often obtain servers with us on multiple Telecom and Unicom circuits in various areas of China. This has consistently been a winning tactic for our clients for a long time. The reason most clients want servers on China Telecom and China Unicom is simply not only for redundancy but for better connectivity as often the two providers have issues communicating.
I still feel it is not as entirely bad as some have expressed but it depends on the area. As far as the backbone goes, usually as long as the Telecom and Unicom server are separated by a great distance things are less problematic. But of course the issue is that consumer grade Telecom and Unicom is far different and is where the issues really come into play and necessitate the need for both providers, at least if serving the local market in China.
The above is really just some things we have seen in a nutshell but there is enough that goes on that would be enough to write a whole book on.