Offshore hosting is extremely popular amongst businesses who encounter limitations due to their jurisdiction.
What You'll Learn
Site owners pursue offshore hosting most commonly because they're seeking freedom from government intrusion.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of offshore hosting? What factors do you need to consider to choose a host? How can you find a quality offshore host?
I’ll share top cautions about offshore hosting. And you'll get my personal recommendations on top offshore hosts.
What Is Offshore Hosting?
Offshore web hosting is the practice of hosting a website on servers located outside one's own country. Usually, this is done to gain specific benefits.
Technically, anytime you host a website on foreign servers you are engaging in offshore hosting. However, the term implies doing so deliberately to achieve some specific goal, usually related to privacy, security, free speech, or freedom.
Saving Money by Globalization
People have been offshoring and outsourcing forever. A major feature of the contemporary economy is the reality of globalization.
If it is cheaper to make t-shirts in one country than in another, you can be sure there are a huge number of people moving their t-shirt making operations there. It's just a fact of life.
Government Interest in Business Activities
Another fact of life is government interest in pretty much every activity of human life. Business and communication are at the top of their list.
Through regulations, taxes, censorship, and criminalization, governments of all countries make it difficult (or, at least, less profitable) to engage in certain types of businesses or say certain types of things.
Advantages of Anonymity and Offshore Hosting
More and more businesses are embracing globalization, in order to ease their daily practices - understandably. Moving a business abroad, or at least hosting abroad is a big decision.
Let's take a look at the overall advantages and disadvantages of anonymous and offshore hosting:
Businesses move manufacturing from one country to another in order to reduce production costs. Web hosting is a little different, though. Businesses and individuals often move their servers from one country to another in order to take reduce legal risk.
5 Reasons to Use Offshore Web Hosting
Most offshore hosting needs fall into one of a handful of categories. Some businesses require one, others require all perks. Depending on the nature of the business, individual needs do vary. These are:
- Freedom of Speech
- Freedom of Press
- Avoiding Local Regulations
- Taxes and Legal Residency
- Anonymous Services
Let's explore these reasons for hosting offshore.
Freedom of Speech
If you are going to host controversial content of any sort, there is a risk. There is a possibility you will run afoul of some law, regulation, or cultural norm. The risk of punishment in the form of jail time, fines, and lawsuits, isn't your only worry.
It is usually the case that offended authorities would seek to remove your content from public consumption. By serving your content from a country with robust protection of freedom of speech, you are more likely to be able to avoid having your content forcibly taken down.
Freedom of the Press
A good example of this is the site WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks releases classified government documents to the general public. If they were hosted in the United States, or in most other countries, the US Government would have shut them down by now.
However, their hosting servers are in Sweden, a country which has an extremely solid protection of the freedom of the press. The Swedish government cannot legally compel WikiLeaks to divulge their sources. They cannot forcefully take their site down either.
Bitcoin - the currency of geeks, futurists, libertarians, and outlaws - can be used to pay for offshore web hosting.
Avoiding Local Regulations
In the US, selling certain pharmaceuticals directly to consumers without a prescription is illegal. In many Asian countries, online gambling is strictly prohibited. A wide number of jurisdictions have regulations concerning pornography.
Choosing the Right Jurisdiction
In these cases, the best option (other than not engaging in those activities) is to host your website somewhere where those types of businesses are not illegal or where the regulations and penalties are not as strict.
What is interesting about this is the cross-pollination of offshore business hosting. People in the US often set up their gray-market pharmaceutical sites in Asia, and Asian entrepreneurs host online casino sites in the US.
Taxes and Legal Residency
The actual legal ramifications of this are far outside the scope of our expertise, so we'll steer clear of specific examples. However, it seems that some people use offshore hosting to establish a legal business presence for tax advantages, or other benefits.
To name a few, popular offshore hosting locations for Tax Benefits include:
- The Netherlands
- The Isle of Man
- The Cayman Islands
There are much more to name, however, the above is part of some of the most popular tax havens to date.
Some offshore hosting companies provide completely anonymous service, requiring no identifying information be provided by the customer. Payment is made through Bitcoin or cash, and communication is handled strictly through an anonymous e-mail account.
Find The Best Offshore Hosting For You
Problems With Offshore Hosting Strategies
While moving hosting to a country where the content or business activity is legal is helpful, it doesn't always provide complete protection from regulation.
Being Aware of Local Laws
Take your time to look up any locations you may be interested in.
Let's say for example I want to set up a gambling site, and I live somewhere running a casino is illegal. I could host my online casino site somewhere else, like the Isle of Man, where doing that is legal.
I'm still running the site while sitting in my house, I may still be breaking my local law. By all means, if you are considering offshore hosting, be extremely cautious.
5 things to watch out for when selecting an offshore host:
- Knowing Location Restrictions - just because you are registered or hosting abroad, doesn't mean you are not breaking the law;
- Research - Do your homework on your host's location prior to committing;
- Industry Check - Various industries may have internal laws which prevent you from carrying out your planned business process;
- Privacy - Many hosting providers claim 'anonymity', ensure it is legitimate anonymity and not a marketing tactic;
- Payment - Fiat currencies can be tracked, some cryptocurrencies are a great way to pay for hosting when you're attempting to stay under the radar.
Knowing Location Restrictions
Just because you are registered or hosting abroad, doesn't mean you are not breaking the law. There are of-course loopholes to be found, but you can still be incriminated.
Do your homework on your host's location prior to committing. Most jurisdictions are entirely different, both in the structure of law and tolerance. Spend some time researching your selected offshore locations.
Similarly to exclusive jurisdiction laws, various industries have their sets of rules to be followed. Internal laws can prevent you from carrying out your planned business processes.
Many hosting providers claim features and benefits of 'anonymity'. Ensure it is legitimate and not a marketing tactic. Should you be required to provide your usual details, it's unlikely to be real anonymity.
This is a Bitcoin transaction block. While traceable, it's incredibly difficult, aiding anonymity.
Fiat currencies can be tracked. Cryptocurrencies are a great way to pay for hosting when you're attempting to stay under the radar.
The main reason people engage in offshore hosting — seeking freedom from government intrusion — is the root of the danger.
Governments that want to intrude on your activity will usually figure out a way to do it, and offshoring is no guarantee that you will be safe.
Here's What Your Offshore Hosting Needs To Offer
Not all countries have the same laws and regulations. As a result, website owners sometime want to host their sites in a different country than they are located. There are many reasons that you might want to offshore your web hosting. Whether the reason is freedom of speech or something else, it can be helpful to offshore. If you need offshore hosting, we recommend DataKL.
3 Best Offshore Hosts - My Winners
There are 3 offshore website hosting companies that I would pick as the best offshore web hosting options.
Koddos is specializes in DDoS protection, but also offers offshore hosting.
Koddos is a hosting provider that specializes in DDOS protection and offshore hosting. They are one of the few offshore hosts that has a reseller host package, as well as shared and dedicated servers.
The prices are reasonable and offer great value, considering you get 24/7 support, and all servers have at least 1 Gbps connections. Primary servers are located in the Netherlands, but they also have specific plans for Hong Kong offshore hosting.
Shinjiru is a good example of a transparent offshore host, disclosing all server locations.
Another well known offshore host company is Shinjiru. You can choose from shared servers, VPS, and dedicated servers, most of which offer unmetered bandwidth. Shinjiru has an impressive 99.99% uptime guarantee, as well as 24/7 live support.
Private domain registration for the most common offshore extensions is available through Shinjiru. They have 8 total offshore locations, offshore email, and accept Bitcoin for maximum anonymity.
Bitcoin Web Hosting
Finally, Bitcoin Web Hosting is a leading web host service if you’re primarily interested in hosts that accept Bitcoin (other options available as well) for your e-commerce business.
You get to pick your host server, with the options of U.S., Europe, or offshore servers. Bitcoin Web Hosting also comes with 24/7 support and is DMCA and Patriot Act safe. You get a standard cPanel that supports all the main CMSs, all with a 45-day money back guarantee.
Points to Remember About Offshore Hosting
Aside from payment (usually per month or per year), and data center selection, an offshore host plan works the same as a normal hosting plan.
Typically, you can choose from a variety of services, depending on your resource needs. The most common types include:
- Shared server
- Virtual private server (VPS)
- Dedicated server
Shared servers are the cheapest, but a VPS gets you more resources. Dedicated servers are even more expensive than a VPS, but have the highest performance.
Offshore Hosting Frequently Asked Questions
What is offshore hosting?
Offshore hosting involves using servers outside your home country to host your website. For example, if you are located in the United States and you use a hosting company with servers exclusively in Asia, this would be an example of offshore hosting.
In terms of service, is there any difference between onshore and offshore hosting?
Most hosting companies, regardless of where their servers are located, offer many of the same basic services including shared, VPS, and dedicated servers. This is also applicable to both onshore and offshore hosting.
In terms of pricing, how does offshore hosting compare with onshore hosting?
The cost of offshore and onshore hosting depends on features and server locations.
In some cases, the price of offshore plans may be cheaper than or similar to onshore plans depending on where the servers are located.
For example, plans with servers in Asia may be cheaper than plans with servers in Canada.
Also, more specialized offshore hosting companies, particularly those advertising enhanced privacy or anonymity, may be much more expensive compared to onshore hosting companies.
Currency exchange rates can also make offshore hosting more or less expensive.
- What are some examples of companies that provide offshore hosting?
Can I get unlimited features with offshore hosting plans?
Yes, just like onshore plans, offshore hosting companies have plans that include unlimited features including disk space, bandwidth, and domains.
Keep in mind, though, that the features may not be truly unlimited and subject to certain restrictions just like with onshore hosting plans.
With offshore hosting, am I able to select a particular region where my servers will be hosted?
There are many options when considering offshore hosting companies.
Some companies allow the customer to select a server location when selecting a plan whether the plan is a shared, VPS, or dedicated server plan.
Other hosting companies don't give the option to choose a server location but state where their servers are located.
Are there examples where offshore hosting has provided help in terms of securing freedom of the press or speech?
A famous example involving offshore hosting and freedom of the press is Wikileaks. The Wikileaks organization has used an offshore host located in Sweden which has strong laws supporting freedom of the press.
Can I be completely anonymous with offshore hosting?
Though anonymity cannot be completely guaranteed, many services come as close as possible to it.
For example, there are a few hosting companies that promise anonymity by collecting payments in cash or bitcoin, having no requirements to submit identifying information, and communicating through anonymous email.