About 4 weeks ago, we moved Techzim from our local web host to South Africa. The moving process wasn’t painless. It lasted some 4 days and we faced a lot of non-technical hitches that come with moving a .co.zw domain from Zimbabwe.
Moving was not an easy decision to make. Techzim reports on ICT developments in Zimbabwe and we love and try to push for Zim tech entrepreneurship. We believe there’s a lot of capacity in Zimbabwe lying idle, especially in the people. So for us to offshore our hosting and claim to be in support of Zim tech companies would make us hypocrites.
Moving was also not easy because hosting a site for Zimbabweans in Zimbabwe results in a very fast loading site. To understand what I mean, try accessing the classifieds.co.zw. It’s lightning fast, and the current SA hosted Techzim pales in comparison, speed-wise. So there’s the speed to compromise.
Despite the compelling reasons to keep the site within our borders, we moved. Here’s why:
- Zim hosting is expensive. Talking about Zim hosted sites here, not ‘Zim hosts’ justs reselling a UK or US hosting service. Shop around and you’ll see what I mean.
- There’s this strange thing that happens sometimes with local ISPs where when you’re using a certain ISP’s internet service, you can’t get to sites hosted by a different local ISP. We experienced this like 5 times in a single year: we would complain that our site was down, and our host would say something like, “look, your site is up, must be something with your ISP”. And we would call up our ISP to tell them “we can access the Internet but we can’t get through to ABC hosted websites!” They’d do the typical, “It’s viruses on your end” thing that ISPs do when they can’t pinpoint the problem. Eventually they would admit and fix the problem. We were never told what this thing is but those amoung you working for ISPs probably know I mean.
- If your site is purely hosted in Zimbabwe, international visitors will find your site extremely slow. So slow downloading a 0.6MB file will fail. This is because of Zim’s low International bandwidth capacity. There’s a huge population of Zimbabweans living outside Zimbabwe so this is a big deal.
- Assuming your web host arranges mirroring (like they did for us) where your local site has a mirror in, say the US, the mirrors will often go out of sync when you update the local mirror and find that Zim’s International link is broken. Now assuming you’ve shared your latest update on Twitter, Digg and Facebook, your international visitors will think you’re crazy sharing a link that doesn’t exist. This happened to us a lot of times.
- Again, assuming the host sets up this mirrored configuration, they sometimes (in our case they did) restrict granular access to the site. No direct database access, no FTP access, no control panel access to your hosting service etc… If you’re a web developer, this can slow you down significantly. To picture this, imagine having to email your web host any file you need uploaded to your site, and if you make any changes at night, having to wait for when business opens to contact them. Or worse, if it’s a big file you can’t send as an attachment, you’d have to drive to their offices to deliver it on flash drive.
- For us the last straw was when the international site was down for a couple of days and at the same time some reader comments disappeared from the local site (some of those comments never recovered).
The new hosting is not the fastest in the world. In fact the site has noticeably added some significant load time for Zimbabwean visitors. It’s also just been 4 weeks, hardly enough time to say this particular host will be any better.
Just 2 weeks after moving, we were told by our new hosts Techzim had too much traffic (and therefore expensive) to host in SA so we had the option to either move it to the US or start paying more, a lot more.
We’re always checking local hosts to see if there’s anything available to consider. When the situation improves here we will not waste a second bringing Techzim back home. And with all the fibre talk going on, that might be very soon.
If you have experience hosting sites in Zimbabwe or went through something similar, or offer hosting locally, we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
image via http://lh3.ggpht.com
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