China being one of the top economies in the world, huge number of business entities are focusing to expand their services in China. Since websites are the face of the organization, it is highly crucial to have the websites perform better across different intended geographies for better user experience, but performance is a huge concern for websites in China when hosted outside of the country. While adding Content Delivery Network (CDN) usually improves the performance for different countries which are farther from the hosting servers, CDN setup process works little different for China.
There are a couple of major issues that make up to the slowness of the external websites in China,
Limited Peering Capacities – China has very limited internet providers with direct peering being expensive. This makes the internet traffic exchange with the country highly congested and considered to be key reason for slowness.
The Great Firewall of China (GFW) – The country uses Deep Packet Inspection to monitor all the requests flow. This may also cause package loss, resulting in retransmission which slows the transaction even more.
In order to mitigate the above, to provide consistent load times in China, the easier route is to host the website in China. For hosting websites in China, a ICP (Internet Content Provider) License is mandatory which in turn requires the company to have a China business entity and a website with a Chinese domain registrar. This may also bring in the need of purchasing a new domain specifically for China region from Chinese domain registrar, probably .cn or .com.cn, based on the existing domain setup. Once the application for ICP is submitted and approved by Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), an ICP Number is generated which is required to be placed in the website’s footer.
Few tasks including Infrastructure Setup can happen in parallel to the ICP Registration. There are a few options like Aliyun (Alibaba Cloud), Azure, AWS etc. for hosting the sites. Since AWS is one of the top providers in China and the current sites were hosted on AWS(IAAS), AWS China IAAS solution worked better for our situation. The platform selection requires some level of quality analysis based on existing infrastructure. Load Balancer should be considered for High Availability.
Here are few approaches that should be considered while hosting the website in China,
Setting up a New Website Infrastructure – Few businesses would prefer to run China websites separately from the existing infrastructure due to differences in website appearance, behaviour or content. This will introduce the need of setting up all required Application/Storage Roles and Environments.
Extending the Existing Website Infrastructure – Most of the businesses would like to retain their branding etc. which eliminates the need of setting up Content Management Role, Staging, UAT etc. unless it is required. Content Delivery and xDB/xConnect Application/Storage Roles will suffice the need.
Setting up CDN in China – Using China CDNs is another option which works well but introduces lot of challenges in leveraging different Experience Management capabilities of Sitecore. Please note that setting up CDNs in China will still require ICP Registration.
It is highly crucial to review the China Data Protection Regulations (CDPR) when there is a collection of personal information happening in any part of the website. Though there are various draft measures and sector-specific regulations on transfer of personal data outside borders of China, it is unclear at this point to what extent these rules apply and it is expected to be clearly defined this year. There is also a requirement to appoint a Data Protection Officer in China for large organizations depending on the quantity of data being collected/processed.
Though Google Chrome is the widely used Browser in China, there are few additional Browsers including Tencent’s QQ browser, Alibaba’s UC browser, Baidu, Sogou etc. which is being used by huge number of users. Hence it is important to make sure our websites are compatible with these additional browsers across different devices.
There are few Social Media including Facebook, Google+ etc. which are blocked in China, hence related integrations must be reviewed.
Though Google Analytics works in China, Baidu is highly preferred considering the following reasons,
- Latency and Data loss issues when using Google Analytics
- Google Analytics Web Interface being blocked in China
And there is no guarantee that Google Analytics won’t be blocked in future.
Despite all the above challenges and process, it is still worth doing. We did have our website performing about 70-80% faster in different regions of the country after hosting the sites in China.