There are many valid reasons you might want to offshore your web hosting — from avoiding censorship to retaining your personal anonymity. But not all hosts offer the kind of privacy and freedom you want.
The best offshore hosts are committed to privacy, have liberal use policies, and accept cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. It’s also critical to pick hosts in a country like the Netherlands with strong privacy laws.
What Is Offshore Hosting?
Offshore web hosting is hosting a website on servers outside of one’s own country. Technically, anytime you host a website on foreign servers, you engage in offshore hosting. However, the term implies doing so deliberately to achieve a specific goal — typically privacy, security, or free speech.
Hosting your business website(s) abroad is a big decision. Businesses and individuals often use offshore hosting to reduce legal risks.
Top 4 Reasons to Use Offshore Web Hosting
People typically choose offshore hosting for the following reasons:
- Freedom of Speech: If you’re going to host controversial content of any sort, there is a possibility you will run afoul of one or more country’s laws, regulations, or cultural norms. 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.
- Avoiding Local Regulations: Not everything is legal to sell worldwide. Things that are considered innocuous or normal in one country could risk jail time in another. Your 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.
- Taxes and Legal Residency: Another popular reason to use offshore hosting is to establish a legal business presence for tax advantages, or other benefits. The actual legal ramifications of this are far outside the scope of our expertise, so we’ll steer clear of specific examples.
- Anonymous Services: Some offshore hosting companies provide completely anonymous service, which means that no identifying information needs to be provided by the customer who wishes to create an account. Payment is made through Bitcoin or cash, and communication is handled strictly through an anonymous email account.
Problems With Offshore Hosting
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.
Let’s say for example that I want to set up a gambling site, and I live in a country where this activity is illegal. I could host my online casino site from servers in the Isle of Man, where gambling is legal. However, because I would still be supporting those activities on my website locally, I may still be breaking regional laws.
If you are considering offshore hosting, be extremely cautious. Keep these factors in mind when selecting an offshore host:
- 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. Most jurisdictions are entirely different, both in the structure of law and tolerance. Spend some time researching your selected offshore locations
- 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 just a marketing promise
- 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
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 that. Offshoring is no guarantee of safety or a surefire shield from legal ramifications.
Basic Offshore Hosting Features to Look For
When choosing a hosting company, there are several basic hosting features you should look for:
- SSDStorage: SSDs (solid state drives) are much faster than traditional hard-disk drives, but they’re also more expensive. That said, many hosts include SSD drives by default in spite of this cost due to the improved performance offered
- Auto-Installers/Pre-Installed Software: If you use tools like WordPress, Joomla, or message board software, it’s nice to work with a host that either installs these onto your environment for you or offers one-click installation.
- Databases: MySQL is the default option for many hosts, but some offer support for others like MongoDB or PostgreSQL. You’ll also want to see how many databases are available to you
- KVM: if you’re a Linux user and you need KVM (a kernel-based virtual machine), find out if this is available to you.
- Unlimited bandwidth: Does the host offer unlimited bandwidth? If so, what are the restrictions set by the host? Many hosts will only offer unlimited bandwidth as long as you don’t go overboard — the specifics of what constitutes this varies based on the company
- Data security: what does the host offer you in terms of data security? Does the host handle any of the tasks required to secure data, and does it offer you the tools to do so?
- Free domains: if you don’t have a custom domain name, you might look for a host that offers one
- Add-on domains: if you need more than one domain, you’ll want to work with a host that offers and supports multiple domain name usage
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Offshore Hosting
Is offshore hosting legal?
Offshore hosting is legal, but the legal barriers for what content you’re hosting on that website may differ from those in your home country. Offshore hosting does not guarantee fewer legal obligations, and some countries offering offshore hosting may have stricter laws than those in your country. Before considering offshore hosting, review the host country’s laws to determine what content is permitted on your website to avoid running into legal trouble later.
How is cloud hosting different from offshore hosting?
Cloud hosting is a type of web hosting that utilizes a network of remote servers to store, manage, and process data. It works through virtualization, which splits a physical server into cloud servers. This means that you can easily scale up or down your resources as needed without having to worry about hardware limitations.
Offshore hosting is the practice of hosting a website on servers located outside of one’s own country. This is done to gain specific benefits such as privacy, anonymity, and freedom of speech. Offshore hosting is often used by people who want to host content that may be illegal or restricted in their own country.
Is picking a server in a different country enough to be considered offshore hosting?
Technically, anytime you host a website on foreign servers, you engage in offshore hosting. However, depending on what kind of site you’re trying to host, it may be wise to pick a web host that safeguards your data and anonymity.
What county has the strictest internet privacy laws?
Iceland is considered to have the strictest data privacy laws related to the internet. It has incredibly strict privacy laws, and these laws were passed in 2000. Many people have referred to Iceland as Switzerland for data. However, it’s rare to find servers based in Iceland — you’ll typically have to opt for a country like Germany or Norway.
Is offshore hosting different from the dark web?
Offshore hosting is the practice of hosting a website on servers located outside of one’s own country while the dark web is a part of the internet that is not indexed by search engines and requires specific software to access. That said, dark web sites still need to be hosted, but those services don’t typically take out ad space on Google.
Offshore Hosting Recommendations
If you’re interested in offshore hosting, these offshore hosts have the key criteria we mentioned:
- Bitcoin Web Hosting – 99.99% uptime. 24/7/365 support
- DataKL – HTTP3, CloudLinux, and 24/7/365 support
- KoDDoS – 24/7 live support, Netherlands-based
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.