Do You Really Need a CDN in China?

In order to expand your online presence to the world’s largest online population in China, you need to make sure your data is accessible and fast for Chinese users.

Yet China’s internet architecture is different from the rest of the world. Only three ISPs control the entire internet within its borders, and there is limited interconnection (peering) between their networks. This leads to frequent congestion, high latency, and packet loss.

As a foreign company trying to get data into China, the problem is compounded by bottlenecking: There is a limited number of international connections that all data from outside the country must pass through.

Common Data Transfer Issues to China

  • High latency – The data travel distance from across the world into China leads to slower speeds than your users experience in your home country. This will cause portions of your website to load slowly, particularly the active content.
  • Great Firewall of China – China’s active filtering and monitoring can slow delivery of traffic that originates outside its borders.
  • Lag time for product updates – If it takes a long time for customers to update the software in their devices (such as wearables or other smart devices), your customer experience is poor and your company’s reputation takes a hit.

Do you know if your website is currently accessible in China? How fast does it load for Chinese users? Test it now using our quick online tool.

Link: Test Your Site In China

Should I Get A CDN to Improve Data Transfer Speeds in China?


When looking for the best way to ensure optimum uptime and low latency, you will run across companies offering a CDN in China as a solution. In fact, you may already be using a CDN for your app, game, website or SaaS platform outside of China.

But if the concept is new to you, here is a brief introduction.

What is a CDN?

CDN is short for Content Delivery Network. Instead of delivering your website, app or game data to users from your home country, your data is mirrored across a network of servers in China, close to your users. These nodes are called Points of Presence (PoP). Your data travels more quickly because it has a shorter journey, which is intelligently calculated to come from the PoPs geographically closest to your user. And pathways for active content are optimized to ensure the fastest delivery across the CDN.

Is a CDN the Best Solution for China?

By its very nature, a local China-based CDN can undoubtedly speed up certain website traffic. However, in most cases, setting up a CDN to bring your cross-border traffic into China is not as good as simply setting up local hosting in China. Here’s why:

  • Data originating inside China will consistently perform better overall. Particularly for your active/dynamic content, your CDN will need to pull data updates across the border anyway, taking precious milliseconds away from every server call. Static data stored directly on the main backbone inside China’s borders will serve up just as quickly from a locally hosted site.
  • All encrypted HTTPS traffic using TLS 1.3 may be blocked by the Great Firewall. In fact, at any time, your data originating outside of China stands a chance of being blocked even if you don’t use TLS. Hosting on a licensed local server will ensure your traffic stays up.
  • By law, any personal data originating in China (PII) must be hosted on Chinese servers anyway. For legal compliance purposes, you will not be able to store data generated in China on servers outside of China. This adds complexity to your database architecture and database management by splitting the data in two locations.
  • Your licensing requirements will be the same. Data hosted in China requires an ICP Filing, and this is true even with a CDN. Even if you already have a licensed local domain and host, the separate Chinese domain you set up for your CDN will also need to be licensed, just the same as a local host domain.
  • CDNs are not “set it and forget it” systems. Like any part of your application architecture, a CDN has to be actively managed. If you are already managing one or more servers, why add the burden of managing an additional system if ROI is low?
  • You will likely create a different service in China for Chinese users anyway. In most cases, your content for Mainland Chinese users will be different. You will not, in fact, be precisely mirroring your already existing content. So using a CDN will not likely simplify your data management.

For all of these reasons, we recommend local hosting instead of a local China CDN for most of our users. The Cost-to-Benefit ratio simply isn’t high enough in most circumstances, and you can free up the time and maintenance costs for use elsewhere.

When does a CDN in China make sense?

When you require smooth media content delivery to a large number of users.

If you have a very large user base spread out across China, and are serving up large amounts of traffic (i.e. video and other media) across the country, local hosting on a Chinese server and a CDN inside China can give you smoother content delivery.

With many CDNs, media acceleration is specifically engineered to deliver live streams and Video on Demand (VOD) services in China’s difficult internet environment. A CDN could improve your customer experience by helping prevent constant buffering, calculating adaptive bit rates on the fly, and optimizing routing depending on your VOD size, so that large video files are not competing with smaller videos to reach your users more quickly, wherever they are physically distributed.

Another reason is that, depending on your circumstances, it may make sense to avoid the manpower of having to host duplicate content in two locations. This is highly dependent on your particular data architecture and the resources available to you.

I need hosting for China. How can I get started?

All you need is a Chinese-registered domain and an ICP Filing, which is required to host or cache online content inside China. We can help you quickly acquire both local hosting and an ICP Filing, all for a lower cost than many of our competitors. For the majority of our customers, local hosting is all that is required for their app, game, website or platform.

I need a CDN for China. How can I get started?

Just the same as the local hosting, you will need to first acquire a domain and an ICP Filing, which is required to host or cache online content inside China, which we can help you acquire.

You will need to provide a dedicated domain for your CDN. We recommend you simply use a subdomain under your current domain. We also strongly recommend a local hosting plan, such as AppInChina’s hosting package.

The AppInChina Advantage

There is a reason why the world’s most respected Fortune 500 companies and luxury brands choose AppInChina to help set up and manage their infrastructure and business in China. Our international, English-speaking team works in the heart of Beijing, and intuitively understand the concerns and needs of foreign firms working in the challenging China marketplace.

Contact us today to start a conversation about partnering with us to build a successful business in the world’s largest online marketplace.

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