Most mobile apps are built on the bedrock of Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Google Cloud Services. But if you are hoping to publish or distribute your app in China, you must find alternatives for hosting.
The reason is three-fold:
- Google Cloud Services is inaccessible in China. And if your app relies on Google Play Services to be locally installed on the phone – even for features as simple as returning a location – you can count on them to be unusable by most Chinese mobile devices.
- Many global cloud services such as AWS Global run slowly in China, due to their physical location outside of China and their need to pass through the Great Firewall. As a result your mobile app will run slowly, if at all, in a country where users are already accustomed to fast response times.
- China Cybersecurity Law requires personally identifiable information (PII) and important data of the critical information infrastructure (CII) operator to be stored domestically (on servers physically located in China). All your customer data must remain within China to remain compliant. Cross-border data transfer is subject to security assessment and government approval. Online service providers also have an obligation to verify the real name of users. For business entity users, a state-registered business license is required for real name verification.
The Most Common Cloud Services/Distributed Web Services for Mainland China
Luckily, the Chinese mobile app market is robust, and many Mainland China-only cloud services and distributed web services are available and widely used by the most popular apps in China:
- Tencent Cloud – Tencent is the largest internet company in Asia, creator of QQ, Didi, Sogou, Dianping, Elema, and the wildly popular WeChat app used ubiquitously across China. With 500 locations around the world, in China it boasts 6 data center regions with 17 availability zones across the country, in Guangzhou, Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Chongqing, and Hong Kong. Tencent Cloud offers services including Cloud Object Storage (COS), Content Delivery Networks (CDNs), cloud database hosting through TencentDB (MySQL, Redis, MongoDB, MariaDB, SQL Server, PostgreSQL and more), load balancing, Cloud Virtual Machines (CVM), Anti-DDoS protection, auto-scaling data processing, and more.
Tencent Cloud is an official partner of AppInChina.
- Aliyun (Alibaba Cloud) – Aliyun is a subsidiary of Alibaba Group, registered and headquartered in Singapore. It is the largest cloud computing company in China, with 19 data center regions and 56 availability zones around the globe. Its data centers in China are China North, China South, China East, and Hong Kong. Aliyun offers services on a pay-as-you-go basis and include Elastic Compute, Data Storage, Relational Databases, Big-Data Processing, Anti-DDoS protection and Content Delivery Networks (CDNs).
- AWS China – To use AWS resources in either, or both, of its two regions – Beijing Region (operated by Sinnet) or Ningxia Region (operated by NWCD) – you must create an AWS China Account, which is a set of credentials that are distinct and separate from other AWS Global accounts. Most of the same services you find on AWS outside of China are available, but availability varies slightly depending on region.
- Azure Cloud China – Azure Cloud is run by Microsoft, which has a partnership with Chinese data center provider 21Vianet to offer Azure and Office 365 in the country. It has an online playbook to assist customers moving from Azure Global to Azure China. Nearly all services available to Azure Cloud Global are available on Azure Cloud China.
All data stored in these regions remain exclusive to these regions unless moved by the customer.
How can I set up cloud services or DWS in China?
Though the exact process may vary depending on which service provider you choose, you generally need to provide:
- A Chinese business license issued by the Chinese State Administration of Industry and Commerce.
- Valid contact information.
- Possibly an ICP Recordal or ICP license. ICP is short for Internet Content Provider, also called ICP Beian. An ICP license is issued by the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) and allows your China-based website(s) to operate in the country. The type of ICP needed (if at all) will depend on the nature of your app and business. We can help you determine whether an ICP license is needed.
- If you are doing this yourself, you will likely need the assistance of a Chinese speaker for the one-time setup of an account with whichever service you end up choosing. You may also need a Chinese bank account for regular service payments. To save you the hassle, AppInChina provides this assistance through our standard service package.
How difficult will it be to integrate my app with a Chinese Cloud Service or DWS?
As technical aspects are standardized around the world, integration should be a fairly straightforward process with your development team. You will however want to retain the services of a Chinese interpreter in case you need to contact the provider to decipher any technical specifications or procedures that are unclear.
However, depending on your app and its dependencies, this could be either a simple or daunting task. The important thing is that your development team is aware from the beginning of any future integration requirements with alternative cloud services. Factoring this in from the beginning of your mobile app development process will save time, money, and frustration in the future. We can help analyze your app to discover its dependencies and give expert guidance.
Keep in mind that you can maintain a version of your app for your non-Chinese users on your current cloud services provider. In fact, that is preferable to optimize their experience. You only need to create a separate version of your app for China.
What about a CDN?
Many people consider a Content Delivery Networks (CDN) as an alternative or supplement to hosting data in China, primarily to boost speed. Read more about our take on it here. Ultimately, we prefer to provide individual guidance as to whether this would be a good option for you, since it ultimately depends on your unique situation.
Link: Do I Really Need A CDN For China?
How can AppInChina help?
As part of our standard suite of localization and distribution services, AppInChina can analyze your app to discover its dependencies, and give guidance on what needs to be changed. We provide hassle-free English assistance to set up an account with a Chinese cloud services provider on your behalf and walk your developers, in English, through the technical process and requirements of retooling your mobile app. We will also help your developers with any future updates required to ensure your mobile app continues to work flawlessly in Mainland China and beyond.