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ICP License and Hosting Solutions in China

Posted in Business on February 21st 2014
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COO and Co-Founder

We all know getting the right server to host your website is crucial, but when you want to maximize its hosting capabilities, the physical location of your server matters a lot too.

When it comes to China, things get even more complicated because of its strict laws regarding the Internet. China has something it calls the “Great Firewall of China”, which is a nationwide effort by the government of the People’s Republic of China to regulate content from all websites.

There is one other strict law enforced by the Chinese government, and it requires every website to have a valid ICP license.

What is an ICP License?

ICP License is short for Internet Content Provider License, carried out by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology in China, and has been in effect since 2000.

Under Chinese law, all websites operating in China are required to get an ICP license, or else it will be blocked. New websites are given a grace period in which to apply for an ICP license, but failure to do so after that period will result in a ban.

If a website is hosted outside of Mainland China, getting an ICP license won’t be necessary. There's a workaround here. Since location is crucial, some companies choose nearby regions like Hong Kong or Macau to host their websites. By doing so, they avoid the difficult paperwork involved in getting an ICP license, while still enjoying the benefits of having a web hosting provider close to China.

The Benefits of Having an ICP License

There's no doubt your company only wants the best and the most legitimate route to business sucess, so it makes sense to play by the rules. Getting a valid ICP License is your website’s ticket to guaranteed online visibility in China. Some 3rd party services such as Baidu WangMeng (the equivalent of Google Adwords) requires you to have a valid ICP Licence.

Also, the fact that your website operates in Mainland China itself means it will load faster, with less lost packets. You reach your target Chinese audience in the most optimal way possible, and at the same time, you get an advantage over your competitors’ sites.

Do I need an ICP License?

There are pros and cons for getting an ICP License for your website, especially if you’re serious about tapping the Chinese market.

On the surface it makes sense to host your website in China, but it really depends on your website’s needs, as pointed out by this article. We’ll summarize the five main points in here, and then let you decide if your business needs an ICP license or not.

  1. Hosting location is not a factor in getting your website blocked in China. What will get your site blocked is content considered objectionable and offensive by the Chinese regulation.
  2. Even if your website isn’t located in China, it can still rank high in China’s largest search engine, Baidu.
  3. Since the .cn domain is exclusively available to Chinese citizens, you really have no choice but to use .com, which is more preferable and marketable anyway.
  4. Buying a .cn domain from proxy companies is not a smart move since you do not really own the domain—you are only given access to it.
  5. Hosting in another country is a big risk, especially in a country with industry standards different from yours.

Also, consider the nature of your website to determine if you need an ICP license. Resource-intensive websites will certainly benefit from faster-loading times of being hosted in China. Meanwhile, websites that don’t expect a lot of traffic might be better off being hosted in nearby countries.

There are many web hosting providers in China that will try to convince you to do business with them. Do your research regarding the hosting companies you can trust, ask for referrals and good reviews, compare service, support, and prices, and then make your choice. Feel free to get in touch with us to see if we can provide you some help into choosing the best solution.