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Those of us who work in tech in Australia are used to thinking of our country as a a pretty developed one when it comes to tech. While it’s true that Australia continues to produce some really innovative start-ups, there are some key areas in which we still lag behind the rest of the world.
Web hosting is one of these. Even in an increasingly well-connected world, it seems that in this area our unique geography is still a problem when it comes to fast, reliable hosts. The market for web hosting in Australia is currently filled with companies that fall far short of what customers should expect from a host.
Some of these problems are created by the still-inadequate level of Australian incorporation into web infrastructure. This is a problem which web hosts find it difficult to overcome, but there are ways around it. There are other problems – such as absurd pricing structures – that there is simply no excuse for.
Let’s take a look at some of the problems, and the ways around them, and then I’ll give you three examples of the worst offenders.
Australian internet speeds are still terrible. Our internet speeds are currently the 50th“best” in the world, and are comparable to those in Thailand and Kenya. The problem here is geography, and the fact that until quite recently the country was not adequately connected to the worldwide network of undersea cables.
The INDIGO cable, of which Google is the major backer, may change this. It will run between Singapore, Perth, and Sydney, and has a design capacity of 18 terabits per second. That’s enough to carry 8 million simultaneous high-definition video conference between Australia and Singapore. That said, INDIGO will not be used just by Google, with the other firms who have invested also getting a share of bandwidth.
Australia’s slow internet speeds are compounded by another problem – the fact that many of the servers used by web hosts are not in the country. A lot of Australia’s data processing and storage is currently done in Singapore, and this has led to a huge boom in the tech industry there. Again, this is partly a consequence of geography, and the fact that Singapore is already on the route of many undersea cables.
These two issues – slow internet connections, and the location of servers – are undoubtedly problems for Australian web hosts, but they can be overcome in a fairly simple way: local servers. Though basing servers in-country is more expensive than having them in Singapore or Jakarta, the speed gains made by doing this have led some of the best web hosts to move at least a portion of their servers to Australia itself.
Web hosts have no excuse, however, for this third problem. The truth is that many web hosts in Australia use absurd pricing structures. Despite the huge competition in the hosting industry, it seems that many people are still willing to put up with huge charges for necessary services such as SSL.
I’m really not sure how to explain this. Implementing SSL, for instance, does not cost more in Australia than elsewhere, so I don’t know why customers should be expected to pay more for it. The only explanation I can put forward, unfortunately, is that the Australian public is still a little naive when it comes to tech, and is therefore being ripped off for what should be basic services.
The Worst Offenders
I don’t mean to be mean. Well, maybe a little bit. But in case you haven’t seen these problems for yourself, and if I haven’t convinced you yet, let’s take a look at some of the worst web hosts in Australia. You’ll soon see what I mean.
1. Digital Pacific
Digital Pacific are still one of the largest web hosts in Australia, but I really don’t know why. Their basic service is OK, I guess, with uptimes and speeds that are comparable to a lot of other hosts. On the surface, their pricing structure looks pretty tempting, with basic web hosting going as low as $5 a month. I guess a lot of smaller companies find this attractive – a cheap host that offers (slightly) more functionality than a free one.
The problem with Digital Pacific is one of those I mentioned above – their pricing structure. Basic hosting is cheap. Dedicated hosting, however, costs $50 per year, and does not come with the kind of features you would expect for that price. Most egregiously, SSL costs $300 a year. This is crazy money for something that is free in most of the rest of the world.
VentraIP are even worse. Again, their uptime and speed are not terrible for Australia, but the problem is their whole approach seems designed to confuse and rip off customers who don’t know that much about web hosting. To take one example, they advertise their hosting packages as coming “with ISS as standard”. I’m not sure if you are even allowed to be a web host without ISS nowadays, but in any case this is like selling a car by saying “airbags as standard”. Of course they are, it’s 2017.
Apart from that, VentraIP suffer from the same problems as the other hosts I cover here. SSL costs almost $120 per year. This is insane, considering that SSL is now available for free from a load of third-party providers.
I’ve saved the worst until last, though. NetRegistry have the same crazy pricing for SSL, and the same average speeds as the two hosts above. They add an extra problem, though – their customer service. I’ve dealt with them a few times, and I have to say that I was not impressed. Their phones kept cutting out mid-call, their hold music was diabolical, and when I finally got through I had to give lessons on the way web hosts are supposed to work.
Like a lot of people in this situation, I assumed I had had a bad experience. But no, it wasn’t just me. By far the most enjoyable part of writing this review has been reading through the forums where people review NetRegistry’s customer service department. Don’t believe me? Read the other 61 people who agree.
Like I say, slow internet speeds are something of an insurmountable problem in Australia, at least for now. However, the problems with the web hosting industry in our country run far deeper than that. I get that it is not always possible to achieve super fast speeds, but there is no excuse for crazy pricing structures, and even less for bad customer service.