It is surprising to note that some organizations and government entities are still hosting their servers outside Kenya while we have a local Internet Exchange Point which is closer to their users. Does it mean they do not appreciate the value of having local hosting locations or is it that they do not trust the services offered by local hosting providers?
When it comes to hosting local content locally, we cannot overlook the Kenya Internet Exchange Point (KIXP) which is an important facility to Kenya’s Internet ecosystem. It ensures best practices to all those who peer their internet traffic locally by using local service providers to host and share local content with substantial benefits to the general public. Before the establishment of the KIXP in 2002, internet traffic was routed to international links in Europe and America making it valuable to keep content abroad for ease of access. Today, however there is no need to host internet content abroad because it can be hosted locally.
The benefits of hosting internet content locally include fast internet speeds for organizations who host and exchange their traffic locally. Internet traffic that is hosted and routed within the Kenyan borders does not need to take a long route which is the case with the internationally hosted content. International links have at times been congested hence taking time before content gets to its destination. In addition, the high internet speeds give users good online experience. For example, an email from Nairobi that is supposed to be delivered to Mombasa does not need to go to servers hosted in Europe or America and then come back to the recipient who is in Mombasa. It only needs to be routed through servers hosted locally been connected to the Kenya Internet Exchange Point to get to Mombasa hence shortening the distance and time taken by the email.
Secondly, hosting local content locally is cost-saving. Using international hosting providers for internet content for local consumers is expensive as compared to using local hosting companies. It helps organizations save on their budgets. There is improved communication when organizations host their local content locally. Local content which is peered at a local Internet exchange point has a broader user base hence benefiting other content providers.
There are risks associated with hosting internet content abroad. Each country has different laws on data security and treatment of data privacy. An organization should be aware of the risks involved in hosting their servers outside their geographical boundaries.
Some of the organizations expected to host their content locally for efficiency in service delivery are stakeholders such as mobile operators, network infrastructure operators, banks, academic and research networks, security experts, media houses, government Institutions such as the KRA and county governments.
County governments stand to benefit more by hosting their servers locally to avoid high costs that come with using the international links. Out of the 47 counties in Kenya, only 13 counties have their servers hosted in the country, the rest are in America and some in Europe. The following counties have their internet traffic routed outside Kenya: Makueni, Kajiado, Meru, Embu, Baringo, Bungoma, Kakamega, HomaBay, Isiolo, Kisumu, Kitui, Kwale, Migori, Mombasa, Nairobi, Nakuru, Narok, Nyandarua, Nyeri, Samburu, Taita Taveta, Turkana and West Pokot. It is shocking that these counties have their servers hosted in Europe and America whereas their target users are found in Kenya. Proximity of servers to the users is fundamental because it will determine the speed with which users surf these counties’ websites. It also determines the ease of access of information by the target audience if comparing 125ms via international links and 15ms via the IXP is anything to go by.
“As TESPOK, we urge the county governments to host their websites locally for improved local communication and also enable them to deliver better services to Kenyans. This will lead to financial savings that can be diverted to other county projects. We are calling upon all major institutions and parastatals in the country to host their internet content locally and build on the existing networks.” says TESPOK/KIXP CEO Fiona Asonga
It is clear that the County governments are either not appreciating the need for local hosting or are engaging service providers to host their content who do not understand the local internet landscape.