Geolocating webserver considerations?

bikedorkseattle asked:

I run a community forum where the majority of users are in the Pacific Northwest. We are looking for a new dedicated server and I’m wondering if it is worth it to locate the server as close to the PNW as possible. We do have visitors from all around the world, but the vast majority of our returning traffic is in the PNW.

What are the reasons why this would not be a wise idea?

My answer:

Actually, in general it’s a very good idea. However, it won’t solve all your performance problems.

There’s a nice big data center in Seattle (more than one, actually) that’s very well connected, and if you are located there you’ll have very short latency to most places in the Pacific Northwest. Though not all of them. The network doesn’t always correspond exactly to geography; the shortest path between two points sometimes goes to unexpected places. But for the most part it does.

For traffic in the US, though, this probably won’t buy you more than 100ms (I’m assuming you’re currently colocated in Florida, about the longest path available that’s still in the US) for your Pacific Northwest audience, and will make latency longer for a small percentage of your users.

In short, it’ll help for most of your users, and make things worse for a very small fraction.

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