Is It Necessary to Have an ICP License in China for My Business Website?

is it necessary to have an ICP license in China for my business website

To have a well functioning and efficient Chinese website, you will need to use a web hosting service but it isn’t a necessity to have an ICP License in China to reach Chinese consumers.

While in today’s digital world, a proper functioning website is vital to the success of your business, Tenba Group will cover the basics of website hosting using either traditional or the preferred cloud hosting servers and how to successfully market without an ICP license in China This article will also talk about the importance of making sure to host your website reliably and at lightning speed!

What is Web Hosting?

Basically, your web hosting company is where all your website files are stored. Every website basically consists of files that are stored on a server with a web host. The browser retrieves these files from the web host when a user makes a search query with your domain name.

There are two basic ways of managing your hosting needs. These are traditional web hosting and cloud computing which can affect your available options for deciding the need to have an ICP license in China.

The best web hosting in China solution that is suitable for your website depends on your individual requirements for your website. When creating a website for the Chinese market, keep in mind the particularities of the Middle Kingdom.

Both hosting styles provide basic China web hosting services and functions. However, this is achieved in drastically different ways.

To give you an idea about the size of the global web hosting services market, let us share this statistic with you: By 2023, this sector is estimated to grow up to 76.2 billion USD.

The top 3 Chinese web hosting companies with the most clients are Alibaba Cloud aka Aliyun hosting (34%), HiChina (12%), and (2%). Alibaba Cloud is also the largest cloud computing company in China and was recently renamed to Alibaba Cloud Intelligence.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

IaaS is a cloud service that offers basic computing infrastructure like servers, storage, and networking resources.

In 2019, the global infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) market reached a volume of 38.9 billion USD. This growth is rapidly increasing. As of early 2020, Amazon AWS holds a global market share of 32%, Azure is at 18%, Google Cloud is at 6%, and Alibaba Cloud is at 5 %.

In the Asia Pacific region, Alibaba Cloud aka Aliyun leads the IaaS market with 28%. Aliyun actually is a beautiful composite word. It consists of Ali (from Alibaba) and Yun (meaning cloud). In 2019, Alibaba Cloud hit more than 1.5 billion USD in revenue, that’s plus 76% compared to 2018.

This also demonstrates the importance and relevance of cloud hosting. This is particularly important as China’s number one search engine Baidu places a lot of emphasis on speed.

Many wholly foreign websites that are hosted outside of mainland China have difficulties surpassing the strict “Great Firewall of China” due to insufficient setup. This is where cloud hosting with CDN and a good caching system is beneficial if you don’t want to physically host or acquire an ICP license in China.

What is Traditional Web Hosting?

There are two main types of traditional web hosting – shared hosting and dedicated hosting.

  • Shared hosting: a website owner pays for a fixed amount of storage space on a single server. The resources there are typically shared by a number of other websites as well. This is the most affordable and widely used type of web hosting. It is also particularly popular amongst beginners on the World Wide Web.
  • Dedicated hosting: the website owner pays for the total control of one or more servers so that they have access to the complete resources of the server(s). Thus the name is dedicated as the server’s resources are fully allocated to one client. Dedicated hosting is not as affordable as shared hosting. And it requires some technical knowledge to set up and properly maintain it.

To set up online business operations in China, you will need an ICP license. However, as you will see with Cloud computing, this is not necessary if you host outside of the mainland.

ICP license China hosting


What is Cloud Computing?

Cloud hosting – and the underlying technology cloud computing – refers to hosting on “virtual” space, not on a physical server. With cloud hosting, you only have to pay for the storage space which you currently use. This is opposite to traditional web hosting where you pay upfront for a fixed data storage space and processing power.

Cloud computing is relatively new when compared to the more established traditional web hosting which has been around for ages.

With a market size of around 150 million USD in 2019, cloud computing may still be relatively small compared to the shared hosting market with a volume of around 20 billion USD worldwide. But cloud services are rapidly growing. For example, did you know that 90% of companies use some sort of cloud service to conduct their business?

How to Get an ICP License in China

Before you launch any China-based website, you must first apply for an ICP license in China, also known as Internet Content Provider (ICP) license application.

The ICP registration and ICP application process are administered by the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, a sector of the Chinese government that also handles Chinese-owned businesses’ online ventures. After receipt of ICP filing, you have to display the ICP China registration, or ICP license number, in the footer of your website.

This process will require a Chinese company or the help of a Chinese company to establish your presence in the country. Yet, you can avoid this joint venture by choosing to host on a cloud-based server geographically near, but not in, China.

Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong are all excellent jurisdictions to host a website, while also taking measures to optimize your webpages as much as possible to get through the Great Firewall of China. Optimization even includes ensuring that links to other websites are not blocked in China currently, such as Google and Facebook, which will prevent your website from loading.

Continue reading about the differences between traditional web hosting and cloud computing, and how Cloudways offers the best optimization solutions for a website without an ICP license in China.

Traditional Web Hosting vs. Cloud Computing

So, what are the critical differences between cloud computing and traditional web hosting? Below we describe the 6 main differences between cloud computing and traditional web hosting (dedicated and shared hosting).

With this information, you are able to choose the best server to host your website:

  • traditional hosting of your website directly after you obtain an ICP license in China, or
  • cloud hosting with CDN and good caching – which has the advantage that you can also reach Chinese outside of mainland China

So, let’s look at the differences in more detail.

  1. Management

In traditional web hosting, the servers owned by the hosting company are equipped with a finite amount of storage space. The processing power can either be fully allocated to a client (dedicated hosting) or shared between multiple clients (shared hosting).

A lot of first-time website owners choose shared hosting. Because the hosting company usually handles the management and maintenance of the servers. This includes security services and operating system updates.

Cloud hosting, on the other hand, entails multiple virtualized servers consolidating their resources to host several sites. These servers are all synchronized to work as one entity so that multiple servicers handle the hosting of hundreds and thousands of websites.

  1. Resources

Traditional web hosting companies may also provide their users with extra services. For example, free domain registration, automatic backups, email account setups, a security certificate, a website builder, and search engine marketing tools.

With cloud computing, users get to enjoy administrative access to their hosting environment. While shared hosting may be more convenient for beginners, if you have a fast-growing site, cloud hosting is the ideal hosting solution for you.

Cloud hosting also protects your website from malfunctioning servers. And thanks to the abundance of servers, you can easily switch among them in case one is not functioning.

  1. Scalability

In traditional web hosting, especially in shared hosting, each website is allocated a fixed amount of processing power and storage space. Thus, as a website owner, if you need to acquire more resources, you may either have to upgrade your shared hosting package to a higher level or switch to another web hosting company altogether.

Meanwhile, cloud computing has the scalability to be one of its biggest advantages. Here, you have access to a number of servers that allow easy and convenient adjustment of processing power and disk space according to your needs. Some cloud computing hosts also provide their customers with an intuitive management portal to monitor their resource usage and scale as necessary.

  1. Performance

When it comes to performance, cloud hosting once again outshines shared and dedicated hosting. In shared hosting, the more the accounts hosted on a server, the longer it will take to process requests for information. This results in much slower performance. Also, in this case, the performance of one site largely depends on the speed and performance of other sites hosted on the same server.

On the other hand, cloud computing offers resources that enable super-fast page loads which is important for websites without an ICP license in China to surpass the Great Firewall of China, which could block or drastically slow down website speed.

Speed is of the essence to online businesses and at least 80% of users will not return to a site if the web pages take too long to load. Most cloud hosts also allow customized configurations. This enables website owners to configure their websites to their preferred specifications to optimize performance metrics and efficiencies.

  1. Security

Both shared and cloud hosting companies usually go to great lengths to safeguard their servers against data breaches. Especially considering the fact that their clients depend on them for security.

Security plans for traditional web hosting typically include automated malware scans, security plugins, SSL certificates, anti-spam, and anti-virus protection.

In terms of security, cloud computing is generally the more secure hosting solution. Just like traditional web-hosting providers, cloud hosting offers data encryption. In addition, cloud hosting packages also allow the installation of web application firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and other monitoring tools to ensure top-notch security.

However, with cloud hosting, you normally have to manage all settings by yourself, unless you use a managed cloud service solution. Don’t worry, we’ll reveal our preferred service provider soon.

  1. Cost

The price structure for traditional web hosting and cloud hosting are very different. While shared and dedicated hosting are typically offered on a per-month/annual billing model, cloud computing is based on a pay-as-you-go basis. Shared hosting is the cheapest of all hosting solutions. And a lot of users tend to be appreciative of the flat fee that comes with traditional web hosting.

Nevertheless, the pay-as-you-go model is also quite convenient. And customers can be certain that they are paying for just the computing resources they use over a given period of time. It can also help them better plan their spending on technology.

The Advantages of Cloudways and skipping an ICP License for China

Aligning your website with an exceptional cloud computing service provider can help you to build a strong online presence to boost your business and skip getting an ICP license in China. In general, cloud hosting ensures a faster loading time on your Chinese website.

There are dozens of cloud hosting service providers. Among them, Cloudways is our preferred provider. We at Tenba Group have been using it for us and our clients for several years.

Cloudways is a superb platform where website owners and companies can build, develop, deploy, and manage web applications.

Even though Cloudways does not host servers on its own, it works with amazing third-party providers, in particular, Digital Ocean, Amazon AWS, and Google Cloud, managing their servers and providing a full server management package.

Here are our top 5 reasons why you should host your website with Cloudways as a service provider.

  1. Speed

With Cloudways services, customers can enjoy incredibly fast page loads. On average, a website hosted on a Cloudways partner takes 616 milliseconds on average to load.

In less than 1 second, the browser can retrieve the required information from the web host and display it for the user to see. This is lightning speed – about twice as fast as most cloud computing services in the hosting world.

  1. Resources and Features

The Cloudways package is full of features, easy to scale and manage. The company offers a bundle of resources for its users including unlimited website hosting (in terms of number). It also includes SSD-based hosting, built-in caches, PHP 7 servers, a free WordPress cache plugin, pre-configured PHP-FPM, HTTP/2 supported servers, and free Magento full page cache.

The cloud host provider also offers a smart assistant called CloudwaysBot. This keeps users updated on the health insights relevant to the cloud server and their web applications.

Users also get a 3-day free trial period to help them evaluate the cloud hosting service before they decide to join. Click here for your free Cloudways trial!

  1. Automatic Backups

With Cloudways, you don’t have to worry about a website crash. When choosing managed cloud hosting, automatic site backups restore your website to its original configuration. This can save you in the unlikely event of a crash. Users can also set the automatic backup to their preferred frequency (between 1 hour to every 7 days).

Keep in mind that on the application level (e.g. WordPress) you have to manage the backups and security by yourself. WordPress has a large variety of plugins, for example, UpdraftPlus for backups and Ninja Firewall for security.

  1. Security 

Cloudways is rich in features and very secure. It ensures that every website, which is hosted on the cloud servers, is well safe against security breaches.

Some of its security measures include OS-level firewalls, two-factor authentication, and IP whitelisting. Clients also enjoy regular upgrades on the firmware and OS patches to avoid vulnerabilities that outdated configurations can cause.

  1. Support

Cloudways offers what is probably the best cloud hosting support you will find on the internet. The company has a community of experts along with an effective customer support team that is available 24/7.

They help users resolve any issues they may be experiencing with their cloud servers. And best of all, this service is included in your hosting package. And your individual server problem will always be addressed with a great solution.

Traditional web hosting vs cloud hosting

Which businesses benefit from Cloudways’ services?

In fact, Cloudways is the perfect fit for everyone from solo entrepreneurs to mid-to-large businesses. On one hand, our platform is so simple that a user with minimum technical know-how can launch a cloud server with the application of their choice.

Plus, the platform is robust enough to handle enterprise-level hosting requirements. It also accommodates a larger team with varied server and application access requirements. These websites can be hosted in destinations such as Hong Kong and would not require an ICP license for China.

Where are the servers located?

The servers are located in the data centers of our IaaS partners. Those are Digital Ocean, Linode, Amazon AWS, Google Compute Engine, and Vultr. The benefit is that a user can opt from 60+ datacenters from any of these pros.

ICP License in China: The Takeaway

Traditional hosting (shared hosting, dedicated hosting) and cloud hosting both have advantages.

  • If you are an individual developer or first-time site owner, traditional web hosting can be a convenient, cheap, and low-entry hosting solution. However, it requires an ICP license in China and the help of a Chinese business.
  • If your website receives a lot of traffic and you need a flexible hosting service or you want to bypass the need for an ICP license in China, then you should consider moving your website to the cloud and host for example in Singapore, Taiwan, or Hong Kong. The key to this solution would be establishing your website on an excellent-rated cloud server. Plus, continually optimizing your website. This ensures that the Great Firewall of China does not pose any problems for Chinese consumers to reach your webpages.

As a website owner, you choose the priorities of your business before selecting any hosting service.


Get started today. Try Cloudways cloud hosting! Or get in touch with Tenba Group to discuss your personal China market entry strategy for your business or get help understanding ICP licenses for your website. Our experts will help you to get more attention online!

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