Dateline: Lodz, Poland
If you maintain an online presence or run an online business, you should be using Flag Theory to make sure you are well diversified. Common examples like internationalizing your email and your website are important.
You should already know that owning a “.com”, “.net”, “.org”, “.co”, or “.us” domain means that your domain name is subject to US laws, no matter where you are based. The US government has said that no such domain name is safe from government confiscation, which is why less standard domain extensions like “.co.uk”, “.de”, or “.com.au” may suit your website better.
However, where you host your website is also important. Offshore web hosting services are far superior to those based in the United States, where hosting companies will often shut down your website for the slightest of infractions involving the DMCA or anything else.
The country your website is based in also determines which freedom of speech laws you are subject to. Americans may not know that the United States is actually behind countries like Suriname and Jamaica when it comes to freedom of the press. So don’t rest too easy thinking your government won’t ever come after you.
On top of that, an outdated, yet still upheld, US court decision from the 1990s states that the location of your server is actually the basis of where you are taxed.
That means an offshore business can fall under US tax law — even if the owner is a qualified expat — if you have a US web hosting company rather than having a server offshore.
There are plenty of offshore hosting services out there. Some are good, some are just plain bad.
Once I narrowed down the best countries to host a website offshore, I went through and found which offshore web hosting companies and VPS services were best about maintaining their customers’ anonymity and privacy.
Then, I had my chief developer finish the research by comparing technical specifications. Some of the links below are affiliate links; buy from these hosts and help keep our pirate ship afloat. As always, remuneration has no effect on our rankings.
My Favorite Free Speech Offshore Web Host
Winner: Orange Website
My favorite offshore web host for free speech offers shared hosting, VPS, and dedicated servers. And it ticks almost all of the boxes. The only box it doesn’t tick is price; it’s a little more expensive, but if you have a serious website, it’s worth the small increase in cost.
And with the latest European Union VAT nonsense, a server in Iceland — outside of the EU — gives Orange Website an advantage.
Orange Website is based in Iceland and is fast becoming one of the most talked-about offshore web hosts for privacy and data protection. Jeff Berwick, editor of The Dollar Vigilante, said that he moved all of his websites to Orange earlier this year.
In my opinion, Iceland is the best country to host a website. The country, shocked by the global financial crisis, has come up with a strategy to be a truly independent voice when it comes to freedom of the press and data privacy. Iceland is not a member of the European Union and, as such, can go its own way.
Orange Website benefits from this because its only presence is in Iceland; it maintains no US or EU ties that would cause it to be influenced by those governments.
I’ve spoken with the owner of Orange Website (who I’m told is an anarchist and vociferously in favor of freedom of speech). He and the web hosting company are opposed to SOPA and PIPA and have a great track record of defending their clients against nonsense. Orange does not hand over any data on their clients without an Icelandic court order.
That means US courts — and other imperious courts around the world — can take a hike unless they can get a judge in Iceland to agree with them.
One thing I like about Orange is that their customer service is actually based in Iceland, 24/7/365. They don’t sub it out to India to save a few bucks, which may justify the slightly higher cost in and of itself. They also keep pretty good equipment and actually upgrade it as necessary. Plus, they are entirely “green”.
Orange Website also prefers Bitcoin, although it accepts any method of payment. They don’t require anything but a valid email address, so you can remain as anonymous as you like. So long as your website does not violate Icelandic laws or their TOS, you’ll be secure with Orange Host.
My Favorite Anonymous Offshore Web Host
Winner: Liberty VPS
Liberty VPS prides itself on anonymity. Their website isn’t flashy, nor is their range of web hosting packages particularly broad. But everything about Liberty VPS screams… well, liberty.
Liberty VPS was one of the first offshore web hosts to accept Bitcoin, which is central to their strategy of keeping your data anonymous. Heck, they take practically every cryptocurrency and alternate payment available, from Litecoin to Namecoin to Perfect Money.
Just like my overall favorite web host (below), Liberty VPS doesn’t require your name, address, or other personal information. They just need an email address to deliver your services and let you know when you need to pay again. Their rates are pretty cheap to begin with, with VPS hosting starting at under $20 a month.
Liberty VPS uses outsourced data centers in the Netherlands, which is one of my favorite countries for website hosting. The Netherlands’ inclusion in the European Union makes them less desirable than non-EU free-speech countries like Iceland and Norway, but they do have some of the strongest laws to protect websites in Europe.
Liberty VPS also has no US staff, which is a requirement in my book. The owner there said he has yet to receive any notices from a foreign government, but would work with any effected customer to “find a solution.” It’s not the anarchist solution of my favorite web host, but it’s better than your average US host which won’t flinch at supplying your local government anything it wants.
My Favorite Offshore Web Host for Business
If you’re running a serious business and can’t afford to mess around, EuroVPS is a great option. Like Orange, they’re not exactly cheap, but you get what you pay for.
EuroVPS servers are located in the Netherlands. While I prefer Iceland, or even Norway, for server hosting, the reality is that the Netherlands is the most popular jurisdiction for server hosting. That’s why there are so many web hosts simply reselling hosting services that use other companies’ data centers.
EuroVPS, however, runs its own infrastructure. They use premium bandwidth to make your websites run really fast. They’re about more than just privacy; they offer really solid services, too. Unlike some VPS companies, they’re more than happy to answer support tickets (usually within a matter of minutes) and are willing to get in and actually help you.
While EuroVPS touts “no Patriot Act” due to its location in Holland, I believe they attract a lot of large businesses who need reliable hosting. For about $100 a month, you can get a top-quality VPS with “proactive monitoring,” which means the company will fix issues that arise with your site, even if you’re not aware of them.
My Favorite Cheap Offshore Web Host
Winner: Icy Evolution
When I first launched Nomad Capitalist, it was just a few opinionated articles on liberty and living abroad. As such, it was hosted on a cheap offshore web host.
We used a company called Icy Evolution, based in Mauritius. Mauritius is an island nation in the Indian Ocean, about 1,200 miles off the southeast coast of continental Africa. Mauritius has a history as an offshore jurisdiction, as does nearby Seychelles.
Icy Evolution is a good web host for basic websites. If you run a business and need a simple shared hosting service, you’ll do just fine there. Web hosting with Icy Evolution costs as little as $3 a month. There is no phone support, and I doubt it would be that useful anyway, but email support is excellent. The staff there frequently helped us out with minor (and even one major) technical issues.
While some observers claim Mauritius is “losing its glow” as the top spot for freedom of the press in Africa, it is still one of the most free jurisdictions in the region. And I don’t suspect they care too much about your website hosting on some server on their island.
There are a lot of offshore web hosts and VPS services for webmasters who understand the value of keeping their data private and maintaining anonymity. Finding the ones that aren’t just located offshore, but understand your need for privacy and anonymity, is key.