International data centre operator Savvis aims to support the online marketing activities of global brands on the mainland through its new "virtual hosting" service in Hong Kong. This initiative marks the Missouri-based information technology services provider's sharpened focus on business opportunities on the mainland, the world's largest internet market. The mainland had 538 million internet users at the end of June. "Chief marketing officers know that mainland China is one of the most desirable markets in the world, but complicated regulations and other issues prevent their e-commerce sites, online product promotions and other web content from reaching this coveted audience," said Mark Smith, the managing director for Asia at Savvis. Smith cited a recent study by Canadian firm Strangeloop Networks, which found that the websites of major luxury brands took more than 16 seconds on average to download by mainland internet users. About 80 per cent of consumers leave a site that took more than three seconds. "Many brands tried to bypass these latency issues in the international network connection by hosting their content within the market, only to find the process of securing a local-hosting licence onerous," Smith said. Virtual hosting service enables foreign brands to host their web content at Savvis' Tsuen Wan data centre, which uses so-called caching and dynamic delivery technologies to distribute content on the mainland via the company's network of domestic data-communications facilities. A data centre is a secure, temperature-controlled facility equipped to house large capacity servers and data-storage systems which have multiple power sources and high-speed links to the internet. "This makes it easy to get companies' web content in mainland China and satisfies domestic consumers' interest in foreign brands' websites," Smith said. He cited a recent survey by research company Ipsos China which found the purchasing decisions of nearly half of 1,050 local respondents were influenced by the websites of major brands. Savvis, a subsidiary of CenturyLink, the third-largest telecommunications services provider in the US, has targeted financial services, media and e-commerce brands as initial users of its virtual hosting service. "In Hong Kong, we will have a combined 200,000 square feet of data centre space - our largest footprint in Asia - once that facility is opened in September next year," Smith said.