circuit headsProxy-based website translation is, in essence, a cloud-based service which facilitates translators’ access to your website in order to translate the content into a foreign language. When you work with a proxy-based service, your translated site remains on the proxy server and is delivered from that server, not the same web server as your original site. The user experiences the foreign language site as a seamless extension of the original. Your website willswidgets.com, for example, might be available in Spanish translation at sp.willswidgets.com.

Proxy-based website translation provides a solution to some, but not all, of the technical challenges of website translation. A proxy solution can be a useful, valuable component of a globalization plan, when deployed in partnership with your Language Services Partner.

To better understand the benefits and potential drawbacks, we consider these two pros and two (largely avoidable) cons….

Pros

Implementation

If you have already invested a significant amount of time and money in your web presence and your website is not optimized for localization, proxies can get you going a lot faster and cheaper than any other path. Your site may have been built long before translation and localization became a necessity. Different types of sites have different organizing structures (Content Management Systems) for making the content available off-line. Some CMSs are more localization-friendly than others. If your CMS doesn’t provide an easy way to export content and set up parallel site structures, changing over to a new CMS could be expensive and time consuming (retraining staff, paying programmers, project management). A proxy-based service allows content to be more immediately accessed by translators.

Rapid Updates and Response to Change

Without a proxy service, every time you make a change to your English-language site, you will isolate the source data, send it for translation, then re-upload it onto the translated site on your own server. By contrast, most of the major proxy services can be set to constantly monitor your source content and quickly push out any content changes or additions for translation. With this system in place you can effectively focus on your core site, and be assured that changes will be made in your foreign-language sites without your having to take an extra step.

Cons

There are some potential drawbacks to using proxy services. To avoid these issues, a proxy service is best used in partnership with your language services partner.  These drawbacks can be mitigated with careful planning and consultation. Talk to your LSP about them and make sure they aware of and able to remedy these potential issues.

Hidden Overhead: Translation Memory and Quality Assurance

Relying on a proxy service as a turn-key solution can save money at the implementation stage. However, it can also generate unexpected costs for you down the line. This is why a proxy service is most efficient when used as part of an overall set of solutions provided by a language service partner. Translation memory management and quality assessment are two interrelated issues here.

A translation memory (TM) is a database containing all your corporate translations. Each time you translate something, the text is entered into a searchable database so that translations can be leveraged across publications. The TM is a core asset for your company going forward and can greatly reduce the cost of globalizing your business. However, a TM is a sophisticated data set that requires careful management by professionals. Some proxy services use a built-in translation interface that may include a rudimentary translation memory management system. These may not work as efficiently as TMs managed with dedicated computer-aided translation (CAT) software. They rarely include terminology and glossary management. The QA functions within the proxy service may not be as robust.  Without professional oversight and maintenance, the quality of the TM will degrade over time.  Furthermore, if the TM is integrated within the proxy service’s system, it may be difficult to export and reuse your TM for other corporate communications, or if you decide to switch to a different proxy service.

Managing and leveraging a TM across multiple types of content is a core competency of a language services partner.  If you work directly with a proxy service alone, you shoulder the costs of managing your multilingual resources, keeping track of every step of quality assurance and TM maintenance, and otherwise diverting your attention from your core business. All these aspects of the translation process can be managed by an LSP independently of the proxy or in partnership between a language services partner and a proxy service. As long as your LSP knows what they’re doing, they will be able to maintain a high quality TM and termbase that reduces the ongoing costs of managing and leveraging your foreign language website content, ensuring a consistent global voice far into the future.

Cost

What starts off as a big benefit of translation proxy servers — their initial low cost compared to more web-development-intensive solutions — can eventually become a drawback. As the traffic to your localized website increases, so will the cost of your proxy service, as they typically charge by page-views. As your business scales, cost could become an issue. If you cannot predict what kind of traffic you will have in your target countries, it may be difficult to budget for. With proper planning, these uncertainties can be addressed. As it grows, the proxy service may be able to offer volume discounts and more predictable pricing schemes.

Conclusion

If you need your site translated into one or more languages quickly and would rather not spend the time and money to make your website and CMS globalization-ready, a proxy could be good option. Depending on the specific provider you use, even large companies with full-service IT departments can benefit from a proxy-based service. Proxy services can quickly get the project off the ground. As long as you do not try to manage the process itself on your own and you are careful about relying solely on the proxy for translation memory maintenance, terminology management, and quality assurance, a proxy service can be an efficient and cost-effective solution. Many qualified LSPs have partnership agreements with reputable website translation proxy services and together they can help maximize the benefits of multilingual content.

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