An Award-Winning Host, but Still Reasonably Priced
Based in Germany, Contabo was formed in 2003 as Giga-International, specializing in hosting packages and dedicated servers. The company now has 5,000 servers in two data centers, in Munich and Nuremberg.
One of the first things I noticed about Contabo is that its website looks straight out of the 1990s. Don’t let that bother you, though, because it’s a reasonably priced European hosting provider and it’s pretty good at what it does.
Contabo’s self-service tools allow you to open up an account and get started immediately, with your pick of shared, dedicated, or VPS hosting. It also offers colocation services and reasonably priced domain names.
Contabo isn’t shy about sharing news of some its awards, including “very good” ratings from the CHIP Hotline Test and wins at the German Data Center Awards 2017 and 2018.
So far, so good, right? Well, that depends. As always, it comes down to figuring out whether Contabo is the best website host for you, and that’s where this article comes in. Let’s dig in and see exactly what Contabo has to offer.
An Old Fashioned Website, but Are the Features Any Better?
If you’re looking for a host which comes with all the bells and whistles, you’d probably better look elsewhere. As well as an outdated website, Contabo’s is lacking a few important features, such as a one-click installer and content delivery networks (CDNs).
Having said that, there’s a website builder (with more than 200 mobile-responsive templates), SSL support, manual backups, and DDoS protection – so while it’s not the most extensive list, it’s not all bad.
Build Your Own Servers
One of the big advantages of Contabo is the fact that it allows you to build your own dedicated servers. This includes physical hardware like processing power, hard drive space, and RAM, as well as features like additional backup space and ongoing monitoring and management.
This only applies to its dedicated servers and not to its shared or VPS hosting, but there’s still some flexibility with its other products.
Energy-Efficient Data Centers
Unlike some other hosting providers that put all of their resources into speed and security, Contabo invests heavily in energy efficiency, making it a good choice if you’re trying to cut your carbon footprint. Its two data centers are also fed by different electricity suppliers to ensure uptime in the event of a disaster.
All of Contabo’s servers are connected to at least one 100-megabit port, with the option of 1-gigabit ports. The goal of these ports is to help your website keep up with traffic spikes and other unexpected periods of high resource usage.
The company also notes that the majority of its customers live in the UTC+/-1 timezone (which includes the United Kingdom and France). So when people visit your site from the United States, they’re typically outside of peak times and thus receive faster page load times.
Owned Data Center
Contabo is notable for owning its own data centers instead of leasing servers from other companies. It has enough room for nearly 15,000 servers, which will allow the company to continue growing as it increases its customer base. It also has qualified engineers on site 24/7, 365 days a year.
Oddly, considering it’s one of the few hosts that owns its own data center, its uptime is below par at “an annual mean 95% availability” and there isn’t any compensation in the event of excessive downtime either.
Ease of use
Lacks Advanced Features, but Easy Enough to Use
Contabo’s user interface is not intuitive, on either its website or on its hosting tools, so it can be difficult to get used to. The good news is that it still uses cPanel, an industry standard, and it even provides a demo account that you can log into to test out the service before you get started.
It also has a variety of tutorials to help you get started, but if you’ve used cPanel before, you’re already set. Other than that, there aren’t many features at Contabo that make it stand out from other providers.
Old-Fashioned Look and Feel
The most obvious thing about Contabo is that it has an outdated look and feel, both on its homepage and once you log into its user admin panel. Sometimes this can be a good thing, as the simple interface makes it easy to understand. At other times, it’s a bad thing because the functionality you want to use is either missing or difficult to find.
Automated DDoS Protection
One of the good things about Contabo is that it offers distributed denial of service (DDoS) protection, which is designed to prevent your website from being taken offline by a cyber attack. These attacks are surprisingly common.
The good news is that Contabo offers DDoS protection as standard across all of its hosting packages, and you don’t even have to do anything to set it up. It’ll just be running in the background automatically.
Creating an Account
Signing up for Contabo is reasonably simple, but it tends to use overly technical language that can be difficult for the casual webmaster. The good news is that you can still set up an account in five minutes or so even if you’re a beginner. While it might not be the best, I’ve also seen worse. Click here to learn more about creating an account with Contabo.
Connecting a Domain and Installing WordPress
Installing WordPress is pretty easy too, because it uses Softaculous and cPanel, two industry standards that allow you to easily manage your server and install applications.
Connecting a domain is pretty straightforward as well, and it’s automatic if you choose the free domain name option. It’s the first website host I’ve come across where installing WordPress and configuring a domain name was easier than actually signing up. Click here to find out more about the signup process.
Mid-Tier Performance at Budget Prices
Most of Contabo’s reviews are positive, with users praising the quality and the relatively low prices. The negative reviews tend to focus on a combination of performance problems and poor customer service interactions.
For each of my reviews, I run a Sucuri page load test to see what the speeds are like, and it’s bad news for Contabo, mostly because of a big delay between connecting to the server and the first byte being delivered.
It managed a faster loading time across the world in Australia than it did in its native Germany, and its global average is as much as five times slower than many of its competitors.
Inflexible Customer Service
Contabo’s support center might look outdated, but it has some decent information about how to use its service if you get stuck. The company says it has high standards when it comes to support, but it doesn’t always live up to them. In fact, I had a pretty poor experience when I was trying to install WordPress.
When I signed up with Contabo, I didn’t realize that the base plan didn’t include a one-click installer for WordPress. I contacted customer support about it, and instead of offering any support, they seemed more concerned with trying to upsell products to me. This is one of a handful of companies I’ve dealt with that doesn’t offer a basic feature like a one-click installer in the cheapest plan.
The company also fared poorly when I canceled my service and requested a refund. The team was unwilling to compromise and ending up keeping a full annual fee for just two days worth of usage. Read on below to find out more about this experience.
As a German company, all of Contabo’s prices are in euro. It’s pretty reasonable for what it includes, and the company also throws in free domain names—three of them for its top-tier shared hosting packages. In fact, it’s one of the cheapest I’ve seen for domain names, so it might be worth considering as a domain name provider even if you don’t go with it for website hosting.
Cancellations & Refunds
Canceling my account with Contabo was pretty simple, but that was all I could do. Its website said that it offered a “14-day revocation period” so I contacted the team to ask when I could expect to receive my money back.
The agent replied to tell me that I wasn’t able to get any money back, as Contabo has a no-refund policy. Though I’d been with them for only two days, they kept my full year’s fees.
I contacted them again and again about the issue but it never was resolved, and the whole experience left me dissatisfied. You can read more about my cancellation experience here.