South African Specialists
Hetzner is a South African web host with 20 years of experience and more than 40,000 customers. It has won a number of awards and accolades, including being selected as finalist for the National Business Awards in 2016 and 2018 and winning Silver for its customer service at the Stevie Awards in 2019.
While this review focuses on the South African side of the company, it’s good to know that it also has a German branch, as well as data centers in both locations. But, unusually, the plans draw a distinction between South Africa and Germany when it comes to resource limits. That’s because as far as I can tell, the two locations function mostly autonomously.
Hetzner sells a range of hosting packages from shared hosting and self-managed servers to colocation and dedicated server rental. There’s even a custom hosting plan that includes a dedicated account manager and technical team. The website is available in English only.
If you give me ten minutes of your time, this review is going dig into the ins and outs of Hetzner. I’ll be covering all of the data I can, giving you uptime information, performance and load speeds, customer service response times, and much more.
By the time you’ve read this review, you’ll know everything you need to know about Hetzner and whether it’s a good fit for your needs. If you’re ready, let’s go.
All the Basics
Hetzner provides the majority of the features that you’d expect from a web host, with perhaps the exception of a Cloudflare content delivery network (CDN), which you’d have to set up yourself if you wanted to use it. And while it does offer a powerful control panel, it’s a proprietary system of its own that can take some getting used to.
As for software installers, well, they’re relatively limited. It does have an easy installer for WordPress, though, and you could upload a CMS or e-commerce solution of your own. The more advanced plans include dedicated account and tech teams, server monitoring, disaster recovery, and enhanced backups, but none of these come standard on the entry-level packages.
Working with multiple websites? Whether you’re a company with multiple campaign sites or a developer with several clients, you can save money through the volume plan. It’s basically a reseller plan under a different name, but it has plenty of resources and 24/7 customer support, both of which make it worth considering.
Proprietary Admin Panel
Hetzner uses its own proprietary admin panel, which will cover the majority of your server admin tasks. It looks a little old-fashioned and can take a while to understand completely. However, it’s pretty good at what it does and it’s explained with comprehensive instructions in the help center. I’m used to using cPanel, but I was able to do most of the same stuff once I got used to the interface.
Choice of Operating System
If you go with one of Hetzner’s self-managed servers, you can take your pick of operating systems, including both Linux and Windows. In addition, you’ll be given root/admin access to your server and up to 64 GB of RAM, though you’ll be limited to 6 TB of traffic. Most of Hetzner’s plans include some sort of traffic limit, though.
If energy efficiency and environmentalism are important to you, then Hetzner is a reasonable choice. It operates a lean data center with a custom high-density design, and this allows them to get the highest amount of processing power from the smallest amount of physical space. By focusing on these efficiencies, they’ve been able to lower maintenance costs and improve support services, which both benefit the customer.
Ease of use
Kind of Retro
Hetzner’s interface looks a bit dated, but it’s also pretty self-explanatory. It’s not one of those hosts where you fill in a form, pay for a plan, and get started. There are a lot of forms to fill out on separate screens in a clunky customer journey.
Better Once You’ve Onboarded
It’s hard to list ease-of-use features for a host that isn’t particularly easy to use. It’s mostly the signup process that’s a pain, though, and once you get in, it gets better. Not great, perhaps, but not bad either. If I were grading them, it’d go from a D- to a C once the onboarding is out of the way.
Creating an Account
Actually creating an account with Hetzner is simple enough, mostly involving a single registration form. That’s when it gets complicated. Once you’ve filled out that form, you’ll be able to log into your console, though I was asked to provide a copy of my passport and proof of address.
Even after this step, I still had to purchase a hosting plan, connect a domain, and pay for it, all before confirming my order and waiting…and waiting, and waiting. Ultimately, it took two days, ten steps, and two follow-up emails before I could actually get started. You can learn about the tedious process here.
Connecting a Domain and Installing WordPress
The good news is that installing WordPress and actually getting started was pretty easy once the account was finally ready for use. The biggest challenge was mapping the domain name, mostly because there weren’t any instructions inside the welcome email. Luckily, though, the information was easy to find inside the help center. Read more information on the signup process here.
Reasonable Admin Panel
The admin panel might look a little outdated, but it does have a number of powerful features. Most hosts tend to stick with cPanel, but Hetzner uses konsoleH, its own proprietary system. You can still do most of the same stuff, though, once you understand it.
Above-Average Knowledge Base
One of the things that impressed me about Hetzner is how thorough the knowledge base and help center is. It’s a good thing, too, because the proprietary control panel can take some getting used to – but the documentation has you covered. If you ask me, the knowledge base is one of the best things about Hetzner.
Flat Out Bad
Hetzner doesn’t have as many customer reviews online as other companies, but that’s no surprise, as many of its competitors are tens or hundreds of times bigger. I could only find 20 reviews, and the only negative one was from someone who’d had a poor onboarding experience. Surprise surprise.
If you were to browse Hetzner’s website, you might notice that it doesn’t make any specific promises about speed. Perhaps there’s a reason for that. I ran a Sucuri page load test and the results speak for themselves.
The connection time was fine, but the loading times were terrible; nearly ten times slower than some of the other companies I’ve tested. This comes with a caveat, though.
It’s a South African company with servers in South Africa and Germany. The German location fared pretty well, but as there weren’t any tests done in South Africa, it’s hard to tell whether the performance would have been good there or not — I would hope so, but it’s a guess.
Not Bad, with Decent Documentation
Hetzner has a pretty good knowledge base, and I was able to use it to find information on the nameservers without a problem when I was connecting my domain name. It also has a comprehensive help center, including 17 articles on its proprietary konsoleH control panel.
I had to get in touch with Hetzner a few times, and the team was polite and friendly each time, providing the answers I needed in full. My first query received a response after ten minutes, and my second and third queries received responses after a couple hours.
That’s not too bad, and I’ve had experiences where companies took days to respond, but the speedy replies were offset by a lack of live chat functionality (which, in my opinion, is a necessity).
Hetzner’s prices are pretty much standard, making them neither a budget nor a high-end provider. Be warned, though, that the prices are in South African rand, and not in the Indian rupee, so be careful when you’re doing the currency conversions, since both often appear with an R before the amount. All in all, the prices are reasonable enough, but I’m not convinced that its performance is good enough to warrant them.
Cancellations & Refunds
Hetzner has it backward, because canceling my account was much easier than creating it. You don’t even have to call its customer service team, as some hosts make you do, though it did take a while for my refund to be processed. You can find out more about my experience here.