Contabo

During the winter of 2013, Contabo emerged from the ashes of the company known as Giga-International that was formed a decade earlier. To tell the truth, the company was good at doing business in its own right, however, it was primarily focused on the German market. Therefore, and with a bit of a paradox, the company named Giga-International changed its name to Contabo so as to mark its transition from German to the international marketplace (since Giga-International didn’t sound international enough).

Joke aside (and regardless of its name), this company has steadily grown from having a single data center in Germany (in Munich, to be precise) to deploying more than 10,000 servers at this very moment. As a response to the demand for VPS and dedicated servers, Contabo launched its second data center inside Germany (Nuremberg) in 2014 and added colocation hosting to their bag of tricks.

Network

Contabo's network has grown considerably since 2013 (Image credit: Contabo)

Four years later they would open another one, and for the first time outside the borders of Europe. Located in the USA (St. Louis), this data center was meant to attract users from the Americas, promising lower latency, speed of light and an exceptional level of performance overall. Nowadays they employ five data centers in total: one in the USA, three in Germany and one in Singapore.

In addition to their everlasting expansion, Contabo likes to congratulate oneself on “numerous” rewards it has (quite rightly) received, such as German Data Center Awards in 2017 and, the first place on the CHIP Hotline Test and winning a “Great Uptime Badge” on HostAdvice.

Contabo’s main website takes advantage of up-to-date, clear-cut design in order to ensure user-friendliness and easy exploration of the site’s content. It is available in German and English, and although the English translation is questionable at times it shouldn’t present anything but a slight grammatical and stylistic spot of bother. The same could be said for Contabo’s official blog which, although not avidly active, publishes new content on a monthly basis at a minimum.

If you're into social networking, you can follow them on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Pricing

Contabo offers reasonably priced shared hosting packages in addition to VPS and dedicated servers (Image credit: Contabo)

Plans and pricing

If you look closely enough, you’ll notice that Contabo’s offers a currency preference where you can select between EUR and USD, which is nice to see since most of the time you get either of them. Whichever you choose, the pricing of all Contabo’s products will be displayed in it. And if you decide to sign up with them, your account will be fixed to the currency you originally opted for. 

Contabo provides four shared hosting packages (simply titled as M, L, XL and XXL), four for VPS (all with SSD), four for VDS (virtual dedicated server), four for standard dedicated servers and (finally) three for storage-optimized VPS. The pricing of all these plans is rather reasonable taking into account everything they include. 

For instance, the lowest priced shared hosting named M will provide you with up to 50GB of storage space, 20 MySQL databases, 1000 e-mail addresses, one domain name (which comes free-of-charge), industry-standard cPanel and more than 300 available apps, and all for mere $3.99 per month. However, there is one catch, the minimal billing period you can choose is for an entire year. 

Contabo offers neither money-back guarantee, nor a cancellation period, which is likely to put off a number of their potential users. 

If you want to pay for Contabo’s services in USD, you can use credit cards or PayPal. However, if you are paying in EUR (which is actually recommended), in addition to the above you can pay via bank transfers or Skrill. 

Ease of use

Those who looking for a beginner-friendly web hosting provider that will spoil you with all the little bits and pieces one can wish for, might want to continue their  search. Contabo is by no means tight-fisted, but neither is it trying to be an all-things-to-all-people kind of provider. Some notably absent features one would otherwise expect to get with a well-known host are one-click installations, CDNs and a money-back guarantee.

On the bright side, setting up an account with Contabo is something anybody can do in about five minutes to the max. However, sometimes (and this is that time) being as simple as possible is not particularly helpful to less tech-savvy users who are likely to be left in the dark from time to time because of the reliance on overly technical jargon. Thankfully, you can always google it.

After opting for the best fitting hosting plan, you’ll be required to decide about a few things: a domain name (you can register a new or transfer an existing one), add-ons (for an additional fee), CGI support (enabling it will cost you $1.29 per month) and backups (you can get them for $2.59 per month). It should be noted that domain names are billed on a monthly basis, so don’t be tricked by a small sum shown in the order summary.

Following this, you’ll be required to provide a considerable amount of personal information including your telephone number (as explained, for the purpose of password recovery). Here you might notice that you don’t get to choose your password right away. It will be auto-generated and sent to you e-mail address (together with all the information required to set up your account), but you’ll get an opportunity to change it later on.

Control Panel

This is the somewhat dated interface of Contabo's Webmin control panel (Image credit: Contabo)

Now, let’s get on with the bad news so we can get to the good one. Contabo’s user interface feels counterintuitive at times, so if you are not a UI veteran that has seen it all, you are likely to feel at loss every now and then. The good news is that Contabo provides an industry-standard, Linux-based and user-friendly cPanel as its control panel, and it is as intuitive as it gets. In addition to cPanel, users have an option to use Plesk or Webmin, and the latter one is offered free of charge.

Another thing you’ll get for nothing is Contabo’s own easy-to-use website builder that comes with more than enough mobile-responsive templates.

Performance

We used GTmetrix to test the uptime and response time of Contabo's main website (Image credit: GTmetrix)

Speed and experience

While showing off, Contabo doesn’t fail to mention it emerged as a winner in the "Speed" category as part of the CHIP Hotline Test in 2015. However, since that happened years ago, we had to check how they are holding at present in terms of speed performance. After putting their main website to the test (via GTmetrix), we have to say: magnificently. The time it took for the page to completely load, total page requests and all the core metrics related to speed were well above the average resulting in an astonishing A (96%) as the ultimate grade. 

As for uptime, if you are wondering if they managed to refrain from mentioning the badge they won for “Great Uptime” on HostAdvice, you can already guess your answer. That being said, if we were in position to give away badges for unlocking the same achievement, (we must admit) one would go to Contabo, and UptimeRobot (our uptime-testing tool of choice) would wholeheartedly agree with our decision. After monitoring the uptime of Contabo’s main website for a period of one month, we were unable to capture a single second of downtime, which should be commended. 

Support

You can contact Contabo by phone or by email for support (Image credit: Contabo)

Support

Being familiar with Contabo’s propensity to boast proudly and publicly, we weren’t surprised to see lots of promises regarding their “first-class” customer support whose quality has been recognized “year after year” by the aforementioned CHIP Hotline Test (a name that ought to inspire confidence, yes?). Despite our skepticism, our own experience with Contabo’s support team was a lovely surprise, as was the agent we got in touch with: quick to respond, well-informed and friendly.

Tutorials

Contabo also has a number of tutorials on common web hosting tasks on its site (Image credit: Contabo)

If you are a do-it-yourself type of person, Contabo will provide you with an exhaustive FAQ section, a knowledgebase (titled as “Tutorials Overview'') and a server status section (which contains latest updates about power outages, interruptions and scheduled maintenances of their servers). While it didn’t age well in terms of its style, the knowledgebase is packed with quite detailed articles (all with pictures) covering various hosting-related issues, and is likely to prove most useful to most users.

However, if you would prefer to take a helping hand, Contabo’s support staff can be reached via telephone number (from 8AM to 10PM CEST) and e-mail (during the same hours) on workdays, weekends and holidays.

The competition

The key difference between Bluehost and Contabo is that one is based in the USA (as its data centers are) and the other in Germany (with data centers in Germany, Singapore and the USA). In terms of hosting types and features they are somewhat similar, however, Bluehost includes a bit wider array of features at its advertised price, while Contabo tends to charge extra cash for those.

Much like Bluehost, HostGator is a US-based web hosting provider offering a broad range of hosting options, features and available apps at pocket-friendly pricing. One notable feature that sets them apart from Contabo is their refund policy, where Bluehost offers a more standard 30-day one while with HostGator you’ll be getting a generous 45-days money-back guarantee. On the other hand, Contabo provides no refunds at this point.

Host Europe and Contabo are both Germany-based hosts, with Host Europe being the one that usually gets more attention out of the two. However, since Host Europe is (ironically) more geared towards German-speaking customers, with data centers in Cologne (Germany) and Strasbourg (France), Contabo and its data centers spread across three continents are likely a better choice for users coming from the international market.

Those who are looking for an easygoing German host for a personal blog or a simple website should consider a Berlin-based Strato. Although it comes off as an unpolished gem in comparison with Contabo, Strato provides some great features such as multiple-domain hosting with all plans, free SSL certificate with each plan, one-click installs for all the popular apps and 30-day money-back guarantee. That being said, neither of these hosts is notably novice-friendly, so make sure you consider everything before reaching a decision.

Final verdict

If you are German, want to try shattering the myth about the German quality, or are simply looking for a budget-friendly European host with an outstanding price-to-performance ratio and curious indifference regarding some of commonly seen features (such as money-back guarantee), give Contabo a shot.

However, if you are looking for a Germany-based host providing a refund policy, check out 1&1 IONOS or Strato, since with both hosts you’ll get a standard 30-day money-back guarantee with all of their plans. And if you are not strictly searching for an offshore host, both Bluehost and HostGator should be taken into account.

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