Shared hosting starts at just €3.99 (£3.50, $4.66), for instance, yet still manages to include unlimited traffic, a bundled SSL certificate, a 50MB attachment limit on emails, daily and on-demand backups, SiteLock Light to spot malware on your website, Kaspersky antivirus filtering on your main email account, email and freephone telephone support (in Germany, Austria and Switzerland).
This baseline account has some limits and restrictions, but they're well-judged and many users won't notice them at all. You're 'only' allowed 50GB disk space, 2 databases, 10 FTP and 100 email accounts, for instance. We suspect that will be more than enough for most personal and many small business sites.
The closest we could find to a catch is that Host Europe charges a setup fee if you opt to pay monthly rather than annually. That's annoying, but it's not unusual – many companies do the same, or perhaps simply charge extra for monthly subscriptions.
Because the starter plan is so well specified, upgrading typically just gives you more of the features you have already, rather than adding new powers. For example, paying €6.99 a month (£6.17, $8.17) for the Medium account doubles your disk space to 100GB, allows up to 10 databases, 15 FTP accounts, 200 email accounts, and so on.
Host Europe has an array of other products, including a dedicated website builder, WordPress and e-commerce plans, hosted email and Exchange, virtual private and dedicated servers, and most of these also offer realistic specifications and fair prices.
The company's starter Virtual Private Server plan is priced at €9.90 a month (£8.70, $11.60), for instance, much higher than the £4.99 ($6.60) for 1&1's baseline plan, but that's only because it's a far better product with twice the CPU resources, more than three times the storage and four times the RAM.
There are some catches – 1&1's basic plan gives you an SSL certificate, whereas Host Europe charges extra – but overall, Host Europe's product range compares well on features and value with the big-name competition.
Host Europe's website presents its plans very well, with a quick summary of the key features visible at a glance, and an in-depth comparison table on hand for anyone interested. It's simple to find a product which works for you, and we decided to try Host Europe's Basic shared hosting plan.
The website next prompted us to enter a vast amount of information, including customer type (private individual, business, organization), name, email and physical address, phone number, date of birth and more.
Host Europe accepts payments via card, PayPal and SEPA (the Single Euro Payments Area scheme to simplify bank transfers in Euros). We chose PayPal and confirmed the transaction at the PayPal site.
Although we had been working through the English-language version of the website, the post-payment screen displayed its messages in German, and a follow-up Welcome email also arrived with German-language PDFs of our order and Host Europe's terms and conditions.
A PS in the email explained that we could change our language preferences to English in the website settings, but that required a username and password. We hadn't been prompted to create these during setup, and so had no way to log in, and no clear guidance on what to do next.
In reality we had to wait for our account to be activated, and this wasn't a speedy process. Almost three hours after our order, two more Host Europe emails arrived. These were near duplicates of the first, though one had an English translation this time. Neither contained our login information.
Finally, around 50 minutes later, another German language-only email contained our password. It's not difficult to figure out what 'temporären passwort Xg)41uioL!Q' means, but the signup process would still be much easier if Host Europe didn't assume all its customers spoke German. And even if they do, a near four-hour delay to get access to an account could be annoying.
We logged in to the Host Europe control panel, and although the initial dialogs were also in German, the main Welcome page gave us an option to switch to English. We did, but this didn't completely resolve our problems. The Login page, ads and some links remained untranslated. The service remained usable, but the issue didn't create a good impression. How difficult can it be for Host Europe to have an English language speaker glance at the main screens and list what needs translating?
Host Europe's customer account screen opens with links to view your invoices, account details and so on. Normally you'll want to head straight off to your website control panel, but here it's three clicks away, and those clicks aren't entirely obvious. Still, it only took a few moments to figure it out, and we were ready to start building our web presence.
Creating a site
The Host Europe web management console makes a poor first impression with its awkward, text-heavy interface. With cPanel, you see all its key functions simply by scrolling down the screen, but this control panel spreads its options across a horizontal menu, forcing us to hover our mouse cursor over each menu item to see and remind ourselves of what it contains.
There is no one-click application installer, unfortunately. Host Europe has a simple managed WordPress plan, but there's no way to automatically install the CMS (or anything else) in a regular shared hosting plan.
We noticed and activated a website builder, but found this had plenty of issues: you only get five very ordinary templates, there are very few widgets, the editor is very basic, and, oh yes, the interface is in German only. It's usable for non-German speakers with help from Chrome's Translate feature, but in reality, you'll be better off with almost anything else.
A File Management function looked more interesting, as we assumed it would be a file manager, but no. It's little more than a list of files and folders in your web space, with options to change their permissions or delete them.
The best way to upload website files is via FTP. Even the most basic Host Europe account enables creating up to 10 FTP users, and these have some interesting security options. You can allow access to certain users only when they have a specified IP address, for instance. You can also give access for a specific amount of time (an hour, a day, a week), handy for users you'd like to help with specific tasks only.
Experts can also set up access to their web space via WebDAV (the technology behind cPanel's Web Disk), a handy option which makes it easier to create, move and change files on a server. Windows Explorer supports WebDAV, for instance, allowing you to manipulate web files without needing any other software.
Elsewhere, there are tools to create emails, manage databases, install and configure SSL, run on-demand backups and restore them. These work, but some of the more advanced features have little help available, and it could take a while to figure out how they work.
Every good web host should offer decent support, and Host Europe's clunky management console means you'll probably need more help than most. So, it's reassuring to see the console sidebar has both a Support and FAQ section, at least until you click the links.
The FAQ is a conventional web knowledgebase, but available in German only. While that's going to be a big issue for non-German speakers, if your browser has a translate feature, the FAQ can still be helpful.
For example, searching for WordPress lists 17 FAQ articles, including 'How can I move an existing WordPress blog?', 'What's the best way to update my blog?', 'How can I create a test environment for my blog?', and so on. The articles are detailed, and German speakers will get plenty of useful information from the content. Browser-based translated versions aren't quite as helpful, but you'll still pick up handy details, for example advice on using the UpdraftPlus plugin to backup and restore WordPress.
If the FAQ doesn't answer your question, you can call freephone numbers in Germany, Austria or Switzerland, raise a ticket or send an email. We tried raising a simple product support via a ticket at 7pm one evening, and the results were a surprise.
The downside was that response times were slow, with nothing happening for 20 hours. But the surprise was that the company actually called us with an answer, and we were able to discuss this further. We didn't ask for this, and we don't know how often it happens, but even if it's only sometimes, Host Europe deserves credit for making the effort.
The review ended on another positive note with our performance tests. Our website was hosted on a Host Europe-owned server located in Germany, and the company's quality network gave us above average connection speeds across Europe and to the US.
Host Europe has some powerful and fairly priced products, but its feeble management console makes them awkward to use, and the partial translations will be a hassle to anyone who can't read German.
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