How Hetzner Became a Leading Web Host in South Africa Through Energy Savings, and Customer-Focused Strategies

How Hetzner Became a Leading Web Host in South Africa Through Energy Savings, and Customer-Focused Strategies

TL; DR: Celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2019, Hetzner has grown from a small operation into one of South Africa’s leading web hosts. The company’s unique colocation systems contribute to its steady growth and save customers time and money. Hetzner’s commitments to running an energy-efficient datacenter and offering responsive customer service ensure clients find even more value with the company. And a focus on hosting trends and innovative solutions allows Hetzner to keep its customer base satisfied and growing.

The hosting industry has changed considerably in the last two decades and has witnessed both the dot-com bubble burst and the meteoric rise of ecommerce that followed. Hetzner, a South African hosting company founded in 1999, was there through it all.

Though the physical size of server hardware hasn’t changed considerably since the late 1990s, consumers have come to expect exponentially improved performance and energy-efficiency made possible by the state-of-the-art technology housed within racks. And Hetzner works to meet those expectations, even as they evolve over time.

Hetzner logo

Hetzner began serving South Africa in 1999 and has been evolving with the hosting industry ever since.

“Over the years, we’ve seen customers demand greater usability and flexibility as they start to create a web presence or an online business,” said Athena Turner, Brand Manager for Hetzner South Africa.

Hetzner has remained competitive for two decades because it identifies industry shifts early on and responds quickly. Today, the company provides clients with improved performance through shared web hosting packages and default SSD drives.

“We deliver a reliable hosting service with a focus on infrastructure stability, performance value, and consistently excellent service delivery,” Athena said.

The company’s knack for predicting trends and offering services that add value have helped it claim more customers in a competitive South African hosting market. Hetzner’s adoption of standardized and automated processes helps it achieve consistent efficiency and troubleshoot problems quickly.

Though the company has found success, Hetzner is determined not to rest on its reputation as one of South Africa’s leading web hosts. Instead, it continues to innovate to remain successful.

“With such high levels of internal efficiency, we can offer a higher quality of service to our customers,” Athena said. “Five years from now, we simply want to be better at what we already do: delivering reliable and long-term value to our customers by providing a hosting service they can trust.”

Colocation Offers Unique Value in the South African Market

One way Hetzner differentiates itself from the competition is through colocation rack hosting. The company found early on that colocation was mysterious to many businesses, so it aimed to make the process as simple as possible for customers.

Hetzner’s colocation system allows customers to rent equipment, space, and bandwidth in its datacenter. When a customer orders a rack, Hetzner can provide service within the hour. The only requirement to rent a rack is a 30-day notice if a customer plans to leave — which is increasingly rare.

From there, customers can use a rack as they wish.

“Colocation customers have 24/7 physical access with our biometric entry system, and their racks are secured with combination key locks,” Athena said.

This system offers an alternative to Tier 3 datacenters that traditionally come with higher costs and longer contracts. In contrast, Hetzner’s colocation system allows customers to cancel services at any time.

Photo of Hetzner datacenter

Hetzner provides cost-effective colocation services at its energy-efficient datacenter.

What’s more, Hetzner offers a pay-as-you-use model for its services, and customers are only billed for the number of kilowatt-hours (kWh) they consume.

In addition to the colocation model, Hetzner has a long-term partnership with Juniper Networks that allows it to provide a high-performance networking infrastructure. Juniper’s Virtual Chassis technology is utilized to facilitate redundancy.

Furthermore, Hetzner has increased its network resilience by contracting with multiple upstream network providers, thereby offering multi-homing to its customers.

“This business model keeps the company focused on its core competency of web hosting and not only ensures internal operational efficiency but also enables Hetzner to consistently deliver high-quality service at competitive rates,” said Athena.

Eco-Friendly Innovations Create Savings to Pass on to Customers

Since 1999, South African companies have faced regular increases in electricity tariffs. Instead of passing on these increased costs to customers, Hetzner focused on creating a more efficient datacenter that uses as little electricity as possible.

Its datacenter employs many strategies to utilize electricity efficiently. For one, Hetzner uses direct free cooling and directed cool air flow to ensure hardware operates at an optimal temperature. Further, the center’s high-density design lets Hetzner store 30 percent more servers in the same space, which lowers cost per unit.

Additionally, it operates with redundant A+B power feeds to reduce downtime, as well as offering remote hands for customers to deal with physical problems.

Hetzner marks the datacenter’s success by monitoring its power usage effectiveness (PUE) score. The ideal PUE score is a 1.0, which means all energy provided to a datacenter goes to its IT equipment, and the hosting industry averages 1.7. Hetzner’s datacenter, meanwhile, has scored between a 1.17 and a 1.25 in each of the last five years. In 2018, its score was 1.21.

Hetzner innovates its solutions because of its focus on transparency, simplicity, and autonomy. The company supports employees in developing solutions to any problems they identify. And employees manage themselves, rather than waiting for orders from above.

“One of the principles of the self-organizing team is that it comes up with the answers from within,” Athena said.

And that model of team problem-solving and resourcefulness motivates the Hetzner team to keep technologies updated.

“Our in-house engineering and software development teams continuously work on evolving our platform, infrastructure, and hosted solutions,” Athena said.

Customer Service and Feedback are Hallmarks of Hetzner’s Success

Hetzner has been adapting to changes in the hosting industry for two decades, always staying ahead of the latest trends in technology and ecommerce. But the company knows that it wouldn’t be as successful without equally impressive customer service. That’s why it has a support center that helps clients 24/7, 365 days a year.

“Many customers don’t realize the partnership element in choosing a web hosting provider. But a web project always evolves, and you will need support, at some level, throughout,” said Athena.

The contact center answers 95% of phone calls within 10 seconds and responds to 77% of emails within two hours.

Hetzner also takes feedback seriously and asks users to review the company on South Africa’s leading customer service review site, hellopeter.com.

Photo of Hetzner customer service team

Hetzner is known for its robust customer support, and its associates are always available to help.

“We say that if it’s not to the benefit of the customer, it’s not worth doing,” Athena said.

Though web hosting is still Hetzner’s core offering, the company has added other services over the years that benefit customers over the years.

Over time, the continued drive to satisfy customers has kept the company at the forefront of web hosting in South Africa. And its commitment has earned a devoted following. Many of the company’s clients have been with it for years and value Hetzner’s consistent customer service delivery.

Sean Garrity

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