Moving to Hetzner VPS: Shorter legal docs as a competitive advantage

Do you read the often lengthy legal agreements required by your Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting provider? I guess that many skip past these documents, but I actually read them. My now former VPS hosting provider, Linode, sent me a shedload of updated legal agreements at 23.00 on a Friday night before a long weekend with just six days to review the documents before they went into effect.

I never read what Linode’s lawyers had to say about the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The length of the Linode Privacy Policy alone had grown by 273 % compared to the previous version, and that was only a small part of the overall agreement. I took the opportunity to switch hosting provider, get away from the lengthy legal documents, and save some money at the same time.

Linode, like every other company, had a two year period to adopt to the GDPR – but they chose to wait until the very last week to act. I frankly got a bit pissed off at them for not giving their customers a significantly longer notice period before they enacted any contractual changes. I’m sure Linode's lawyers are great folks that are doing fine work protecting Linode’s interests. However, the policy changes Linode chose to enact a week before the GDPR should have been ready two months earlier at the very least.

I began looking for a new Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting provider, and took into account the total length of their legal agreements as well as the usual performance/value-for-money consideration I usually go for.

I’ll not bore you with the details of that search here, but I will point out that the USA based hosting providers in general have significantly wordier legal agreements than hosting providers based elsewhere in the world. Almost all the budget VPS providers I reviewed mixed their website’s privacy policy and the privacy policy for their service offering together in one confusing document.

After spending two days reviewing a dozen different hosting providers, I decided to go with Hetzner Cloud. Hetzner’s full English language agreement for their Cloud service is ten words shorter than Linode’s privacy policy alone, and just a little over a quarter the length of Linode’s entire set of agreements.

Hetzner is an German budget provider with data centers in Nuremberg and Falkenstein/Vogtland in Germany plus a brand new data center in Helsinki, Finland. My data center location isn’t super important to me as the majority of traffic is routed through and served by BunnyCDN (see my budget CDN comparison.)

Hetzner is cheaper than Linode’s cheapest option and you get considerably more for your money:

Service Price Cores RAM Disk Bandwidth Traffic +1 TiB Backup
Hetzner CX11 €2,49 1 2 GB 20 GiB 2/1 Gb/s 20 TiB €1 €0,50
Hetzner CX21 €4,90 2 4 GB 40 GiB 2/1 Gb/s 20 TiB €1 €0,99
Nanode 1GB $5,00 1 1 GB 25 GiB 40/1 Gb/s 1 TiB $20 $2,00

At the current currency exchange rate, and with backup services included, I get two CX11 instances or one CX21 instance at Hetzner for the price of just one Nanode. The traffic overrate charge is 94 % cheaper and even includes 19 TiB more traffic in the standard service package. The biggest difference is in the incoming bandwidth speeds. However, I’m getting the same outgoing speed and that is the main factor for how fast I can serve the limited number of requests that trickle in from my CDN.

Hetzner offer a choice of the latest version of four Linux distributions: CentOS, Debian, Fedora, or Ubuntu. However, you can choose from additional operating systems with manual setup including Alpine Arch Linux, Devuan, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, OpenSUSE, and even Windows Server (license sold separately, as they say).

I of course chose Fedora and went with Hetzner’s new data center in Helsinki, complete with that fresh new data center smell, to get the latest and hopefully greatest technology. A more conservative admin may have opted for the older data center, but I’m relying on stale-while-error to cover for me for a few days in the unlikely event a catastrophic failure at Hetzner.

This is not the first time I’m with a European hosting provider, but so far is the first time I haven’t hated the experience. Hetzner has a modern looking administration interface paired with prices and services that can compete with the larger players in the VPS space.