A2 Hosting Review – Insanely Fast Shared Hosting!
A2 Hosting have been in the web hosting game since 2001. Currently, they brand themselves as one of the fastest shared hosts. They are currently competing hard with the big guns in web hosting like BlueHost, but without spending anywhere near as much on marketing. With that in mind, I decided to use them for a medium-sized project and this A2 Hosting review is going to be based on my own experience with A2 Hosting.
A2 Hosting - The Introduction
Let's start this A2 Hosting review off with some basic information about them. A2 Hosting is based in Michigan, USA, although they have a datacenter in Europe as well. They are independently owned, that means a bigger conglomerate hasn't yet managed to acquire them and turn into a money-hungry low-quality host yet. Currently, they offer “optimized” shared hosting, boasting one of the fastest load times. They also offer VPS, cloud and dedicated hosting. With competitive pricing, class-leading features, and near-perfect uptime, A2 Hosting has quickly become one of the serious names to consider in the premium shared hosting segment.
Take a look at the most prominent features of A2 Hosting:
- 3 different data centers in USA (Michigan), Europe (Amsterdam) and Asia (Singapore); allowing you to choose from 3 separate locations for your server.
- 'A2 Optimized' server configuration by default, resulting in faster page load times for popular CMS's, out of the box.
- Managed WordPress hosting, having WordPress-specific performance and optimization features which ensures complete compatibility with most WordPress-related features and plugins, no matter how basic or advanced level it belongs to. Your A2 Hosting account can come with a WordPress installation out of the box if you choose that option while signing up, much like what you get with VPS providers like DigitalOcean.
- They use high-spec servers that are 100% powered by SSDs (which are significantly faster than traditional hard drive powered servers) for not just your databases and the server OS, but for ALL of your files.
- Free site transfers from your old web host. Some shared hosts charge you a lot more additional money for this apparently simple thing.
- Proactive monitoring for security vulnerabilities. Reboot-less kernel upgrades. Also comes equipped with a service called "HackScan" for free. The name is pretty suggestive of what it does.
- 24×7 Email, Live Chat, Skype & Phone Support. It's hard to see in this budget.
- 30-days Money-back Guarantee - then pro-rated refunds beyond the first 30 days.
I've tested more than 25 different shared hosts so far. I have to admit that I've seen nothing like this before. The site that I hosted on A2 Hosting took just 285 ms to load up fully! And it wasn't like it was a very light site, either.
This essentially makes A2 Hosting the fastest shared hosting that I've ever tested. And I'm on the basic plan, hosting just this one site. So, considering my plan doesn't even get the additional advanced speed-boosters like memcached and all that's included in their "A2 Accelerated" hosting plans (more expensive) makes it an incredible feat for their most basic plan.
I ran the page load test multiple times in a day and from multiple locations, and the results remained consistent throughout all of them, no matter which time of the day I was performing the test at.
The response time was consistently good too, throughout my testing period. I think their refined and efficient caching system, coupled with their optimized server setup makes this possible. Time-to-first-byte is a very important factor these days, and with A2, you can expect to consistently get a fast initial server response.
So, how do A2 Hosting achieve this phenomenal server performance? Mainly, by doing three things right.
- Limiting the number of users on a single shared hosting server. This is super important because the more users there are on a single server, the more is the server load. Consequently, the server has to process more requests per second, handle more total data and I/O, and work with less free RAM. This results in a slow server response time, and a sluggish performance overall. Also, more users on the same server = more chances of one of the sites getting compromised, risking the security of all other sites on that same server.
- Optimizing the servers well using best-in-class technology. Be it the premium, lightning-fast LiteSpeed web server instead of the more common Apache, or the WordPress-specific optimizations, A2 goes the extra mile to ensure the users get absolutely the best possible performance possible in a shared hosting platform. Not to forget additional features like 100% SSD powered storage, resulting in much much faster I/O as opposed to conventional spinning hard drive powered storage.
- Providing superior caching. Caching is super important for your website, and it can be the sole factor that can allow your site to stay hosted on your present host while receiving 10x more hits everyday. Without caching, the server has to do a lot of work to serve each dynamic (PHP-powered, for example, as opposed to something static like .html) page of your site. With caching, however, it has to serve cached versions of the same pages, which means the server doesn't have to do all that PHP processing anymore. The thing with A2 is, they go one step further to ensure their caching setup is truly next-level. First of all, due to the premium LiteSpeed server that they use, you get the LSCache WordPress plugin, which connects the caching of your WordPress site to the LiteSpeed server's default caching module, resulting in crazy fast page load times as the cached pages are served right from the server-level, without needing to process any PHP (or anything similar) at all.
The particular site I have hosted with A2 Hosting is yet to experience a single downtime in the past 4 months. This is one of the rarest occasions when I've experienced true 100% uptime for several months at a stretch. This is honestly never-seen-before stuff in the realm of shared web hosting.
Apart from that, A2 Hosting also has the standard 99.9% uptime guarantee. Though I forgot about uptime even being a thing since I started hosting the site with A2. I used Pingdom (paid) and Uptime Robot (free) for monitoring the uptime of the site, and neither ever reported of the site going down even once.
After a while, it became so ridiculous that I was feeling like wasting money paying Pingdom for uptime monitoring because I was never once getting the much-dreaded "Pingdom Alert" email.
Price – A2 Hosting's Plans Compared
A2 Hosting basically offers 3 different shared hosting plan. The main difference between these plans is the amount of add-on domains that you can host on them.
The base plan, LITE, comes at $3.92/mo (discounted). It will let you host just 1 domain on it. Aside from that, it's pretty similar to the two other larger plans, and is powered by the same high-spec'ed, SSD-driven servers. I personally have this plan for the site that I showed you the load time and uptime screenshots of.
Their intermediate plan, SWIFT, comes at $4.90/mo (discounted), and allows you to host unlimited number of websites. It also retains all the standard features from the LITE plan. Unlike the LITE plan, it doesn't come with any restrictions on the number of databases, either. So, this is the plan for you if you just want a more accommodating version of their basic plan.
Their most expensive plan is called TURBO, and it is priced at $9.31/mo (discounted), which is a bit more expensive than regular shared hosting. The defining feature of this top-tier plan is their much-hyped "TURBO" web server itself. Well, it basically replaces the standard Apache (or LiteSpeed) server as seen on the two other plans. It claims to be at up to 20x faster than Apache (presumably at a certain things only). They also advertise it being less resource-hungry than Apache, and thus, offering a better consistency in performance as compared to their Apache-powered servers powering the other two plans.
I haven't yet tested the TURBO plan yet (I'll update this review if and when I do), but a friend of mine said he's pretty fond of it (he didn't try the lower-end plans, though). Personally, the amount of performance and uptime (literally 100%) I have been getting from the LITE plan alone didn't let me even think about upgrading to anything else. But if you have you really care about memcached, OPCache and all those advanced caching and performance-oriented features, and feel your site could benefit from those, feel free to jump directly to the TURBO plan.
Exclusive A2 Hosting Coupon for 2017
A2 Hosting aren't known for providing steep discounts always. If you're getting a deal, chances are, it's time sensitive. However, I've managed to find a pretty great deal which results in lots of savings, especially if you sign up for longer terms. You need to click on the button, and then you'll see the discount auto-activated and start seeing discounted prices.
First things first, A2 Hosting claims to offer 24x7 email, phone, Skype and live-chat support. They've listed 6 different phone numbers on their contact page, making phone support more accessible for international users, especially more so for people from Brazil, Australia and India, who've all got their own numbers to dial.
Though I didn't have to (nor did I want to, I'm kinda uncomfortable over phone calls compared to live chat / email) test their phone support, I did get in touch with their live chat support when it was around 2AM in the US. A support agent immediately joined the live chat and started providing issue-specific assistance. Just what I needed back then. Finding all their live chat agents busy at once is a rare sight, though it may very well be possible if there are lots of other users requiring assistance at the same time. This is unlikely to be the case with email/ticket support, though.
The support response times were pretty impressive. Though email replies weren't as fast as MDDHosting (they usually reply, WITH the answer, within 3-5 minutes of posting a ticket), they were still answered satisfactorily within 15 minutes of posting support tickets. Also, they offer free site transfers from your previous/existing host, no matter which plan you sign up for.
One of the major things I liked about the A2 Hosting support was that they weren't reluctant to offer script-specific (for example, an issue with your specific WordPress theme) support without charging extra for that. It's absolutely not the same with 99% of the other shared hosts, who prefer to not provide any support beyond their actual service (providing some space in a shared server).
Another praiseworthy thing was the way they dealt with support tickets or live chat queries at the first time itself. Instead of sending an auto-generated useless message confirming your ticket submission or query acceptance or whatever, they directly come to the point and offer help.
Considering the price you're gonna be paying for their solid service, the support department isn't bad at all. In fact, I'd call it a bonus on top of the amazing quality of their core service.
Wrapping this A2 Hosting Review Up
A2 Hosting may not be as famous as BlueHost or InMotion Hosting, and I wouldn't even have come across them unless I'd read some very good reviews of them on WHT. I decided to take the plunge and test them out, and so far it's been one of the best hosting-related decisions I've taken for a site of mine.
Frankly, A2 isn't just another cheap web host, nor do they claim to be one. If you're looking for quality hosting, fast performance with little to no (if you're lucky like me) downtime, you can opt for A2 Hosting with your eyes closed.
Honestly, I can't think of a single notable glitch. Yes, I'd have liked if they were a bit cheaper for short-term billing. Yes, I'd also be glad if they allowed a couple more domains on the lowest plan, but then again, I may be asking for too much and not remembering what they're already offering for the money is way better than most of their competitors that I've tested.
All in all, A2 Hosting is a fantastic shared host. If you want a no-nonsense shared web host with crazy fast load times, incredible uptime, and tons of features backed with great support, you won't go wrong with A2 Hosting. And that's it for this A2 Hosting review, if you're still not sure, you can check out some of our other web hosting reviews to get a broader idea.