A2 Hosting Review – Insanely Fast Shared Hosting!
A2 Hosting, having been in the web hosting game since 2001, is currently competing with the big guns in web hosting, like BlueHost. They don't spend as much as the bigger players do on marketing, though.
With that in mind, I decided to use them for a medium-sized project and this thorough A2 Hosting review is going to be based on my own experience with A2 Hosting.
Amazingly fast servers, efficient caching results in truly incredible performance.
Near 100% Uptime. Not even a single instance of downtime in over 4 months.
Support is fairly quick to respond. Doesn't mind offering script-specific support.
Prices are decent considering their service quality, but not the cheapest around.
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 those locations, no matter which time of the day I was performing the test at.
Throughout my testing period, the response times were consistently good, too. 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 in overall page loading speed, and with A2, you can expect to consistently get a fast initial server response.
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 downtime 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 any incident 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 Shared Offerings
A2 Hosting basically offers 3 different shared hosting plans. 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, and also comes with a slightly increased server resource allocation. 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. It comes with significantly higher server resource allocation, and promises fewer accounts per server. Though, the defining feature of this top-tier plan is their much-hyped "TURBO" web server itself.
Well, it basically replaces the standard Apache 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 as 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 (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 allow me to think about upgrading to anything else.
But, if 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 2018
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 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.
High Performance Explained
How does A2 Hosting manage to deliver this level of incredible server performance at this budget? Well, mainly by doing three things right:
Limited Number of Users Per Shared 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.
Use of Best-in-Class Technologies & Hardware
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.
Superior Caching Setup
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. 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.
Option to Choose Between 4 Server Locations
Sometimes, it's just not enough to keep hosting your site on a US-server, while the majority of your visitors are from a different country or continent. No matter how fast the server is, the data, even in the age of optical fiber, has to travel physically through physical wires between your server and the ISP of your visitors.
Quite understandably, the closer your server is to the visitors, the easier it becomes for your server to serve up your website fast enough to them. While in case of a global audience there's no such easy solution as simply moving to a server closer to your target audience (CDNs are more popular in that case), it's not the same when most of your target audience is limited within a specific country or continent.
A2 Hosting has 4 different data centers, across 3 different continents.
- 2 in the US - Michigan and Arizona
- 1 in Europe - Amsterdam
- 1 in Asia - Singapore
So, it's always a better idea to choose their Amsterdam data center if most of your target audience is from Europe, and likewise the Singapore data center for Asian audience.
Way too Aggressive Upselling
This is the part of A2 Hosting that I hate the most. Sure, it won't even matter to you if you're a seasoned web hosting customer capable of simply ignoring useless upsells. But, I can say this with confidence that it'll be super confusing for most beginners while trying to check-out. Just take a look at the amount of 'configurable options' you're presented with when you try to check-out.
First of all, it confuses beginners by asking them if they need certain things that they may have no idea about (really, which non-linux-admin regular user knows what 'railgun' is?).
Secondly, this complex check-out page raises more questions than it solves.
- Do I need to buy a dedicated IP even if I plan to use free SSL via Let'sEncrypt?
- Will my website load slow if I don't buy 'turbo boost'?
- Do I get next to no support if I don't pay for 'priority support'?
- Is my data not backed up at all if I don't pay for offsite backups?
- Is my site insecure until I buy the 'Barracuda firewall'?
Unfortunately, this doesn't stop here. It keeps on going even after you've purchased hosting from them, as you can spot various 'marketing' offers even in your customized cPanel interface.
This includes useless things like old-school SEO listing by Attracta, who also happens to get your email address from A2 Hosting, even without your consent, and start spamming you immediately. There's also some shady link building service's sales video, a promotional offer from The Hoth (the notorious PBN, web 2.0 etc. black hat SEO provider), offers from a logo making service, an email marketing service, etc. etc.
Personally, I'm not a big fan of this crazy level of upselling (though I've seen worse, especially with GoDaddy and EIG-owned hosts). Though, if you wouldn't mind ignoring all these upsells, A2 Hosting still remains a really good option for their performance, uptime and support.
A2 Hosting's onboarding isn't really that great. The welcome email lacks various crucial bits of information about your newly purchased hosting account, and asks you to check out their knowledgebase for important information like your nameservers.
But, their knowledgebase asks you to look in your welcome email for your nameservers. So, that's a never-ending loop of not finding your nameservers unless you contact support or do a Google search.
Poorly 'Optimized' WordPress Auto-installed
As an unsuspecting user, if you choose to let them auto-install an 'optimized' version of WordPress (which they claim to have pre-optimized for maximum performance and security), you'll soon feel like kicking a rock.
Why? First of all, as soon as you log into WordPress, you'll be welcomed with quite a few plugin-related warnings (especially from caching plugins), which have the potential to make newbies afraid very easily.
When you dig deep, you'll be able to realize that they've actually reduced server resource allocation at the WordPress level. Seriously, reducing the memory limit from the standard 256M to a mere 40M is not cool at all, especially when most newbies won't be able to notice it because of the caching being good from the get go, and then suddenly face a roadblock in the form of a variety of failures and errors when their site starts getting any significant traffic.
Not only that, with a mere 40M memory limit, many resource-intensive plugins won't work from the beginning, making you regret choosing A2 Hosting unless you have the ability to figure out that they've reduced that memory limit by default in their 'optimized' version of WordPress, and know how to increase it back.
Confusing Users with Marketing Buzzwords
It took me quite a while and a significant amount of digging to realize that their so-called 'Turbo' server doesn't run any proprietary server software at all, but is just a LiteSpeed setup.
They're almost claiming 'WordPress LiteSpeed cache support' as an exclusive feature for their most expensive plan. But, if you've used the 'LiteSpeed Cache' plugin before, you'd know that it's actually a FREE WordPress plugin that anyone can install and use, as long as their website is hosted on a LiteSpeed-powered server.
I find this practice deceptive, to say the least.
Prices are Expensive without Discounts
A2 Hosting's prices are definitely on the expensive side without their coupons which are only applicable if you sign up for 1 year or an even longer period. To offset this, the discounted prices are almost always half or less than half of regular prices.
But, this may not be a good news to you if you plan to use them for a long period of time, because you'll eventually have to start paying their regular prices, which are quite high for shared hosting plans and for the amount of features and resources they are offering in the respective plans.
Also, the inability to get any discount whatsoever if you want to pay monthly can be a huge blow to people who are either looking for short-term high-performance hosting, or are just more comfortable paying monthly than yearly.
A Great Refund Policy
One really good thing about A2 Hosting is their flexible refund policy. You have the standard 100% money-back guaranty if you cancel within the first 30 days, but what distinguishes their refund policy from the rest is 'pro-rated refunds' even after the initial 30 days.
This means, even if you decide to cancel midway through your 1 year hosting plan, you'll get the money back for the portion of the time you haven't yet used their service. This is quite rare in the hosting industry.
Good Amount of Scalability
With A2 Hosting, scalability isn't an issue, because they don't provide just shared hosting. They also offer reseller, VPS, cloud VPS and dedicated server hosting.
So, if your site outgrows the capacity of typical shared hosting, not only can you take the next logical leap towards a VPS hosting plan without needing to sign up with another provider who may or may not transfer over your data for free, but you'll also have the option to likewise move to a dedicated server if your site grows even further.
Needless to say, A2 Hosting support will do the intra-A2 Hosting data transfers and site migrations for free, but there's a catch. They'll do it for free only when you're upgrading from a lower-priced plan to a higher-priced plan. If it's the other way around, or if you want to simply change your server location without changing your plan, you need to pay a $25 migration fee.
Summary - A2 Hosting Advantages
A2 Hosting is based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. In fact, 'Ann Arbor' is where the term 'A2' in their name comes from.
Apart from their hometown, they have datacenters in Europe & Asia as well. They are independently owned, that means a bigger conglomerate (like the infamous EIG) 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.
Wrapping Up this A2 Hosting Review
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.