The time to review WordPress managed services is finally here! I am going to kick off this new chapter in the life of Hosting Tribunal with possibly the best...
A2 Hosting caught my attention a long time ago. Its presence in my ongoing search for the best website hosting company is only logical. A2 appears to be one of those geeky, friendly hosts that value high performance and reliability.
But is it really that good?
The A2 user reviews suggest it is, but I simply had to hook the company’s Swift shared hosting plan to a constant live monitoring and check the uptime and speed on a default WordPress installation to draw conclusions; they follow in this data-driven A2 hosting review.
I also found reasons to bother the technical support team, read the terms of service and checked the pricing structure of this green hosting provider for any hidden fees and upsells.
You can see the result in the lines that follow.
A2 Hosting is a global web hosting provider. Located in Ann Arbor (did you notice the two A’s there?), A2 is an environmentally-friendly company, with four data centers and very open, friendly attitude.
Despite being around since 2001, this independent website host is not the most popular name in the industry, but this is not a disadvantage.
Truth be told, I am much more inclined to give a relatively small and promising company ago than a gigantic corporation. I have seen more than my fair share of large companies that can’t handle properly their massive customer bases.
What is more, certain big players tend to focus on flashy marketing and not on the things that truly matter, namely infrastructure and robust hosting environment.
Point in case, while lacking the global recognition and the strong marketing presence of, say, HostGatorand GoDaddy, A2 Hosting promises in a very somber and geeky way sublime support and impeccable infrastructure.
And you know what?
The numbers say that A2 delivers.
Check it out.
Uptime is the name of the game. Having your website up and running is what hosting providers are paid for.
A2 does a good remarkable job in providing stability throughout the year.
So far, my basic WordPress site with the company has been online 99.9% of the time, which is exactly what A2 promises.
When I say promises, the hosting provider guarantees such reliability and gives compensation when it fails to deliver. A2 credits 5% of the monthly fee for every hour of downtime, which is a pretty reasonable policy.
All four data centers enjoy great security, sublime network connectivity, and several power supply mechanisms to guarantee smooth operations.
Average Uptime 2018:
Average Uptime 2019:
"A2 keeps its promise of 99.9% uptime and even surpasses it."
Note: If you run speed tests on my domain, results might fluctuate a bit. Even from the same testing platform, two consecutive tests would normally display slightly different results. My A2 site is hosted in Michigan, so I tested it from US locations. All plugins and caching were disabled.
Website loading speed is what makes or breaks an online presence. It may sound exaggerated but it is true, as both search engines and users penalize slow web pages.
Frankly, losing visitors and ranking due to bad performance is well deserved, as there are many easy optimizations and a multitude of blazing fast web hosts; delivering a poor experience is inexcusable.
A2 Hosting promises spectacular speed and this is what you’ll get. I signed up only for the medium plan of the company, and my small WordPress site doesn’t enjoy the benefits of the Turbo accelerator.
All the same, the benchmarks I collected from three different sources (average values displayed here) are very respectable. And while the TTFB (time to first byte) ranks A2 at 7th position, the time it takes for the site to load completely is fast, just over a second. These are solid numbers, even though not the best I’ve seen while preparing my Hosting Tribunal reviews.
Over the last few months of 2018 and early in 2019, A2 ranks consistently at the 7th position in terms of speed.
Again, the biggest shared plan has a speed booster that caches the entire HTML content of a page and loads it in the blink of an eye. Additional tweaks like Memcached and OPcache reduce the MySQL and PHP response times, respectively, making the Turbo plan a lightning fast hosting option, indeed.
Even without all these optimizations, the A2 sever performed really well under load. I sent 50 virtual users who established over 250 concurrent connections. That’s a lot for a shared environment, but all queries were served back with remarkable consistency and speed.
In general, I must say that A2 Hosting has a very well configured hosting environment, suitable for sites with a significant amount of visitors.
Average response time 2018:
Average response time 2019:
Fully loaded page 2018:
Fully loaded page 2019:
Response under load 2018:
Response under load 2019:
"A2 Hosting has reasonable speed and can handle a significant amount of visitors."
Do you remember how I told you that being somewhat smaller than the competitors can be a good thing?
A2 Hosting proves that point aptly.
The company has been growing ever since its inception, but the growth is steady and not forced. As a result, the hosting provider handles adequately the increasing number of customers without compromising its services and integrity.
All my interactions with the support team – mostly over chat, as you might have guessed – were quick, informative, and pleasant. The longest I waited for a chat to be picked up was about 2 minutes and that happened on an early Saturday morning. All other chat requests were answered within seconds and the representatives were very helpful and friendly.
That’s all good and dandy, but the truth is that you might not even need the A2 support team, as long as you have some time and desire to learn.
The A2 Hosting knowledge base is a wonderful collection of helpful articles and tutorials, and it is constantly updated and expanded.
Lastly, there are regular blog entries that contain very useful information for new webmasters.
"Stellar support, backed up by the equally impressive knowledge base and handy blog entries."
Get yourself a coffee and ask anyone who deals with digital data about the importance of backing up everything; the coffee will help you sit through the inevitable barrage of arguments that will follow.
Backups are lifesavers and some hosting providers charge for the service but not A2 Hosting. The company makes automatic backups for free.
Now, free automatic backups are not that unique to A2 Hosting, but this host takes file recovery a step further. With a simple plugin, you can automate the process of creating local backups. i.e., copies of your website and its databases on to your personal computer.
This is an awesome and much-needed feature that I really hope to see in all web hosting providers. The more backups you have, the safer your data is. You cannot have too many backups and having an off-site restoration point is a fabulous insurance for the longevity of your site.
Admittedly, the feature is a paid add-on, but once your site starts growing you will appreciate its utility.
All the same, if you don’t want to burden your budget, the automatic backups got you covered.
A2 Hosting employs the standard 30-day money back guarantee, which promises full refund should you cancel your services within the first month of using them. However, if you wish to cancel a long-term plan before its expiry date you will be entitled to receive a prorated refund for the remainder of the hosting period.
This is something unique among the best web hosting providers. In the vast majority of cases, once the money back guarantee period is over, you are not entitled to any refunds for premature termination of services.
A2 is very transparent and open about its practices and charges only for services that have been rendered.
A2 Hosting is one of the companies that go for sustainable growth over flashy marketing.
Prospective clients can get a really good idea what they are getting into by checking the plan details. Everything is laid out at a glance because the technology that powers the speedy and reliable A2 plans can make its owners proud.
All A2 servers are equipped with SSDs that are several times faster than hard-disk drives. With no less than 12-core CPUs and the ample 64GB of RAM, even the smallest servers of the company pack a punch.
Add to that excellent network capacity in every A2 data center and the spectacular uptime and good speed are easy to explain.
The A2 infrastructure is powerful and completely up-to-date.
HTTP/2 might not mean much to you, but to those browsing your site it would translate into better site performance across all platforms.
I mentioned that A2 Hosting looks like a geeky company and you can see that by the presence of command-line options for WordPress, Python, and Ruby. All shared hosting accounts have access to the standard Linux MySQL database but also to Postgre SQL.
The good news for developers is far from over as Git, CVS, Subversion & Mercurial are also available.
SSL certificates used to be reserved for ecommerce sites, but for a few years now Google ranks all web pages with encrypted connection higher than those without. The search engine giant considers encryption important enough to display warnings whenever you browse toward an unencrypted site.
The Let’s Encrypt initiative is a direct result of this Google move. It was quickly supported and adopted by many organizations, including several top quality web hosts. A2 is one of them and equips all its shared plans with a free SSL.
Best of all, the SSL is ready to use right out of the box. No need to worry about its installation or renewal.
I probably should have made a section called FREE STUFF and roll with it.
Then again, it would have become a massive wall of text, as A2 has plenty of features that fall within this category.
HackScan is a part of the robust defense system that protects all sites hosted with A2. It prevents malicious infractions from spreading and infecting more pages of the attacked site.
Before the hackers can reach the actual site, they would have to navigate through some serious brute force defenses, dual web hosting firewall, and hardened server defenses.
WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla users can rest assured that their respective CMSs will be up-to-date at all times, as A2 has the Patchman Security Tool in place to install new versions automatically. It can also detect and quarantine afflicted files and pages.
To round it up, A2 Hosting has regular kernel updates that keep its environment as secure as it gets at all times.
I should have gone for a separate section with free features, indeed.
Besides free security checks, backups, SSLs and prorated refunds at any time, A2 Hosting can migrate over your cPanel site free of charge.
All you need to do is sign up for A2, purchase the plan you wish and request the migration team of the company to transfer over all your data from the host you wish to leave. This saves a lot of time and effort and normally encumbers absolutely no downtime. Until the operation is completed, your site will be loading from the old provider.
Once everything has been copied over to A2 and tested successfully, you can switch the hosts seamlessly by tweaking the nameservers of your domain.
Having your site moved by the technical support of the receiving company is the best way to make it happen. The main benefit of a migration service, besides the obvious time-saving element, is the added technical expertise.
Copying sites from one server to another is not quite like copying a file from one folder of your personal computer to another. More often than not, the servers of two hosting companies are configured slightly differently. The tech support of the receiving company can account for the differences and troubleshoot whatever necessary so that your site works smoothly and without any glitches.
Practically all shared hosting plans can host WordPress successfully, but, just like SiteGround does, A2 makes sure that the popular CMS performs at its absolute maximum. WordPress is installed within seconds with A2 optimizations that boost speed and security.
Speed is increased with caching and compression configured according to the A2 servers, while the security is enhanced through automatic security updates.
Developers can make a good use of WP-CLI as well.
A2 Hosting is a green company for over a decade now. And I don’t talk only about the color scheme on its website.
The hosting provider actively reduces its carbon footprint since 2007 and has already achieved 100% carbon neutrality. It also runs programs for planting trees and reducing the plastic used.
All in all, it is socially responsible host who cares about the legacy it creates. Data centers require massive amounts of energy and cooling, and it is nice to see initiatives that negate the negative impact thousands of servers can have.
A2 displays here and there the 20-fold speed booster its hosting has, but the truth is that this extra optimization is included only in the largest of the three hosting plans. Admittedly, it kind of makes sense as sites using the biggest shared package are likely to be resource-heavy. They could certainly benefit from a speed upgrade.
Still, the alluring promise of incredible speed is prominently displayed on the A2 home page and looks quite like the upsell.
The smallest plan A2 Hosting has to offer is comparatively limited. It can host a single domain with no more than 5 databases and 25 mailboxes.
It is tailored for small, starting websites that don’t have many technical requirements and maintain a relatively low number of people behind the scenes. As far as intro deals go, I have seen much better.
A2 has three shared Linux and as many Windows hosting plans. Here are the Linux offerings I was examining for this review:
Lite – For $3.92/mo you can host a single domain, with 5 databases and 25 mailboxes as support. Guranteed 512MB RAM on a single 2.1GHz core.Add to Cart
Swift – A single dollar more, at $4.90/mo, you will get unlimited domains, databases and email addresses to play with. All that runs with 1GB of RAM and 2×2.1GHz CPU cores.Add to Cart
Turbo – Already twice the price of its predecessor, the Turbo plan costs $9.31/mo and comes with a massive speed booster and some serious dedicated resources: 2GB RAM and 2×2.1GHz CPU units.Add to Cart
|Bandwidth:||Unlimited across the board.|
|Storage:||Unlimited across the board.|
|Email:||Unlimited for Swift and Turbo users, 25 inboxes for Lite webmasters.|
|Database:||MySQL and PostgreSQL, included in all plans.|
|Domain names:||A2 is a registrar but doesn’t include any domains in its plans for free.|
|Control panel:||cPanel, fast and responsive.|
|Software installation:||Softaculous 1-click installer|
|Migration:||Free inbound migrations from cPanel hosts.|
|Payment options:||Credit cards, Union Pay, PayPal, Skrill.|
|Account setup:||Fast and simple.|
|Upsells:||Nothing strikingly obvious. The introductory prices are slightly lower and the renewal prices are listed prominently.|
Yes, we do.
A responsible, friendly and geeky, A2 Hosting is a company focused in delivering excellent results above all. And it succeeds in doing so.
The Swift plan I tested for this review clocks in respectable speeds, and the Turbo promises even better performance.
Splendid technical support, good selection of hosting solutions that scale up nicely as the packages grow, and a solid knowledge base made my A2 Hosting review a breeze to research and create, and they also rank the company as one of the best hosting options out there.
Regardless of its relative lack of fame, the hosting provider is well-worth its spot among the best.
|Support||A2 Hosting has a very knowledgeable, responsive and friendly support team|
|Knowledge base||Very solid knowledge base that sees regular updates|
|Shared hosting plans||3 hosting plans|
|Control panel||cPanel, well-optimised|
|Number of hosted domains||1 with the smallest plan and unlimited for the other two|
|Number of databases||5 for the smallest plan, as many as you like for the other two|
|25 inboxes for the smallest plan, unlimited for the other two. Storage is unlimited across the board|
|Backups and restoration||Server Rewind Backups, free with plans 2 & 3. All plans have DropMySite backup solution available, for creating complete offline backups. Very handy as hacked sites can get infected together with all their copies on cPanel|
|Storage||Unlimited across the board|
|Bandwidth||Unlimited across the board|
|Technology||SSD, RAID 10 across the board, HTTP/2 compatibility|
|Security||HackScan server scanning. A2 Optimized Enhanced Security for WP. Let’s Encrypt SSL automatically installed|
|Domain name registration||Free registration, free transfer|
|Site migration||Yes, free if charge|
|Website builder||Free in all plans|
|Ecommerce||Many shopping carts available and the free SSL across the board allows for online trade|
|Specialized hosting||All plans are optimized for WordPress, with preconfigured cache and automatic updates|
|Windows hosting||Yes, three plans|
|Data centers||Serves on three continents, multiple layers of redundancy|
|Speed||Very quick response times and olid performance across the globe thanks to the free CDN included in every plan|
|Pricing||Pricing is reasonable, with 30-days money back guarantee and prorated refund once this period is over. The most expensive plan is $9.31 a month when paid 2 years in advance. For all the features it has, it is a pretty good price|
|ricing structure||The monthly price goes down only for 2-year plans|
|Guarantees||30-day money back guarantee|
|Pro-rated refunds for early cancellation||Guaranteed|
|Freebies||Advertising credits for Bing and Yahoo can be claimed in all plans|
|Company website||Informative, easy to use|
|Company culture||Super green company, carbon neutral for over 10 years now and supportive of many environmental initiatives|