A2 Hosting Review: 20X Faster (Or So They Say…)

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Research has proven that fast website loading speeds are a critical part of good user experience, conversions, and sales. A2 Hosting claims to offer some of the fastest hosting available. Is that true?

In this review, we test their speed claims. We review their shared, VPS, and WordPress hosting plans. How good is their customer support?

Find out now what we discovered about this developer-friendly host.

A2 Hosting Screenshot

Pros and Cons

In a rush? Here's the TL;DR:

Pros

  • Developer-friendly: Supports a large number of technologies, languages, and frameworks
  • Excellent uptime and speed

Cons

  • Not as beginner-friendly as some competitors
  • A bit pricier than competitors

About A2 Hosting

A2 Hosting was founded in 2001 by UNIX systems administrator Bryan Muthig as Iniquinet. Muthig continues to serve the company as CEO, and A2 Hosting remains independently owned.

A2 Hosting was a hobby project launched in a two-room office space. The Michigan-based company has since grown to serving thousands of websites from four datacenters.

The “A2” is a reference to Ann Arbor, the city that the company is based in.

Providing Green Hosting

According to A2's calculations, since 2007 it has fully offset CO2 emissions from its hosting servers via a partnership with Carbonfund.org.

A2 has implemented a number of other green policies, such as allowing employees to telecommute, recycling older hardware, and launching tree planting campaigns.

They also state that they were one of the first hosts to switch from HDDs (hard-disk drives) to the more energy-efficient (and better performing) SSDs (solid-state drives).

Web Hosting Plans

A2 offers several types of web hosting plans, including shared, reseller, VPS, and dedicated hosting.

Shared Web Hosting

If you’re just getting started, you may be looking for simple, inexpensive hosting. Shared hosting is a good match with plans starting at $3.92 per month.

A2 offers a variety of shared hosting plans from which you can choose. You can choose the datacenter where your account is provisioned: North American (Michigan and Arizona), Europe (Amsterdam), or Asia (Singapore).

Choose from Linux or Windows

First, you’ll need to choose the operating system you want running on your server. You can choose between Linux and Windows. The latter option will cost you a bit more, as is typical with most web hosts.

Regardless of which operating system you prefer, there are three different plans from which you can choose.

Lite, Swift, and Turbo Plans

The entry-level option, the Lite plan, gets you hosting for one website, five databases, unlimited storage, unlimited data transfer, a cPanel to manage your website, 25 email inboxes, and a free SSL certificate.

The mid-range Swift plan gets you hosting for an unlimited number of websites, as well as unlimited databases, storage, email inboxes, and data transfer. You’ll also get a cPanel to manage your website and a free SSL certificate.

a2 control panel
cPanel is a popular brand of control panel known for its intuitive interface.

The high-end Turbo option gets you everything in the mid-range plan, but your website is hosted on one of A2’s “turbo servers.” This means that you’ll get more resources and your site will be hosted on a server that has fewer users on it than those allocated to sites on a lower-tiered hosting plan.

You’ll also get:

  • A2 Site Accelerator, which is pre-configured site caching designed to improve page load speeds
  • Support for HTTP/2
  • Infrastructure redundancy
  • Guarantees as to how much of the server’s resources are available to your site at any given time.

Cloudflare CDN For Faster Site Loading Speeds

Cloudflare customers report double-digit increases in speed. The CDN also provides an efficient way to serve images.

All shared plans come with Cloudflare's CDN (content delivery network) free of charge.

A CDN stores updated copies of your site in dozens of network nodes across the globe. When a visitor clicks on your site URL, the CDN detects their location and automatically “serves” your site to that person from the node closest to that visitor.

Again, this configuration is designed to improve the page load speeds of your website.

WordPress Hosting

While the A2 Hosting shared plans can be used to host WordPress sites, WordPress users may opt for a WordPress-specific hosting plan instead.

These are “managed” hosting options that build on top of the shared hosting plans by including:

  • WordPress-specific backup functionality
  • Site staging environment
  • A license to Jetpack, a WordPress optimization suite
  • Pre-installation of the WP-CLI tool
Choose from 3 Managed Plans

There are three different managed WordPress hosting plans from which you can choose.

The best fit for you depends on the number of sites for which you need hosting; A2 Hosting offers plans support one website, three websites, or an unlimited number of websites.

Video: Via cPanel you can set up a WordPress staging site.

VPS, Dedicated, and Reseller Options

When you’re just getting started with a website, a shared plan is most likely the best option for you. However, A2 does offer other options, so we’ll cover these briefly.

You may decide to choose a more feature-rich plan from the get-go if you’re expecting rapid growth in the near future.

VPS Web Hosting

VPS (virtual private server) plans are typically the next step up if you’ve outgrown a shared hosting plan.

However, when getting a VPS plan, especially an unmanaged option, you become responsible for a lot of the server system administration that was once taken care of by the web host itself.

A2 offers both managed and unmanaged VPS hosting plans, and of course, the managed options are more expensive.

Unmanaged VPS: For Experienced Developers

A2 Hosting makes it clear that its most inexpensive VPS options are unmanaged plans that should be chosen only by experienced developers.

It comes with:

  • Root administrative privileges
  • Choice of Linux operating system including Fedora, CentOS, Ubuntu, Debian, Gentoo or Slackware
  • HTTP/2, SPDY and Edge Side Includes (ESI) supported
  • 99.9% uptime guarantee
  • Option to use cPanel (includes Softaculous)
  • 20 – 50 GB of storage (with the option to upgrade to SSD drives)
  • 2 TB max of data transfer
  • 512 MB – 1 GB of RAM
  • 1 – 4 CPU cores.
Managed VPS: Best of Both Worlds

A2’s managed options are much more expensive, but if you’re looking for something that’s closer to a shared plan (but with more resources), these are what you’d want.

Managed VPS with A2 offers a higher maximum amount of storage, data transfer, and CPU cores compared to unmanaged plans.

VPS FeatureUnmanaged Plan MaximumManaged Plan Maximum
Storage50 GB150 GB
Data transfer2 TB4 TB
RAM1 GB8 GB
CPU cores48

Managed plans come with:

  • Free cPanel for website management (many other hosts charge for this feature at the VPS level)
  • HostGuard Management tools
  • Free site transfer
  • Free SSL certificate
  • 75 – 150 GB of SSD storage
  • 2 – 4TB of data transfer
  • 4 – 8 GB of RAM
  • 4 – 8 CPU cores.

For an additional fee, you can get a managed VPS plan with root administrative privileges. This option gets you the best of both worlds.

Dedicated Server Web Hosting

A2 Hosting offers options that are what you’d traditionally expect from a dedicated server purchase, but it also offers a semi-dedicated option. Let’s cover that first.

A lot of times, when you upgrade to dedicated servers, you’re expected to assume most, if not all, of the system administration tasks.

However, A2’s semi-dedicated options get you the power and resources typically granted to users of dedicated servers, but the A2 team manages your website for you.

You’ll get a cPanel to manage your website, unlimited storage, unlimited data transfer, 2 GB of RAM, 2 CPU cores, and a free SSL certificate. A2 also boasts that this option is twenty times faster than its shared plans.

If you think you’re up to managing your own server, A2 offers three different levels of dedicated servers from which you can choose.

All come with root administrative privileges, your choice of Linux operating system, and large resource (storage, data transfer, RAM, and CPU cores) allocations.

Reseller Web Hosting

Reseller plans are essentially web hosting plans that come with a larger share of resources that can then be “resold” to other customers.

A2 offers three different reseller hosting plans, and aside from the differences in resource allocations, the reseller plans are very similar to the shared hosting plans in terms of the features they come with.

Reseller plans do, however, come with an assortment of management tools that make it easy for you to manage your sub-accounts, such as those for billing and invoicing.

Features

The hosting plan you choose will determine the features and functionality you get, but in general, A2 Hosting offers the following to its customers.

cPanel and Softaculous

Softaculous offers one-click installs of hundreds of web apps.

A2 Hosting bundles the industry-leading cPanel with its hosting packages. A2 Hosting doesn't modify the control panel that ships with its hosting packages, so users familiar with the cPanel from other hosts will see no surprises.

A2 Hosting also offers its users use of the Softaculous one-click installer, so users should be able to install Drupal, WordPress, Joomla, and more with ease.

Fast Page Loads

A2 Hosting boasts that all their sites are hosted on their proprietary SwiftServe platform, which they describe as a finely-tuned, high-performance solution that allows your site to load up to twenty times faster than if you were hosting it on a competitor’s platform.

According to our tests, A2 Hosting does offer some of the fastest server response times around. Server response speeds are consistently under 350 milliseconds.

Server Response Speeds: Comparison Chart

How does this compare with other web hosts? Here's a snapshot comparison chart. Monthly average server response speeds are displayed in milliseconds (in vertical axis at left).

Uptime

A2 Hosting boasts a commitment to 99.9% uptime, and they work hard to ensure they meet this promise by abiding by industry best practices such as using top-of-the-line servers, the best data centers, and running routine maintenance their infrastructure.

Developer Tools

A2 is a developer-friendly web hosting company, so its goal is to load all of their plans with features that developers love. You might not be at the point where you’re ready to or comfortable with taking advantage of such features, but when you are, you’ll know that they’re there.

Some features include Server Rewind backups, administrative level root access on their virtual servers, and up-to-date versions of the most popular and useful developer tools, such as PHP, MySQL, PostgreSQL, and Python.

Through cPanel you have dozens of user-friendly ways of executing dev tasks, like creating a PostgreSQL database. Simply follow the prompts.

Email Accounts

A2 Hosting's plans include email functionality, so you can set up accounts utilizing addresses that match your website. Entry-level plans come with just 25 accounts, but upgraded plans offer an unlimited number of email addresses.

Domain Names

One thing that does not come standard with A2 Hosting plans is a domain name. However, A2 Hosting is a domain name registrar, so you can choose to purchase a custom domain during the checkout process if you don't already have one.

24/7/365 Guru Crew Support

If you ever have questions, call A2 at any time of the day (or night) and speak with their friendly and knowledgeable technicians. You can reach the Guru Crew via ticketing center, telephone, or Live Chat.

If you'd prefer to research on your own, A2 Hosting offers a robust knowledgebase to which you can refer. To find out more, visit A2 Hosting now.

Pricing and Billing

The cost of your A2 Hosting plan depends on the type of web hosting you choose. You can choose to pay on a monthly basis, or you can pay upfront for an extended contract. If you opt for the latter, you’ll receive a discount off your monthly fees. Those who opt for the longest contracts will receive the largest discounts, which means that, on a month-to-month basis, these users pay the least for their hosting packages.

Depending on the type of hosting you choose, you can opt for varying billing cycles:

  • Shared Plans: 1, 12, or 24 months
  • VPS Plans: 1, 3, 6, 12, 24
  • Reseller Plans: 1, 6, 12, 24, 36
  • Dedicated Servers: 1, 3, 6, 12

If you find yourself unsatisfied with A2 Hosting at any time, you can request a cancellation of your account using your A2 Hosting Customer Portal. A2 Hosting offers a money back guarantee that allows you to get refunds for unused months.

A2 Hosting vs Bluehost

There are a lot of similarities between A2 Hosting and Bluehost, so which one is the better option for you?

A2 Hosting's biggest selling point is that it offers fast, developer-friendly hosting plans backed by top-notch customer support.

There's a price for these things, though. Although A2 Hosting isn't the most expensive option around, it's also not the cheapest. Also, its hosting plans don't come with domain name registration like the plans offered by its competitors.

Speed Comparison

The comparison chart below shows the results of our speed tests.

We've compared server response times (gauged in milliseconds in the vertical axis) from January 2019 through April 2019.

Lower response time means a faster loading website.

Bluehost is known for its partnership with WordPress. Like A2 Hosting, Bluehost offers budget-friendly hosting, but we notice in our testing that Bluehost is slower.

Which is Better For Newbies?

For those new to the world of web hosting, Bluehost might be a better option than A2 Hosting.

In addition to offering fewer options to streamline the platform, Bluehost gives its customers an in-house, customized version of the cPanel designed to make it as easy to use as possible for customers.

A snapshot of the Bluehost control panel.

Special A2 Hosting Deal

Ready to try out A2 Hosting? Use any of our links on this page to receive a 50% or more discount on your first purchase of web hosting services with A2 Hosting!

Summary

A2 is a good fit for new developers seeking bargain prices and fast speeds backed by solid customer support. Intermediate and advanced devs will want to delve into the VPS options.

Those who are completely new to hosting and need some hand-holding will want to explore competitors like Bluehost or GreenGeeks.

But if you are up to the task, visit A2 Hosting now.

Your Review of A2 Hosting

Are you a former or current A2 Hosting customer? Following your experience, would you recommend them to your nearest and dearest? How do they perform in terms of speed, features, and customer service? Please leave your thoughts in the comment box below and let us know what you think.

Visit A2 Hosting Now


Contributing Editor: Sherrie Gossett

Katie began her tech career as a C# developer before turning her hand to technical writing. She still codes regularly but these days she can be found writing about web development, coding and technology for HTML.com and our sister websites.

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