A2 Hosting Review
It might be difficult picking through A2 Hosting's dense lineup, but the payoff is worth it. With blazing speed, excellent security and a low price, to boot, A2 is one of the best web hosts around.
A2 Hosting is an independent web host that sits among the best web hosting providers. It doesn’t get the attention it deserves, though. With inexpensive plans across the board, solid speed and impressive configurability, it provides something that isn’t seen often from web hosts: options.
In this A2 Hosting review, we’re going to detail our experience with the service after launching a site with its Turbo shared plan. Over the course of the review, we’ll talk about features, pricing, ease of use, hosting types, speed and uptime, security, privacy and support. At the end, we’ll give our verdict.
Overall, A2 Hosting does a lot right. That said, configurability is a double-edged sword. If you’re looking for, say, a Windows shared server, A2 Hosting is one if not the only top-shelf host to provide it. For beginners who just want to buy hosting without all the hoopla, though, there may be issues.
Strengths & Weaknesses
- Free malware protection
- Full solid-state drive storage
- Managed WordPress plans
- Excellent knowledgebase
- Transparent pricing
- Easy to use
- Highly configurable
- Difficulty choosing a plan
- Slow response times
- No cloud hosting
Alternatives for A2 Hosting
$3.92 / month(All Plans) 1-day money-back guarantee
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$2.95 / month(All Plans) 1-day money-back guarantee
$3.95 / month(All Plans)
A2 Hosting has features across all plans, many of which we’ll get to throughout the review. That said, for this section, we’re going to focus on plan-specific features that separate it from other hosting options.
First, though, we need to talk about the “turbo” servers. If you spend any time on A2 Hosting’s website, you’ll see some hosting plans include a “turbo” option. We’re not fans of that sort of hyperbolic marketing, but the turbo servers do deserve your attention.
The claim of 20 times faster speed is overzealous. That said, you should see a significant speed increase if you use them. Turbo servers have fewer users on them and, as such, fewer people using their resources. The servers also use A2 Hosting’s turbo cache, which should improve load times.
Another thing that will improve load times is solid-state storage. Instead of traditional hard drives, which store data on a spinning disk, solid-state storage uses flash memory. The information is written to and read from a storage module, which means you’ll be able to access the assets for your website faster.
Managed WordPress users can also take advantage of Jetpack. Jetpack is an essential WordPress plugin — you can see how essential in our beginner’s guide to using WordPress — that A2 Hosting includes with your hosting. It’s a personal license, too, which normally runs a few bucks per month.
WordPress users get WP-CLI pre installed at their domain, which is a command line interface for WordPress, along with LiteSpeed cache, which caches your dynamic elements for faster load times.
Overall, though, none of A2 Hosting’s features stand out. It simply combined the features we want to see from a web host. The security features, as we’ll talk about in the “security” section, are excellent, as are the optimization measures. No matter what website you’re trying to build, A2 Hosting can accommodate.
A2 Hosting Website Builder
Users on a shared plan can also take advantage of A2 Hosting’s website builder. The free version of the website builder allows for a single-page website, much like the free version of Strikingly (read our Strikingly review). It’s limited outside of that, too, restricting you to 100MB of storage and a small set of templates.
The website builder is easy to use, but it’s nowhere near the best website builders. You’re at the mercy of the template you choose, as customizing your website feels cumbersome. In many ways, the website builder resembles Weebly (read our Weebly review), but it doesn’t feel as responsive.
It’d be one thing if the website builder was free, but it isn’t. There’s technically a free plan, but you’ll need to purchase hosting to access it, and with no shortage of free website builders, A2 Hosting’s take isn’t impressive. If you want an unlimited plan, you’ll be paying more for it than you would with most website builders.
Granted, the hosting aspect is better than most website builders, but A2 Hosting’s website builder struggles. There are worse ways to build your website, but we wanted more flexibility from the website builder on the free end. If you’re more interested in a website builder than, say, WordPress, read our Wix review.
A2 Hosting Features Overview
|Web Application Firewall|
|Live Chat Support|
- Price for most inexpensive tier.
- Unlimited GB
- Unlimited GB
- Price for most inexpensive tier.
- Price for most inexpensive tier.
- Price for most inexpensive tier.
A common thread we’ve seen among independent web hosting providers is a tendency to be more transparent in pricing than the web hosting conglomerates they face (read our Bluehost review to see an example). Thankfully, A2 fits that mold. It’s clear about what you’re purchasing and at what rate it’ll renew.
You can click “get more details” on any of the hosting types. In addition to an extensive features comparison, A2 Hosting provides a price summary.
The table details the promotional and recurring price you’ll pay for each term, showing the discount applied from the promotion and duration. For example, if you purchase three years of Lite shared hosting at the time of writing, it’ll cost $176.22, but when you renew, it’ll cost $359.64.
Higher renewal rates are something web hosts share with the best antivirus software, and though they’re annoying, they’ve become status quo. That said, A2 Hosting’s transparency about what you’ll be paying eases the burden.
Plus, A2 Hosting gives you the flexibility to purchase any duration you want. Even the least expensive shared plan is offered from one month to three years, significantly lowering the bar for entry. You won’t get the best price if you choose a shorter duration, but the option is there.
A2 Hosting’s prices are good, with VPS plans being the most impressive. That said, we’d like to note that though the price listed above is low, it’s for an unmanaged VPS plan, meaning you have to set up and configure everything. It’s a good way to save money if you’re a developer, but if you’re looking for help, you’ll have to upgrade.
If you don’t like the service, you can take advantage of A2 Hosting’s anytime money-back guarantee. You get 30 days for an unconditional refund, which means you’ll get it regardless of the reason, but you can get your money back after that, too. If you purchase more than a month, you can request a refund after the 30 days to get a prorated refund on the rest of your service.
Ease of Use
A2 Hosting separates its types of hosting at the top of its website. Choosing one of the categories will bring up a list of tiers. Picking a plan after that is difficult, but not because A2 Hosting is doing anything wrong. There are a lot of options, including tier, operating system and whether the hosting is managed.
Though that’s great for those who know what’s what, it’s not difficult to get lost in what A2 Hosting offers. Thankfully, the selection is as streamlined as possible. For example, most people will want Linux shared servers, and A2 Hosting preselects that. It’s difficult, but not entirely the service’s fault.
After you select your plan, A2 Hosting will ask you enter a new domain, transfer a domain from another registrar, use an existing domain or use a subdomain from A2 Hosting. Finally, you’ll be sent to the checkout page. Your plan is itemized with a list of features, including off-site backups, the A2 Hosting website builder and Barracuda Spam Firewall.
There are a lot of options, but leaving everything as default should be fine. Two areas you’ll want to pay attention to, though, are the “auto-install application” and “server locations” tabs. You can choose the data center where you’re hosted and the platform you want to install on your website upon checkout, so make sure to do that.
Once you’re done, you can get into the client area. A2 Hosting lays out an impressive amount of information in a small space. At the top of the client area, you can see your services, domains, tickets and invoices in an easy-to-read format. Under that is cPanel access. Managing your services, billing and support is simple in the client area given A2 Hosting’s bird’s-eye view.
cPanel is where you’ll manage your website. Simply click “cPanel login” for the corresponding domain and A2 Hosting will open a tab with the interface. Unlike SiteGround (read our SiteGround review), A2 Hosting has a modern take on cPanel. Icons are laid out clearly, with a focus on the Softaculous apps installer, and you can see your usage stats on the right sidebar.
Interestingly, A2 Hosting also includes links to billing details in cPanel. In fact, you can do everything you can do in the client area in cPanel. The links direct back to the appropriate area in the client section, but the redundancy doesn’t hurt.
The greatest struggle when using A2 Hosting is simply choosing a plan, but that’s not its fault. There’s so much flexibility that it’s inherently more complicated, and it’s clear that A2 Hosting has streamlined the system as much as possible. Other than that, it’s dead simple to use.
As mentioned, trying to get an overview of A2 Hosting’s services is a nightmare. There are a lot of plans, each with different features and price points. That said, it breaks down into four types of hosting: shared, managed WordPress, VPS and dedicated.
Shared plans are where a lot of users will land. They put multiple users on a single server, sharing the resources between them. A2 Hosting offers three flavors: Lite, Swift and Turbo. The differences between them are mostly in specs. Swift has one more core of processing power than Lite and Turbo offers another gigabyte of RAM.
That said, if you can afford it, Turbo provides the best service. Not only are you hosted on a server with fewer users, which results in more resources per user, you also get A2 Hosting’s preconfigured website caching, Cloudflare’s Railgun optimizer, website backups and more. If you want to see all the differences, check out A2’s extensive comparison.
WordPress hosting shares the shared lineup, but there’s a managed version, too. The base managed plan starts faster than Turbo and gains speed from there. Between the three managed WordPress plans, the difference comes down to the number of websites you want to host and raw power level of the server.
VPS plans, which basically give you a virtual machine on a server, are offered, too. Instead of sharing resources with other users, you’ll have dedicated resources. A2 Hosting offers multiple tiers for Linux and Windows servers, some of which come with root access.
At the top are dedicated plans, which, as the name implies, gives you a server all to yourself. Once again, there are multiple tiers, and you can choose to have it managed or unmanaged and whether it comes with root access.
There are reseller plans, too, but we’re bigger fans of DreamHost’s credit-based reseller program (read our DreamHost review).
For the services offered, A2 Hosting gives you a lot of flexibility. Though all web hosts have a tiered plan structure, A2 Hosting’s openness and the ability to change the OS your server uses shouldn’t be undervalued. Linux servers give you access to cPanel and PHP (read our best web hosting with cPanel) and Windows provides Plesk and ASP.NET.
That said, there’s a gap in A2 Hosting’s lineup: cloud hosting. Though we’re not against restricted lineups — read our Hostinger review to see that — A2 Hosting sits somewhere in between. It offers powerful, expensive hosting, so cloud hosting feels like a natural fit. For now, though, it isn’t offered. If you’re looking for cloud hosting, read our HostGator review.
Speed & Uptime
We use Pingdom Speed Test and Load Impact to gauge website speed. “Gauge” is the correct word to use here because our results won’t necessarily be the same or even close to the speed you’ll get. Website speed is complex, and most of the optimizations you can make are on your end, not the web host’s.
To keep it as streamlined as possible, we tested a blank WordPress website with nothing but the default theme on it. Testing from a server in San Francisco, Pingdom returned a load time of 291 milliseconds. Around 82 ms of that was DNS resolution, which ties the domain to a server IP address. With that factored in, as well as another DNS request, the speed was near 160 ms, which earned A2 Hosting a spot in our fastest web hosting guide.
More important, though, is Pingdom’s performance grade. Our website hosted with A2 Hosting scored 96 out of 100, which is impressive. Expect your speed to get slower as you start to load your website with content, though. What’s important for our testing is that A2 Hosting isn’t doing anything to negatively affect your speed.
For a real-world test, we looked toward Load Impact. Instead of just pinging the server to gauge responsiveness, Load Impact sends multiple virtual users to the website to gauge its resilience. We sent 50 virtual users to the site over five minutes, and as you can see from the graph below, A2 Hosting held up.
Usually, we see a spike or dip during the test, but A2 stayed consistent throughout. In fact, at every point during the test, it was within about 10 ms of its average speed, which is impressive.
As for uptime, we were rock solid during testing, but A2 Hosting still provides an uptime guarantee. It’s a standard affair. If your website fails to meet 99.9 percent uptime, you’ll be compensated 5 percent of your monthly fee for each hour it’s down up to your total monthly rate.
The guarantee isn’t bad, but we’ve seen better. SiteGround, for example, will refund you the full month, as will HostGator. From our testing, though, a situation in which you’d need it with A2 Hosting seems unlikely.
A2 Hosting has the Perpetual Security initiative, which is a bundle of services it includes with every hosting plan. The first part is KernalCare, which is a software extension on Linux servers that A2 Hosting uses to update the kernel’s security each day without the need for a reboot. Essentially, it ensures the servers are protected against the latest threats without downtime.
The next part is HackScan, which is basically an antivirus for your website. HackScan runs around the clock to protect your website from potential malware. A2 Hosting isn’t clear about whether HackScan will clean your website after, but our best guess is that it won’t. Instead, there’s an extensive guide in the knowledgebase for troubleshooting and cleaning your website.
Outside of that, there are many security measures for protecting the servers. A2 Hosting shields your service with brute force protection, a dual firewall and distributed denial-of-service protection. Though you won’t see these security measures, they’ll be protecting you in the background.
The star of the show is HackScan, though, because most web hosts don’t include malware protection. Instead, you usually just get scanning software. Though it’d be better to have malware protection and removal, HackScan is a step in the right direction, and considering it’s included for free, we have little to complain about.
A2 Hosting doesn’t focus much on privacy, and though that doesn’t seem like a concern for web hosts in general, it is. For example, your domain name is registered with WHOIS information, which includes your name, address, phone number and more. WHOIS information is publicly available online, meaning anyone with an internet connection can find out who you are.
That’s a major breach of privacy, one that unfortunately comes with the field. Thankfully, A2 Hosting offers domain privacy, which replaces your WHOIS information with the name of the registrar. It’s offered, but that’s not apparent at first.
During checkout, you can purchase something called “ID protection,” which A2 Hosting claims will protect your personal information and reduce the amount of spam to emails at your domain. It’s $10 a year, though, and not WHOIS protection. That’s found in the client area, buried beneath a hierarchy of additional services.
It’s only 82 cents per month, but still, it would be nice to have the option to purchase domain privacy during checkout. What would be even nicer is if it was included for free. Few web hosts do so — DreamHost is an example of one that does — but that’ll hopefully change in the future.
In the clause about use of personal information, though, it says “any information sent to us will not be deemed to be confidential, and may be shared by us with any other individual or entity, regardless of whether you mark it confidential.”
Finding support is simple. A top bar that sticks around the website, no matter where you’re at has two options: “sales and support” and “chat.” The first will direct you to the knowledgebase, which is clearly laid out with categories to get you where you need to go. Below the categories, you’ll find the multiple ways to contact A2 Hosting.
Live chat, email and phone support are present, with email support being split into general support, sales and billing. It’s worth noting that you can access phone and live chat without an account. The same goes for sales emails, but billing and general support emails require your account credentials.
Agents are helpful and responsive, but not the fastest. Live chat responded quickly, but that’s the expectation. On the other hand, ticket-based support dragged its feet. It took a couple of days to receive a response, and though it was detailed, we couldn’t help but feel A2 Hosting could’ve been more prompt.
It’s unlikely that you’ll need to reach out to support much, though. The knowledgebase covers a lot of topics, ranging from managing your billing to troubleshooting your website if it gets infected. There’s a balance between troubleshooting, clarifications and tutorials, which we like to see.
Plus, the articles are detailed. A2 Hosting provides screenshots and deep instruction for topics as mundane as paying invoices in the client area. Other than the sluggish responses on email, we’re impressed with A2 Hosting’s support system.
A2 Hosting focuses on customizability, so much so that it sacrifices usability. It’s not broken, but you’ll need to hunt through the details to find a plan that works for you. Once you settle, though, you’ll find an inexpensive and fast web host with an impressive set of features.
If you’re looking for a set-it-and-forget-it host, read our iPage review. A2 Hosting works well, but it isn’t for everyone, so if you’d rather shop around, check out our web hosting reviews, too.
What do you think of A2 Hosting? Let us know in the comments below and, as always, thanks for reading.