A2 Hosting Review - The Fastest Shared Hosting Around?

Let's get straight to the point. Unlike a lot of budget shared hosting providers (such as HostGator), A2 make it their policy to limit the number of users that can be assigned to any one shared host at a time - This has the affect of controlling and balancing out resources across multiple users. It also helps to prevent slowdowns at peak times and vastly improves the performance of each individual shared server. Now affordable doesn't have to mean poor quality.

They do not scrimp and save over customer support, a usual strategy for many budget hosting providers, but rather, they  have a highly rated support system that covers live chat, phone and a ticketing system - With trained, US based support agents.

They also offer very competitive pricing, which can get you unlimited domains, bandwidth and disk space for under $5 per month.​ If your budget is tight, this should make you stand up and take notice!

To top it all off? A2 offer a 30 day back money guarantee if you aren't completely happy with the service you got, you can walk away with your money back. But that's because they know they deliver a great service so why would you want to leave? 

A2 Hosting Review 2017

A2 came into the industry in 2003 and they came swinging, being able to boast load times up to 20x faster load speeds, right from the bat. That's 20x faster than other shared hosting providers , all due to their clever server infrastructure and custom developed software. The slogan A2 uses is "We provide services that we would want to use ourselves!". They became a very serious contender very quickly, and the haven't looked back. In fact, they've gone from strength to strength by focusing on performance and support.

They quickly made a name for themselves with load time tests showing speeds of under 1/4 of a second. Yes, you heard right, under 250ms.  Under 3 seconds is acceptable, 2 seconds is good, so by that standard, less than quarter of a second is simply staggering. With these kind of speeds their popularity with subscribers increased and increased fast!

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Before we get started...

​This is not my first rodeo when it comes to deciding which hosting provider to use.  It's been a learning curve over the years, and I've made some mistakes, but I have the process  mastered now and I want to share some of that experience with you, so that you might avoid some of the pitfalls I've gone head into over the years.

The first step is to understand what you need in your hosting service. There are no lack of options. In fact there are too many options and it's difficult to know where to start. It's one of the reasons I share my experience and opinions with these reviews.  On this site we only have the better hosting services so we've done half the job for you,  but still you need to know what is going to best fit your needs before you can decide which one of our recommendations is right for you.

Are you looking to host a small blog or business website, or are you looking for a host that can manage  a larger e-commerce or authority site, like a forum? Are you a novice? Do you need regular support or do you have some technical know how and want a host package that can be customized using advanced features? What is your budget and what plans do you have for your website? Do you need a package than can grow as your website grows? You need to have a clear picture of what you need, and answering these questions is a good place to start.

Do the ground work before you start researching and comparing options and you're more likely end up with the hosting package that best fits your needs. I am talking from personal experience. I've gone 'window shopping' in the past, and without a clear idea what I wanted, I ended up going for something that only resulted in  being a frustration that took too much time and energy. The hosting wasn't bad, just not a good fit for me, which is the same thing.

To help you, I've gone ahead and tested the host personally, so I can talk from personal experience. I've also segmented the review in relevant sections so you can jump to the features that are important to your decision.Additionally, I've also taken the liberty of identifying some alternatives that have different benefits depending on what you're looking for.

Performance & Speed

As I said earlier, we don't just go on gossip and reviews that you have no idea knowing whether they are real or created to look good. We decided test A2 Hosting ourselves and we thought the best way possible was to test it on this site right here. So we decided to temporarily move this site from our usual host over to A2 in the name of science.  As soon as we made the transfer we immediately had a nice surprise. We actually saw a faster load time on the A2 hosting, even without the Turbo Boost enabled on the site - See the results from the test in the image below. No it's not a mistake, it's that fast and if you haven't been taking A2 Hosting seriously before now, this is going to make you stand up and really take notice.

​This speed improvement, mixed with a close to 1s load time has to be one of THE FASTEST web hosts we have ever tested on this site. Very impressive and we don't make statements like that unless we have tested and tested.  This results are without any special page speed optimization.

99.99% UpTime

A2 Hosting have one of the highest uptimes we have ever recorded We tested this site on this host for a significant amount of time to get a serious set of data to be able to give an honest and accurate opinion. Actually over 6 months. And during that time we suffered from  0% downtime. For over 6 months, that's unheard of, it's that good.

I know it doesn't seem to make sense that the result is 99.99%, a result that many sites claim to have as an uptime average, When we experienced zero downtime, but it's pretty much impossible to have a 100% uptime all of the time, so 99.99% is the highest possible score you can receive. Which A2 have managed to achieve, which is very impressive for a medium sized company. When you see the claim of 99.9% Uptime there is always some roomto move on the claim. A little wiggle room, if you will.  A2 hasn't let anyone down and as stated above they are actually running at a rate above their claim, which is very rare indeed.

A2 Hosting is proud to say, they're going green! A2 is heading towards a more effective green hosting service provision, proudly partnering with Carbonfund.org. They have joined the battle against climate change. ​Partnering together since 2007 A2 is a conscientious business that is focused on reducing their footprint. The services provided by A2 hosting are 100% carbon neutral, they re-purpose older hardware and have many internal green office processes. We are big fans of businesses that have a focus on changing the way their business interacts with the environment. Supporting businesses that are making the effort is our own way of making a difference.

A2-hosting-features

Customer Support

In actual fact, from our experience of hosts, which is vast, A2 are one of the only companies on the market that offer 4 different layers of support communication:

  • 24/7 Phone
  • Ticket System
  • Live Chat
  • Direct Email​

There team is also made up of very technically knowledge people - Which shows when you go to them with some of the trickier questions and get the support you need.  Of course, we  tested them for you. They replied to all 4 levels of communication within a 15 minute window, and quickly resolved server side issues. Anyone who knows me understands that customer support is a big issue for me. I really value my time and so spending time waiting for a ticket to be answered or a call back just frustrates me no end. 

Free Manual Site Migrations

A good added bonus for anyone thinking about moving a site to A2 ​is that there support team offers free, manual migration - This means your site migration will be handled by someone who's done hundreds (if not thousands) of them before. If done the right way, there shouldn't be any technical problems, but not everyone has the technical expertise and might have to find a freelancer who claims to have it. Leaving little to no risk of anything going wrong during the site migration, using their team who are verified experts, not only with migrations but with the A2 platform just makes perfect sense, especially as it's FREE. It's a sign of A2 Hosting going the extra mile.

​The knowledge base is not as extensive as other hosting providers. This might be attributed to having very knowledgable support staff and have decided on incurring the extra cost in having them more readily available to support their customers. The knowledge base is a good reference point for when you have to fix problems or want to know how to do a task following best practices.  Although limiting in it's scope of support, the layout of the knowledge base is very easy to navigate and you wont have a problem finding information that you search for. It's all pretty intuitive.

The combination of super helpful customer support staff and the knowledge base and you should have everything you need to troubleshoot problems.​  They are one of the best hosting providers when it comes to customer support, especially in the price range.


Data Center Locations

Looking at datacentres might feel like we are delving too deep to some people, but from our perspective, it can have a major impact on hosting performance which should be important to everyone looking to host a website, regardless of it's size.

A2 Hosting are able to boast 3 different data centres, based over 3 continents. This allows them to cover hosting for any number of nationally targeted sites. A2 own all of their internal web servers. Monitored 24x7 and 365 days of the year, they want to provide uninterrupted service for all subscribers. 

The location of the data server matters​ for a variety of reasons. The main reason is regarding speed. When a visitor clicks to look at your website, the website information is fetched from the server that it's hosted on.  The further away the server is, the longer it takes. If you are in the US and your target audience is in the US, then a US based datacentre is a nice fit, but if the audience you're targeting is from Europe then having your datacenter there is going to produce faster results.

Speed matters because people have become incredibly impatient. Anything more than 3 seconds to load a site and expect 40% of visitors to get bored and look for something else. Can you afford to lose 40% of visitors?​

The data center options are:

  • Michigan, USA (North America)
  • Amsterdam, Netherlands (Europe)
  • Singapore (Asia)

The A2 data centres are secured and maintained by extremely robust security systems. Infrastructure for maintaining the function of the servers is not compromised. In short the data centre is well managed using reliable equipment. They implement a redundancy system that's called N+2. It means they have a complete dummy system on hand. If the situation were to arise that a part or even the whole system fails, they have a completely independent backup system on hand to take over meaning little to no downtime for your website. You don't need to worry about security or hardware reliability, A2 Hosting have made sure they are well protected and ready for all eventualities, in real time.

One of the unique things about A2 is that they provide you with a speed test download. You use this feature by testing the speed of the server ​that will be hosting your website. This allows you to work out your approximate speed.  This is an excellent feature that was built for users, the company is thinking of it subscribers, again it's another example of the hosting provider going the extra mile when no one has asked them to.


Security

Alongside a number of other hosts, A2 uses unique kernel instances for each of there shared hosting accounts - This essentially splits a server into hundreds of smaller servers to prevent malicious activity from being able to compromise multiple accounts if one of the accounts on the server is also compromised. A very smart feature for helping to keep your website safe. Every effort has gone into the service for customers to enjoy a really good product, and a reliable support system that compliments that product.

It's another example of not being happy with doing the minimum requirement, but by doing more to offer a better level of service.  Not everyone knows that their website is at risk, even when they have done everything they can to protect it. That's because it's the server that's at risk. Another website, sharing the host, my become compromised, and it's through the server that your website might be hacked. That's why  ​using Kernel instances matters. It takes away this type of of security problem completely. 

Free HackScan Bonus

To my knowledge, A2 Hosting are the only hosting service that gives you free access to a paid service called "HackScan" - Which is an addon for your installation that includes 24 hour scanning, extra firewall protection, 24 hour monitoring and brute force defense.  It's one of the most respected security addons available today. It's an ongoing theme with A2 Hosting. They didn't have to go the extra mile, but they did anyway because their philosophy is to offer a better service.

Pricing & Subscriptions​

A2 provides affordable pricing plans for their 3 shared hosting options. Starting with Lite the most basic and best suited to hosting one single website. The next option is Swift, best suited for websites with traffic and a lot of resources required. The biggest plan on the shared hosting is the blazing fast Turbo plan. The Turbo plans comes with A2 optimized Turbo which is up to 20% faster. Yes, they actually make one of the fastest hosting services on offer, even faster.

To get a clearer understanding on what is offered and comes as standard, look inside the tabs below for the features each plan includes along with the pricing of the monthly service.​

  • litE
  • Swift
  • turbo

Pricing starts at $9.31 monthly

The Turbo plan includes these features.

  • Unlimited Websites
  • Unlimited Databases
  • Unlimited Website Transfers
  • Unlimited Storage​
  • cPanel Control
  • Free SSD & SSL
  • A2 Accelerator
  • Turbo  (Up to 20x faster)
  • Money Back Gurantee

A2 has a more than solid reputation within the industry. Do the search yourself, you'll find very few negative reviews, which is always surprising because people tend to prefer to complain by nature. But once you become a customer, the extra features and level support makes for content customers.

The additional features just for being an A2 customer include, access to their high speed servers, very helpful support staff that are knowledgable about the technical side of the business and quick at the same time. Access to customer support staff that understand technical problems is a huge benefit to the customer. When you have a problem and you need it fixed yesterday, talking to support staff that can help you fix  the problem is such a positive. A2 Hosting agrees, that's why they make customer support a high priority.

You can rest easy knowing that A2 provides a money back guarantee that you can request at any time! That's how confident they are in the quality of their service and the performance of their hosting. There are some details within the small print and that really is attached to other features and add ons of a basic account. The confidence that you will remain a paying customer, and happy with their service is brash but gets the point across. What is the actual refund request rate? That I can not tell you but looking around the web I find a stream of glowing reviews and very happy customers.

A2 hosting accepts payment from PayPal, Skrill and 2CO or more commonly known as 2Checkout. It might not matter to you but there are very few respected hosting providers that offer these additional payment options, so for some, that's great news.


A2 Hosting Alternative

A2 Hosting is an excellent hosting provider, but it really depends on your need and budget. Let me share with you some of the better alternatives you have that you might see as a better fit for your needs.

Hawkhost: Hawkhost are a popular alternative to A2. Both offer great speeds for your site, however with Hawkhost you pay very little for what you get but on the flip side, they don't offer the same level of customer support. So it's price vs support.

The animated hawk mascot of HawkHost.

Read the review here

WPEngine: WPEngine is a dream to use, simplified and fast! Functional and feature rich you want WPEngine if you need a reliable host.  When it comes to hosting WordPress, they are the best, hands down, no argument.

WPEngine-logo

Read the review here

Conclusion

​We have been doing nothing but praising A2, so you might be wandering why we haven't gone the whole way and given A2 a well deserved 5 star rating? For a start, we have extremely high standards. In this case, the only thing holding back A2 hosting with comparing to some of our best alternatives is price. A2 is actually a little bit more expensive than others who are currently competing for your attention.  Their plans are a touch more expensive than the industry averages, causing us to hold back on our 5 star rating because we appreciate to some, it's an important element to their decision.

A2 are almost a victim of their own success. They offer so many additional features and over deliver on support services, that it puts them in the position where  they need  to charge a little bit more. Having said that, you get what you pay for. You are essentially paying to get access to more resources on a server than you would not normally get from other shared hosting providers. They limit the number of accounts to guarantee you a better and more consistent level of performance. You do get more than you paid for, which is not a bad thing.

Pricing For Shared Hosting Packs​

Here is the indiviual pricing for each of the shared hosting plans:​

  • Lite Plan, From $3.92/Mo - One domain, unlimited storage on a solid state drive, unlimited bandwith and up to 5 database installations.​
  • Swift Plan, From $4.90/Mo - Unlimited domains, unlimited bandwith, unlimited storage but does not include the Turbo Boost software feature which allows for up to 20x faster load times.
  • Turbo Plan, From $9.31/Mo - Exactly the same spec as the swift plan but with the "Turbo Boost" and "A2 Site Accelerator" software enabled to help achieve faster load times.

Overall Summary​

If you're looking for an extremely fast host with great customer support, a number of different package options and your site isn't going to be getting millions of hits per month, then A2 is the host for you. It's an attitude thing. A2 have proven time again that they look to over deliver in performance and support. So many other hosting providers do just enough to meet the industry averages but A2 aren't happy with that, they have a philosophy of finding ways to offer more. 

We'd also like to re-iterate how impressed we were with the speed tests we ran on this host. We took the time and effort to try it out for ourselves and we were not disappointed.  We subsequently decided to make them our #1 most recommended host when it comes to loading times on any platform, aside from WordPress - The crown for that goes over to WPEngine.​

They are not cheap, that's the one sticking point, so if cost is more important that performance, or you need more balance then take the time to check out our other reviews, we've done a lot of the hard work for you and picked out the better options, you just need to figure out which is the best fit for your needs.

My last words on A2 Hosting are these. As I've mentioned before,  if you're not happy with the service you're receiving then after 30 days they offer a money back guarantee which should ​let you sleep a lot easier at night after investing in a hosting pack with them. They put their money where their mouth is, so you get peace of mind.

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