Diversifying investments and assets is a nice way to minimize risk. The old-age saying applies to stocks and online assets like hosting too.
Most of our websites and blogs are hosted on Siteground. Still, I look for alternatives in terms of value purchase and the next best hosting platforms. Plan B that can help, just if something goes weird.
A2 Hosting is a good alternative. My two and half-year’s experience of hosting on their servers says so. There were lots of positives and a few limitations that I experienced.
I have done A2 hosting review to shares those findings and can help you make a better hosting choice.
A2 Hosting is a few of the hosting service providers that have both Linux and Windows hosting plans. Both Linux and Windows have their own advantages and disadvantages.
But you do not have to worry about Linux or Windows hosting server. Your home PC’s operating system can interact with any of the hosting server environment.
On A2 hosting website I found that their Windows hosting product is currently unavailable. Hence the article “A2 Hosting Review” is all about their Linux hosting product.
A2 is rated A+ by the Better Business Bureau. That means A2 scores high in the range of 97 to 100 in the scoring scale.
The scoring takes into factors like
- Complaint volume
- Unanswered complains
- Unresolved complaints
- Complaint resolution delayed
- Failure to address complaint pattern
- Time in business
- Transparent business practices
- Government action and other parameters
What Makes A2 Hosting The Next Best Shared Hosting Alternative
#1. Free Migration
There can be several reasons for website migration like uptimes, price, quality customer support and better services. Hosting transfer costs depends on the number of images, file & file sizes and the plugins.
The cost can range from $150 to $400 depending on the size of your blog or website. In such a scenario, free website migration from A2 hosting comes handy.
A2 provides one complimentary migration for Lite, Swift and Turbo clients.
The only catch is that – the A2 website migration team needs your cPanel access.
In case, if your previous host does not provide cPanel access then you may be charged a migration fee. The fees will depend on the complexity of the migration.
A2 Hosting migration terms are as under
#2. Free Hackscan & Patchman Security Tools
Hack scan security is one of the components of A2 perpetual security initiatives to protect hosting from getting compromised. A hack scan is a free malware protection service that comes free with all the plans.
A hack scan runs 24×7 to help block malware attacks on your website. Additionally, A2 provides Patchman enhanced security tools for all the plans.
The patchman provides account protection by
- Out of date software version detection
- Quarantine infected files
- WordPress, Joomla and Drupal software patching.
#3. Anytime money-back Guarantee
A2 hosting helps account holders save money through “anytime money-back guarantee”. Which is interesting when every hosting company has ways to extract money from the customers.
Under the guarantee, A2 hosting gives a pro-rata money refund even after the expiry of the trial period of 30 days. The pro-rata refund concept is new in the hosting industry.
However, their policy indicates that
- a prorated refund is not available for the partial month of service
- Refunds will be paid through PayPal for requests made after 120 days
- SSL certificates have 25-day refund window
Like other hosting service providers, the following services are not covered under the Anytime money-back guarantee
- Third-party fees
- Domain registration fees
- Setup fees
- Migration fees
Below is the Anytime money-back guarantee details.
#4. Quality Customer Support
A2 customer support i.e. the “Guru Crew” is a team equipped to handle a wide range of hosting issues. They help first-time blog setup to technical (developer) stuff related to advanced PHP hosting support.
The A2 website has resources in the form of guides and tutorials that can be helpful in solving your hosting issues.
The guides are on topics like
- Getting started guides
- cPanel guide
- WordPress optimization
- Developer corner
A2 provides an FAQ section for people who want to browse for finding answers to common problems.
The FAQ’s section addresses common issues related to billing, domain name server (DNS) configuration, SSL certificates, cPanel and Plesk.
In a situation where you need urgent support, A2 has a 24×7 accessible support team. One can call, live chat or email them.
#5. Free Let’s Encrypt SSL Certificate
A secure socket layer or SSL is a networking protocol that secures web connections over the internet between web clients and web servers. The protocol uses encryption technology to secure connections.
Let’s Encrypt is a certificate authority based in California, that gives websites the trusted HTTPS for an encrypted connection.
Let me tell you that the service is charged at many of the hosting service providers like Bluehost and Hostgator.
For enhanced website security and protection, A2 Hosting has partnered with Let’s Encrypt to provide free and automated SSL Certificates. All the shared hosting plans have pre-installed Let’s Encrypt SSL certificate.
#6. Green Hosting
When you host your website with A2, you help protect the environment for future generations and reduce carbon footprints.
A2 Hosting has partnered with Carbonfund.org to fight global warming and global climate change. A2 supports reforestation efforts, contributes to the development of clean, renewable sources of energy.
That way you know that a part of your money goes for the betterment of the environment, people and planet.
Features & Benefits of A2 Hosting
#1. Fast Server Speed
The decreased attention span of visitors means your website needs to be loading superfast. In the online world, speed directly impacts traffic and revenues.
Above is the snapshot of the server speed test results from Bitcatcha. The website was hosted on the A2 hosting’s Turbo plan.
You can see the hosting speed is really blazing fast. The highest response time is 297ms. I thought to cross-check with the Web Page Test.
The speed result from the Web Page Test is under
The Time to First Byte is 365ms. Which is under 400ms, and that is blazing speed.
The above test is about the A2 hosting on Turbo Plan.
What about the next lower plan – the Swift Plan. Speed test results on Bitcatcha show a slower speed performance. The highest response time is 351ms.
The server speed on the lower Swift plan may not be so impressive in comparison to the Turbo plan but is still under 400ms. That is more than the industry standards of 890 ms.
A2 discloses the fact upfront, that the fastest speed (Turbo 20X faster hosting) is available only with the Turbo Plan.
On A2 hosting you get fast server speed because they use the best hardware, software and optimizations.
Things that make A2 hosting swift fast are
#1. Solid State Drives (SSDs)
SSD loads webpage faster in comparison to the older hard disk drive (HDD) technology because SSD uses flash technology to access data. Which is superior to the magnetic tape and disk used in HDD.
You benefit from SSDs faster read and write times. That can perform thousands (even higher) input and output functions per second. All of which translates into higher server speed and faster page load in a fraction of seconds.
A2 Hosting uses SSD based servers for all the shared hosting plans. Your OS & database including files are on SSD servers. Precisely that is why you get fast speed.
#2. A2 Optimized Software
A2 Hosting uses a one-click Softaculous software setup tool. The software tool is optimized for best speed settings. Which relieves you from testing WordPress Plugins for getting the fastest page loads.
The A2 optimized software gives you the optimal speed configurations for content management systems like WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and PrestaShop.
With A2 optimizer you also have A2 Optimized Site Accelerator.
A2 Optimized Site Accelerator is a cPanel plugin providing pre-configured caching for your applications from a single interface for even faster page loads.
The caching options include
- Turbo Cache – The entire HTML contents of a page is stored by Turbo Cache and served without running PHP for up to 20X faster page loads.
- OPcache/APC – Tests show OPcache can cut PHP page response time in half. OPcache comes pre-configured with PHP 5.5 and later versions. APC is available on earlier PHP versions.
- Memcached – Increases the speed of your MySQL databases by keeping your most important data in memory for quicker retrieval.
#3. Cloudflare CDN & Anycast DNS
A2 Hosting comes with free Cloudflare CDN that protects and accelerates websites delivery making your page load quickly.
Cloudflare CDN automatically routes the traffic through its smart global network to automatically optimize the delivery of your site. The CDN offers a large number of worldwide data centers.
Thus the network is able to access the fastest, most efficient route from these data centers back to your web server.
A2 hosting’s Anycast DNS solution duplicates DNS records across A2 Hosting’s global network ultimately bringing them closer to the audience locations.
Thus, instead of just one DNS location, Anycast DNS copies your DNS record on A2’s network of global servers. That means that your DNS record is much closer to your visitors and Anycast can direct visitors to a DNS server located more closely to them.
Anycast DNS increases performance by offering quicker response times, lowering latency and increasing redundancy.
#4. Server Locations
A2 Hosting has four data center locations such that there is minimal network latency. To decrease the time taken to get your content in front of your visitors to choose a server closest to them.
Data Centre Location Options with A2 hosting are
- USA – Michigan
- USA – Arizona
- Europe – Amsterdam
- Asia – Singapore
#2. Perpetual Security
Your website and blogs need solid security to keep hackers, malware and viruses. Security infrastructure helps save you from Google’s penalty on compromised sites.
A2 Hosting comes with perpetual security. The benefit is a secure and clean hosting environment without much of worry. The A2 security features include
#1. HTTP/2 Protocol
HTTP/2 is the latest version of HTTP with binary protocols instead of earlier text-based protocols. HTTP/2 when encrypted using SSL/TLS offers enhances security over HTTP. Thus your audiences are assured that they are visiting a secured website
Google also supports HTTPS. All the non HTTPS sites now contain a warning on loading.
Another benefit of HTTP/2 is that the technology provides significantly faster page load times than HTTP because of its ability to deliver more HTTP requests at once and prioritize those requests.
A2 hosting provides HTTP/2 only with the higher Turbo hosting plan. HTTPS is available for all the plans.
#2. Other Perpetual Security Features
- Free Hack Scan Protection – A hack scan is a free malware protection service that comes free with all the plans. A hack scan runs 24×7 to help block malware attacks on your website.
- KernelCare – KernelCare updates your kernel with the latest security updates on a daily basis without requiring to reboot your server.
- Reinforced Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Protection – DDoS is a malicious attempt to disrupt a site or network with a flood of internet traffic from multiple compromised computer systems. A2 hosting offers high scale capacity, instant attack detection and fast mitigation.
#3. Patchman Enhanced Security Tool
A2 hosting offers the Patchman security tool for greater account protection. The tool first detects the out of date version. A hacker can compromise your site is if you’re using insecure, outdated software.
You’ll receive a notification if you have out of date software installed. Otherwise, you will receive a warning if an infected file on your account is detected. Infected files are auto-quarantined 24 hours later for your protection.
New vulnerabilities are regularly found in content management systems like WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. Patchman extracts the security fixes from new releases and backports them to all earlier versions. But the tool does not update the software version.
#1. Tricky Pricing & Upsales
A2 hosting also uses tricky pricing and lots of up sales in the name of customizing. That I feel is a serious drawback.
When you pick any of their hosting plans, then you should doubly check the billing cycle. The longer plan periods have a lower charge.
For example, the SWIFT web hosting plan for 36 months is charged at $9.99 per month. Whereas, the same plan for 12 months costs $10.99 per month.
Which is not fair.
After the billing cycle, you need to scroll through a page length of up sales items in the name of customization.
That makes you feel that the hosting provider is employing too much of marketing tactics.
Premium services like Railgun and dedicated website builders can be charged or offered with higher plans. But upselling services like “performance plus” for an additional 1GB RAM and “DropSuite Offsite Backups” is too much.
Here is a screenshot of all the upsales products.
At times, the upsells at A2 hosting can be confusing. For example, on the bottom, they have listed “Cloud Flare Plan Basic Monthly” for $3 per month.
But on the plan comparison page, you can see that the Cloudflare Basic is marked as “Available” for Lite and Swift Plans.
Cloudflare Plus is available for Turbo Plan.
#2. Can have better Uptimes
Uptimes show the availability of a website. A 99.9% uptime is roughly equal to 10 minutes of downtime each week. That means in a year approximately for 9 to 10 hours the website was not available.
A fast but unavailable website is of little use. The result is lost traffic and sales. Uptime is one area where A2 needs to improvise.
The uptimes stats for A2 hosting taken from stats.pingdom.com for past one year is as under.
Getting 100% uptime on a consistent basis is hard. But uptime figures of 99.70% and 99.83% are not expected when you are running an online business.
In fact, A2 hosting has achieved 99.99% and above uptime only on six occasions in the past one year.
Which Plan is Suitable For Whom
#1. Lite Plan
The Lite plan is best if you are planning for a single website for one of your projects. On the plan, you can have 5 subdomains, 25 parked domains. But cannot have any addon domains.
When you are purchasing make sure that you select the longest duration (36 months) to get the cheapest price. A2 has higher prices for short duration Lite plans.
The Lite plan has few free and unlimited server resources and tools.
For examples of those resources are
- Unlimited SSD and transfer
- 25 email accounts
- Free site migration
- Free SSL certificate
- Anytime money-back guarantee
Rest assured you have with your Lite plan a premium server hardware, perpetual security features, Anycast DNS, Cloudflare CDN, 24×7 Guru support team, one-click software installation.
Additionally, you also get access to Website visitor logs & statistics. There are website bonuses and freebies like Bing/ Yahoo Ad credits, trial pack of iContact email marketing and Attracta – for immediate website submission to Google, Yahoo, Bing and Ask search engines.
#2. Swift Plan
The Swift plan has all the above benefits and more. In a sense, you can have more number of sites hosted on Swift plan with 2X resources.
The plan is suitable when you have more websites with one of them is growing (having large visitors over 25K per month) and a few more websites ready to take off.
For temporary traffic spikes, the Swift plan comes with a “Performance Plus” feature for $1.47 per month. The tool lets you handle additional traffic at course, product launch or viral posts.
Apart from that, the Swift plan offers
- Unlimited websites, with subdomains,
- Facility to park unlimited domains and add-on domains
- Unlimited Email addresses
- Unlimited database (You need to choose between MySQL or MSSQL)
- Server rewind backups
#3. Turbo Plan
The Turbo plan is the best and the fastest shared hosting service from A2 with all the resources. The plan has all the benefits of the Lite and the Swift plan. Plus the plan has Turbo servers for up to 20X faster speed.
The Turbo servers have
- More Resources Per User
- Fewer Users Per Server
- Faster Performance vs. Apache
The turbo servers come with additional Litespeed Cache Plugin for faster software speed, A2 optimized site accelerator and pre-configured Magento for speed and security.
The Turbo plan is best when you have a portfolio of growing websites that had an increasing number of monthly traffic and needs higher resources.
You can use the “Performance Plus” tool available with the Turbo plan for managing traffic spikes for $1.47 per month.
Additionally, the plan offers HTTP/2 security which is not available with the other two plans.
A2 Hosting Claims And Actual
|20x Blazing Speed
|Available only on the higher Turbo Plan.
Under 400ms. Which is almost double the industry average of 890ms. Turbo Servers which are SSDs and can load pages 20 times faster than the non-SSD server.
|99.9% Uptime Guarantee
|We find that A2 hosting falls short of the Uptime promise. The uptime records show that they have lower uptime figures like 99.70% for June 2019.
|Value of Money
|You get prorated refunds in case of cancellation even after 30 days of the trial period.
|As per the A2 hosting policy
“Shared Web Hosting accounts are allowed to use a maximum of six hundred thousand (600,000) inodes and thirty-five (35) concurrent HTTP connections to the server. Backups should be downloaded and removed after creation.”
So we find that there are limitations to server resources.
Overall A2 hosting makes a good option for a second alternative shared hosting service. The crux is that A2 provides offers a solid speed almost comparable to the frontline hosting service providers. But the uptimes are lagging.
The security features are decent. The free Lets’ Encrypt SSL and Green hosting add value. Additionally, you have any time money-back guarantee.