Boasting some of the best loading speeds I’ve had the pleasure of seeing, A2 Hosting is a performance beast – even on the cheap plans. There are multiple options to boost your website even further, guaranteeing that your visitors will always enjoy a nice and easy browsing experience. Support isn’t anything to write home about, but hey, you can’t have it all.
Is This Industry Giant Still Worth Your Time?
Renowned hosting provider A2 Hosting has been around forever, but that doesn’t guarantee quality. Actually, the opposite scenario is much more common. Recent years have seen once-mighty names like GoDaddy and HostGator become the butt of many a joke, and rightfully so – their services have declined to the point of absurdity.
Expecting little, as I usually do, I set out to check what has become of A2 Hosting in 2020. Is the company using its considerable size and resources to the benefit of its users? Or is it just another uncompetitive service cruising on brand recognition?
After signing up and testing the hosting for a few months, I can tell you that there are still many things to like about A2 Hosting. It’s an extremely user-friendly service, and in some aspects, it absolutely rocks.
Still, not everything is perfect. Read on to understand what A2 Hosting lacks, and what that means for you.
Powerful Tech That Hides behind Confusing Terminology
I’m counting on you to remember that we’re talking about a hosting company, so let’s all agree to call it “A2” from here on.
Anyways, making sense of A2’s exact features is not a straightforward task. It seems that the company employs some very creative minds, and these guys gave a unique name to every little part of the service. There are SwiftServers, Turbo Servers, Turbo Boosts, A2 Site Accelerators, special A2 Optimized software, and the list continues.
Is a SwiftServer faster than a Turbo Server? Is a Boost better than an Acceleration? And given that A2 is just a host (and not a developer of hosting technologies), what tech is actually running behind the scenes?
I’m here to sort it all out. Let’s start with the basic shared hosting plans. They’re all cPanel-based, meaning you can easily access important features and use the popular one-click Softaculous to install WordPress, Joomla, and other CMS (content management systems.) Cloudflare CDN can be easily integrated as well.
I signed up for the first plan, Startup, which is classified as the aforementioned SwiftServer. Simply put, A2’s SwiftServers are basic, Apache-based servers. It’s a classic technology, but there are better ones available today.
The Startup plan comes with a 100GB of SSD storage, an unlimited bandwidth allotment, and can support one single website. The more advanced plan, Drive, has unlimited space and can support unlimited websites.
A cool thing about A2 is that it’s very honest about the amount of RAM (the memory needed to run processes) included in the plans. While most hosts keep this kind of info to themselves, A2 notes that Startup comes with 0.7GB, while Drive has 1GB of RAM. That means they both can easily handle landing pages, blogs, portfolios, and other basic logic pages.Drive might be strong enough for some WooCommerce websites, but you’ll be pushing it to its limits.
A free SSL certificate is available with all plans, which firmly makes A2 one of the good guys. Your visitors’ data, privacy, and connection will all be secured, and you’ll have the padlock showing in the address bar. I tested the strength of the certificate through Qualys, and got A+, the highest possible grade.
I won’t be covering them in depth here, but VPS plans are also available, and they’re definitely worth your time if you find yourself in need of more power. That might be because you become oh-so-popular and are dealing with an endless barrage of visitors, or because you’re running processing-heavy tasks like ecommerce or personal accounts-based projects.
So far, so good? Great. Let’s dig a bit deeper.
“Up to 20x faster!” screams the tagline. Gosh, I wonder what ancient sorcery is at work here, and why other hosts aren’t using it as well. As you’ve probably guessed, there’s no real secret sauce, and I’m willing to bet that your website will not be 20x faster.
What is happening is that A2’s copywriters had a stroke of genius. LiteSpeed is a new, significantly faster web server technology that’s quickly replacing Apache (recap: which the basic SwiftServers are running). It also allows for very effective server-level caching, which can greatly boost speeds. While other hosts are simply listing LiteSpeed as one of their many features, A2 built a whole brand around it.
This is all a bit sneaky, and I’d agree that A2 isn’t winning any points for straightforwardness. I’m still going to commend it for really utilizing the power behind LiteSpeed, and for coupling it with equally-impressive hardware. These plans might not cut your loading times by 20x, but they’re much more powerful than the SwiftServer plans.
The A2 Optimized Plugin
Next up is A2 Optimized, which supposedly grants you “6x faster page loads”. Ah, more magic! This time, we’re actually talking about a WordPress plugin that A2 developed itself. Kind of. It’s a plugin inspired by Sauron’s One Ring, one that brings other plugins together and in the darkness binds them.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. You’ll get a pre-configured WordPress installation, and it will already include important plugins like Jetpack and W3 Total Cache. While these are household names in the industry (and any WordPress user can install them themselves), it does take some time and effort to get the job done.
It’s nice to see A2 saving us a few hours of configurations and installations, and creating a platform that lets you easily manage all the different plugins. Not “6x faster,” but definitely a good thing.
Automatic Server Backups
You’re a responsible adult, so you obviously know backups are important. Still, not all backups are created equal, and it’s important to understand which type is relevant to you.
All A2 plans let you use the cPanel management panel to perform full on-demand account backups, and Softaculous itself can be used to make on-demand backups of the CMS itself, be it WordPress or another.
What’s missing is the option to schedule automatic backups, as it’s so easy to forget to run them yourself. Or to simply be too lazy to do so. This option is only available in the more advanced plans, but it makes life so much easier.See full list of features
Ease of use
A2 Uses a Tried-And-True Interface, So There’s No Funny Business
It’s not that hard to make a website hosting service easy to use. There’s actually a solution available on the market that’s been developed for this exact purpose. It’s called WHMCS, and it really just works.
It’s not the greatest, most beautiful user experience ever created, but it sure gets the job done. Because it’s pricey, many companies opt to avoid it altogether, and instead develop “custom account areas.” 90% of the time, these are a horrible failure.
Luckily, A2 had no qualms about purchasing WHCMS and making your life a whole lot easier. The system takes care of everything, from signup and billing to account management and cPanel integrations.
Choosing Your Plan
Still, the most confusing part of A2’s service comes before signing up. There’s an almost endless number of “plans” (Shared, WordPress, Python, Ruby, WooCommerce, Linux, CMS, CRM), but in reality, they’re all the exact same shared plan.
With that in mind, and the A2 Lexicon I’ve created for you in the Features section, I trust you to choose the plan that’s right for you.
Activating Your Account with A2 Hosting
After choosing your plan, you’ll be transferred to the WHMCS part of the service, where things are no longer confusing. And yet, not confusing doesn’t necessarily mean easy.
Sadly, my payment was immediately canceled upon signup. Apparently, the “fraud alert” systems didn’t like me at all – maybe because I test so many hosting companies. Not knowing what to do, and with the service itself not lending a helping hand, I resorted to talking with support.
It was a 2-day journey, one which involved me sending these guys a short personal history and a scan of my actual passport before they relented and activated my account. Not exactly the smooth sailing I was hoping for.
Connecting Your Domain and Installing WordPress
Thankfully, after finally getting activated, the difficult part was behind me. Connecting my domain was a breeze, as WHMCS lists the plan nameservers in the clearest way possible, right on the plan page. Just copy-paste them to your domain registrar and your domain and hosting will be connected in no-time.
Installing WordPress is just as easy, thanks to the one-click Softaculous installer. Choose WordPress, enter your dream name and the account details for your new website, and voila. The only thing to keep in mind is that to enjoy all the pre-configurations A2 has already done for you, you should install the “WordPress – A2 Optimized” version, and not the bare one.
Oddly enough, during signup you can choose to have WordPress pre-installed on your plan, but if you do that, you won’t get the A2 optimized version. Go figure.See if A2 Hosting is Right for You
Excellent Performance, Even on the Basic Plans
We’ve been promised swift turbo-boosted servers. We’ve been promised performance to be 2x faster, then 5x faster, then 20x. Anything less than instant loading would be a slight disappointment at this point.
So, what’s the verdict? While speeds are not “instant,” A2 really delivers – as long as you choose your data center wisely. There are four of them, one in Michigan (In the city of Ann Arbor, or A2, hence the name of the company. Mystery solved…), one in Arizona, one in the Netherlands, and one in Singapore.
Average loading speeds in my GTmetrix tests were 1.3s, which is especially impressive when you consider that I was using the basic hosting plan, and not the turbo servers. Uptime tracked over two months is currently a perfect 100%, which is really amazing.
I built and designed the website around a standard WordPress theme by the name of SimpleShift. It’s a one-pager landing page advertising an imaginary product, the Autonomous Shoes, but other than that it’s a website very close to what you might build. HD images, text, effects, a subscription form, and more. As such, my test results can tell you a lot about what you should expect.
I extended A2 the opportunity to optimize my website, as I do with all hosts, and received a message with optimization suggestions. I followed the ones that are straightforward and you can easily implement yourself, and my website was tested in its optimized form.
GTmetrix tests a website’s loading speeds using one of its many global testing locations. I chose the Dallas, TX location, which was the closest one to my data center.
After running multiple tests over a long period of time and meticulously aggregating the results, I got an average loading time of 1.3s. Need some context to make sense of it?
Well, in our global web host comparison project, this figure places A2 as the second-fastest host. Better than premium options like Liquid Web, better than Hostinger, and second only to the amazing (and expensive) Kinsta.
The fastest loading speed recorded for A2 was 1.1s, which is even more good news, and the slowest speed was 1.6s. Now, that’s not slow at all! SiteGround, a host once considered to be pretty great, didn’t get faster than 1.4s.
All in all? Fantastic. Here’s one of these phenomenal performance tests:
Sucuri Load Time Tester
Sucuri’s tool is used to measure loading speeds in multiple global locations, giving you an idea of how well your website performs worldwide. Thing is, it’s been a bit buggy lately, and some web hosts actively block its requests.
I can’t say for sure if this is the situation with A2, but my Sucuri test results don’t make much sense otherwise. After running many tests and averaging the results, I got 4.285s for the fastest location, 5.05s for the slowest location, and a measly global average speed of 4.836. That’s really horrible, but GTmetrix and other users’ experiences tell a completely different story.
I present you one of these tests, but my suggestion is to not take it too seriously. The problem seems to be with Sucuri.
A2 guarantees a 99.9% uptime figure, but in reality, it does even better. I’ve been using the UptimeRobot tool for almost three months to monitor A2’s uptime, and not a single downtime has been noted so far.
Yep. Perfect uptime, ladies and gentlemen. A beautiful 100%. I don’t expect that it will be the case forever, but to see such stability over such a long period is an extremely comforting sign. Few other hosts, if any, manage to be this reliable.Check Out A2 Hosting Performance
A2 Hosting’s “Guru Crew” Was a Disappointment
It sure seems promising on paper! “24/7/365 Guru Crew”, available through phone, live chat, email, and support tickets. What could go wrong? Sadly, almost everything.
Why? Because while being available is a good start, the level of expertise counts a bit more. Actually, a lot more. What A2 did is cut expenses, and cheap just doesn’t buy “Guru” support. The service has been almost entirely outsourced to some third party in India, and it’s manned by amateurs. At best, they’re well-intentioned amateurs who try to help. At worst, they’re there just to be there.
My first experience with A2’s support was before signing up. I wanted to have a live chat with the sales agents to get an idea of what I should expect, but ended up getting redirected to a contact form instead. After trying again and choosing “tech support,” I was put on hold for 15 minutes before being connected with an agent.
This guy was not very quick in responding, which made me think that he was juggling dozens of other conversations in the meantime. While he did try to help, it ended up being quite confusing.
I asked which plan I should use to host a simple landing page. He suggested the expensive unlimited plan, and not the basic one that was appropriate for my situation. I inquired about the resources I’d get with each plan, and didn’t really get an answer. After that, he promised me that a US server would serve Australian visitors just alright (nope, it won’t). My simple question about whether backups were included resulted in him sending me a tutorial on how to use backups. Not a very good start.
After signing up, I wanted to get some help with connecting my domain and installing WordPress. The average waiting time to talk with an agent was around an hour. At one point it was almost two hours. Sometimes I did get connected to an agent, but by the time I realized it he had already disconnected, and then it was back to the start of the queue again. Every time that happened I let out a silent scream, and proceeded to reason with the now-finished chat.
I did end up getting some help with the domain nameservers, but in the end, had to do most of the job myself.
Things got a bit better when I used the ticket system to ask for help in optimizing my website. The agent recommended that I activate the CDN, and directed me to a few A2 tutorials about installing performance-boosting plugins. Not what I’d call “expert advice,” but at least I got something. In general, ticket support seemed to be the place to get more professional help.
How can we sum up A2’s support? Not the worst I’ve seen, but just a notch or two above horrible. Waiting for over 5 minutes to get support is a lot. Waiting for almost an hour is ridiculous. The help itself is on the same level of running a Google search, which I wouldn’t be surprised to hear is what these guys actually do.
Always Good Value for Your Money
Well, support was underwhelming… Luckily, things get better again with the pricing. A2 is not the cheapest host around, but it’s always affordable. With prices starting at $1.99 per month, really anybody can sign up and enjoy the hosting. As with most hosts, prices get increasingly better as you sign up for longer periods of time.
More advanced hosting options, like the LiteSpeed-powered Turbo plans, are obviously more expensive. Still, they manage to provide a great mix of affordability, resources, and power, and can support bigger and more traffic-heavy websites.
A really cool thing that A2 does is that in addition to providing the industry-standard 30-day money-back guarantee, it also provides an anytime pro-rata refund. What does the fancy Latin stand for? It means that even after your first 30 days are over, you can still ask for a refund, and you’ll get reimbursed for the remaining part of your contract.
For example, you can sign up for three years and get the best possible price, but ask for a refund six months later. You’ll then get reimbursed for the remaining two and a half years. Fair? Super fair. No other host does this.
On the subject of payment terms, you’ll have the option of choosing between monthly, yearly, bi-yearly, or tri-yearly. Still, there’s really no reason not to go tri-yearly and use the refund if needed.
A2 does not offer free domains, and purchasing one from the company is pretty expensive. You should get your domain at Namecheap, save big, and simply connect it to your hosting account.
What about payment options? It’s the usual credit cards and PayPal, although you can also use Skrill or perform a money transfer, if you’re that person. It does seem that using credit cards often triggers the fraud alerts, so PayPal would be my recommendation.
99,9% uptime? No way, we are out of mail for 3 days now.
This is the second time that we have a huge interruption in A2 mail, both sending and receiving, for more then 3 days.
Web sites, incoming and outgoing mail, nothing is working anymore.
A2 is killing my business. Such a poor service, I will move to any other as soon as possible.
Perhaps at one time, A2 Hosting used to be a good web hosting company, but that time seems to have been long passed. A2 hosting appears to have a larger and larger amount of issues piling up. Not only are they more and more unreliable, but their customer service is slower and slower, almost to the point of being unacceptable!Now the newest issue is that their email filters do not do anything at all that they're designed to do. It's absolute garbage. I set up key words like any email that has the words "sex" and "freespin" in the body of the email message should be discarded... yet I am getting them all the time, every day.It's like the entire business of A2Hosting is a SCAM to get as many people's money as possible... in the meantime they just make it look like (!!!) a serious business... while it's all just a joke, an amateur platform LOOKING LIKE a worthy business. That's where it seems to be heading. Seriously...I would NEVER recommend A2 Hosting to my worst enemies! Like I said, one problem would be understandable and they could fix it... but when you have a constantly mounting amount of issues, I seriously doubt there is any way to save it. Maybe their manager is new or they have hired some people from their competition who are working on DESTROYING A2 Hosting... well, they are doing an excellent job, it's heading to destruction...When I ask them for any compensation, they simply say "Nope..." Once they got your money, you are pretty much screwed. DO NOT TRUST THEM with your hosting!
Sure, the secret jargon that A2 has developed is a bit confusing, but after reading this review, you should be able to understand everything. As such, A2’s only real weak point is its support service.
What does that mean for you? If this is your first time hosting and you tend to have a difficult time with technology, you should expect a bit of a learning curve. A service with better support, like GreenGeeks or FastComet, might make your life easier.
Ben is an avid web developer who really loves to tinker with code, whether in the back-end or in the front-end. He's searching for the world's best website host, but also tries to find time for his other interests - comics, traveling, and home cooking.