This Green Host Shows a Lot of Promise
A2 Hosting is an eco-friendly host that tries to appeal to a wide audience, offering everything from shared hosting to VPS and dedicated servers. But is it the right host for you?
A2 Hosting has been around since 2003, providing 100% carbon-neutral hosting since 2007. Yes – it’s been a ‘green’ company since before it was cool.
You can choose from a variety of hosting types, including standard shared hosting, managed WordPress hosting, reseller hosting, VPS, and dedicated servers. There are four data centers, located in the U.S., Europe, and Asia.
The plans not only come with a 99.9% uptime guarantee, but the company also claims its servers are up to 20X faster. And if anything goes wrong, there’s a ‘Guru Crew Support’ team available 24/7/365 to help you out.
If you’re like me, you might be wondering if all this sounds a little too good to be true. Hey, it’s not that we’re pessimists, right? We’re just being realistic.
Well, I decided to sign up for an A2 Hosting plan and see for myself. I tested loading speeds and performance and tried out all the important features. Read on to find out what I learned and see if A2 is the right host for you and your website.
No Shortage of Features for Websites Big and Small
A2 Hosting offers exciting features, especially when it comes to performance and security. Let’s check all the details and see exactly what you get.
A2 Hosting covers all the basics – you’ve got your free migrations, automatic backups, free SSL certificate, free domain registration, and more.
All plans come with unlimited storage and data transfer, so you can scale your site to your heart’s content. The Lite plan is limited to one website, but with all the others, you can host unlimited websites and create as many databases as you want.
However, if you’re planning on hosting an e-commerce site, you should know that A2 Hosting isn’t PCI compliant. That means you’ll have to use a third-party secure shopping cart API.
Let’s take a closer look at some of A2’s most interesting features.
20x Turbo Servers
The Turbo plans and VPS plans run on A2’s Turbo servers. According to the company’s website, these specially optimized servers will give you up to 20x faster loading speeds than standard hosting servers. With fewer users and more memory per server, you should experience a boost in performance and stability.
These days, when every millisecond matters and server downtime can mean customers down the drain, upgrading to Turbo just might be a good idea.
A2 Hosting has four global data centers, located in the U.S. (Michigan and Arizona), Europe (The Netherlands) and Asia (Singapore).
All servers are configured with a minimum of 64GB of memory and 12 CPU cores. SSD hard drives with RAID 10 redundancy help with both stability and speed. To top it off, all servers are connected by a 10GB/s quadruple redundant network backbone.
This is all backed up with the latest and greatest in hosting technology, like SPDY (a Google-developed content delivery standard), HTTP/2, and ESI (for customized page caching). However, these are restricted to the Turbo plan.
A2 Hosting’s plans come with a number of security features to keep your website safe from hackers and malware. HackScan, a proactive threat detection and removal tool, is included for free. Patchman is another handy security utility that alerts you of outdated software and takes care of quarantining infected files and patching vulnerabilities.
You’ll also have a dual firewall and brute force defense in place.
FutureServe Green Hosting
It’s not easy being green, but sometimes, you can make a difference just by choosing the right hosting provider. A2 Hosting works with Carbonfund.org, doing everything to reduce its carbon footprint – from recycling old servers to telecommuting.
Your website will be hosted on an SSD (Solid State Disk Drive), which not only provides better performance and reliability, but also uses less energy.
Ease of use
A2 Hosting doesn’t exactly provide the easiest setup process, but once you get through that, it should be smooth sailing.
Creating an Account
When I signed up for an A2 Hosting plan, I was left with mixed feelings. Sure, the process was quick and easy enough and the pricing was transparent.
What I didn’t like as much was all the upsells, not to mention being bombarded with unnecessary emails. At least the upsells were all unchecked by default.
For more information about A2’s signup process, read my step-by-step guide.
Connecting Your Domain and Installing WordPress
A2 Hosting uses cPanel, which isn’t the most beginner-friendly hosting control panel. Still, A2 has made things a bit easier.
It does take some time to set up your free CloudFlare CDN, and your free SSL certificate won’t be set up automatically.
You will get links to some useful articles along the way, but some topics aren’t covered, and the quality of the documentation varies.
It took me about an hour to set up my hosting, but my step-by-step guide might save you some time.
What I found really annoying was how you sometimes get kicked off the A2 Hosting website for 15 minutes for “accidentally triggering the security firewall.” Theoretically, you can contact support to fix it sooner, but I didn’t have much luck with that.
As previously mentioned, A2 Hosting uses cPanel as its hosting management control panel, and it’s integrated into their own dashboard. If you’ve used cPanel before, you know it’s a powerful hosting tool. If you haven’t, it might take some time to get used to.
The hosting dashboard itself is clean and simple, and the link to cPanel is easy to find.
There’s a quick link to the support center, where you can open a ticket or start a live chat conversation.
Registering a new domain or adding extra services to your account is also very straightforward.
Automatic Hosting Application Installer
One-click installers have been around for a while, but A2 Hosting takes its own to another level. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an installer with such a wide variety of applications.
As you can see, all the usual suspects like WordPress (with a few variations), Drupal, Joomla, and Magento are all there. When you choose an application, it will be waiting for you in your dashboard, already connected to your domain, as soon as you log in for the first time.
A2’s Performance and Stability Don’t Leave Much to Complain About
A2 Hosting provides above-average page loading speeds and server uptime, but can it compete with the heavyweights of hosting?
A2’s 99.9% uptime guarantee is backed by a credit system. For every hour of downtime after the first 0.1%, you get 5% of your monthly payment, up to the full amount.
While some users have reported downtime in the past, uptime was still above 99.5% during those problematic months. Since then, it has been nearly flawless.
My own WordPress site scored an A using Sucuri’s page speed tester, with the highest grade being A+. After reading all the promises on A2’s website, I was slightly disappointed – but then again, I wasn’t using a Turbo plan.
My average load time was 0.784 seconds, which is still under the 1-second threshold, so I can’t really complain. Results were great across North America, with Dallas coming in at a very low 0.217 seconds (I chose the data center in Michigan).
Most hosts score badly in Brazil, but I felt like A2 could have done better in Europe, Singapore, and Australia.
Does the ‘Guru Crew’ Really Deliver?
A2 offers round-the-clock phone, live chat, and ticket support, 365 days a year.
Whenever you need a little help, you can contact the A2 ‘Guru Crew’ through live chat, email, ticket, phone, and even Skype.
It’s nice to see a host that offers 24/7 phone support. For some countries, like the U.S., Australia, Columbia, India, and a few others, there are local numbers you can call (you can find them on the ‘Global Support’ page). From other countries, you’ll have to call the U.K. number.
If you’re more of the self-help type, A2 offers a massive knowledge base. However, there are no video tutorials, and some of the articles can be a bit too technical.
It’s nice to have all these support channels. That said, I felt that the actual support could have been better.
When I contacted live chat, I was 10th in line, and it took me 32 minutes to get through. That’s a long time, particularly compared to other hosts, and it makes me wonder about A2’s support resources.
The good news is that once you’re connected to a support agent, they are helpful and courteous, and they keep responding quickly.
However, they will often just send you a link to documentation instead of providing you with an answer or completing a task for you.
When it comes to ticket support, it’s more of the same. They respond to tickets in about an hour on average, which isn’t bad at all.
As you can see, they also mostly point you to the relevant documentation instead of giving you a personalized response.
In short, A2’s support isn’t bad, but calling it the ‘Guru Crew’ may be a bit of an overstatement.
Good Value for Your Money, but Are the “Freebies” really Free?
A2 Hosting provides solid, affordable hosting. Just make sure you understand exactly what you’re getting.
Who doesn’t like freebies? When you sign up for an A2 hosting package, you get tons of them. You get a free domain and SSL certificate, but that’s just the beginning. You also get free site migration, email hosting, automatic backups, and DNS management.
But now, here’s where things get tricky. You also get 10% off TemplateMonster themes, free Bing/Yahoo ad credits, a free iContact trial, and a free 24-hour Google listing with Attracta.
The thing is, only the TemplateMonster coupon is actually worth anything. You can get the rest of these “freebies” for free with or without A2 Hosting. I’m not a big fan of this type of marketing ploy – I find it quite deceptive.
The actual prices are pretty decent compared to similar hosts. The plans are slightly cheaper than SiteGround and almost the same price as InMotion, but with A2, you get unlimited bandwidth and storage.
There are huge discounts for your first hosting term, but keep in mind that the prices you see on the site by default are the discounted 24-month rate. There are also month-to-month options.
A2 Hosting also offers special discounts for nonprofits – just contact the support team with proof of your nonprofit status.
A2 accepts nine different currencies, including U.S. Dollar, Canadian Dollar, Euro, Pound, and more.
Cancellation and Refund
A2 Hosting offers a 30-day money-back guarantee with a no-questions-asked policy. You don’t even have to contact support to cancel – you can just do it online yourself.
That’s a huge plus, although the process itself can be a bit confusing. You can read more about it here.
After the first 30 days, you can still cancel your account and get a prorated refund, but you’ll need to pay for the full current month. If you want to cancel after 120 days, you can only get refunded through PayPal.
Any setup fees, domain registration fees, and migration fees aren’t covered by the refund policy. However, A2 does offer a 25-day refund window for any SSL certificates.