A2 Hosting Review

If you're looking for speed, you're in the right place

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4.6

A2 Hosting

What We Like
  • Offers not just Linux, but also Windows Shared Hosting

  • Expansive cPanel is packed with tools for any kind of website

  • Top service tier limits cohabitors on your server

  • Unlimited storage/bandwidth

  • Tons of apps available via Scriptaculous

What We Don't Like
  • Multiple tools to do the same thing can be confusing

  • A little pricey compared to other hosts

If you’re in need of tons of power, speed, or both, we recommend placing A2’s Shared Hosting Turbo should be on your shortlist. This tier limits the number of other users on your server, and power tools like SSH access and one-click installers make your web administration easier.

4.6

A2 Hosting

A2 Hosting is a web host that's primarily known for speed, but that isn't all they have to offer. We found A2 to be a very capable and versatile web hosting provider during our time with the service. Whether you’re just starting out and just want a WordPress site to blog on, or you’re a tried-and-true website admin, A2 has the options you need regardless of the type of site you run.

We tested this web hosting platform to see if it's really as fast as they claim, alongside a number of other important factors, so keep reading to see how it fared.

Available Levels of Service: From basic to advanced

Fast shared hosting is A2's primary focus, and they offer a tiered plan system that should be familiar if you've ever looked at the shared offerings from any other host. Each tier offers a different level of service and access to resources, and they're priced accordingly.

Here are your shared hosting options with A2:

  • Lite: The entry-level Lite service is available for use with a single website, although it does include unlimited storage and bandwidth. You won’t be able to add any of A2’s speed-related features to this service level either, and the service only allocates a single processor core and 512 MB of RAM to your account.
  • Swift: The next step up, Swift, adds unlimited websites and domains, although you still can’t add any of the proprietary performance options. It does up the resources however to two processor cores and 1 GB of RAM.
  • Turbo: Finally, the Turbo tier, the one we tested, provides two processor cores, doubles the RAM to 2GB, and makes all of A2’s proprietary performance features available. Some of these are included gratis, and others will come with an upcharge.

In addition to those tiers of shared hosting, A2 also offers managed WordPress hosting, several tiers of VPS hosting, dedicated hosting if your site needs a whole lot of resources, and even a reseller option.

Platform: Linux and Windows

Most other web hosting companies offer services based on Linux, and A2’s default shared hosting plans run on CloudLinux. This distribution is based on CentOS, which is in turn based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

The basis of A2’s environment is very solid, but CloudLinux has been tuned for use by hosts and resellers, meaning it has additional security and performance enhancements. At the same time, it remains compatible with a large number of applications already packaged up for Red Hat-based distributions.

a2 Hosting
a2 Hosting 

In addition, A2 Hosting also offers Shared Hosting on Windows servers. This allows you to host sites or applications built on Microsoft technologies like ASP, .NET, or even Silverlight if you really need that functionality.

These accounts also have access to open-source software as well, so users can run applications such as WordPress using the MySQL database engine and PHP programming language, for example.

In addition, A2 Hosting also offers Shared Hosting on Windows servers. This allows users (most likely companies) to host sites or applications built on Microsoft technologies like ASP, .NET, or even Silverlight.

Storage: All the storage you can use

As we mentioned before, there is no limit on storage at A2 Hosting. Even the bottom-tier services can use as much disk space as required or go crazy installing lots of different sites or applications. This is particularly attractive given the large number of one-click app installers A2 makes available.

Bandwidth: No need to keep tabs on traffic

Likewise, A2 Hosting doesn’t meter traffic to your sites. So feel free to put up those high-res images or that HD video gallery. With unlimited storage and bandwidth, you don’t need to worry about overages for media-heavy sites or applications.

Registration Process: Quick and easy

Getting registered on A2 Hosting is straightforward. The registration process steps you through a small number of screens, although unlike some competing providers there’s no navigation to let you know precisely where you are in the process. You’ll start by clicking on the Get Started! link for whatever level of service you’re currently reviewing. 

a2 web hosting
 a2 web hosting

The next step is for you to indicate the domain name you’d like. You can also elect to transfer your domain name or use an existing domain host at this stage.

Next, you’ll select some options to your new hosting account. These include your billing cycle, the data center you’d like to use, as well as add-ons such as a dedicated IP address or performance enhancements. You can also have an application, such as a content management system, installed automatically for you.

a2 Hosting
a2 Hosting

Finally, you’ll reach the checkout page. Here you enter your contact and payment information. Set your account’s password, and you’re off to the races.

Control Panel/Domain & Site Management: The Right Tools Are Here

When you first log into your A2 Hosting account, you’ll land on a dashboard that contains tiles that provide information and enable functionality. The topmost contains a summary of the services you currently have as well as domains, any support tickets, and a link to invoices.

The next item down lists all your domains, and it also contains quick links to the cPanel, connection, and payment details for each.

Blocks below these two main bars let you open support tickets, register a new domain, view the company’s Tweets and news, or make referrals for credit towards service.

a2 Hosting
a2 Hosting

The site’s menu also contains links to important services:

  • Services: You can use the entries here to view your current services, order new ones, or browse add-ons to the services you have.
  • Domains: The Domains menu includes tools to order new domains, renew your existing domains, transfer domains from other hosts to A2 Hosting, or perform a Whois lookup to see who owns a domain you might want.
  • Billing: In this menu, you can change your payment information (including credit card or PayPal), and view invoices. If you’ve requested services from A2 Hosting and received a quote, you’ll also have access to it here.
  • Support: The Support menu contains links to sources of information such as A2’s blog and knowledge base as well as links to request assistance, for example with host migrations.
  • Open Ticket: This item will take you to a screen where you can open a support ticket.
  • Account: Lastly, the Account menu lets you edit details such as your contact information, change your password, grant others (such as web developers) access to your account, or log out.

Control Panel/Advanced Options: cPanel in All Its Glory

Within each domain, your admin options are found in the cPanel, which you can reach by clicking the above-mentioned quick link. That said, you can still use all the power that the cPanel interface provides by going to the Advanced menu. If that sounds a bit confusing, blame A2 for duplicating functionality in multiple locations.

The right side of the screen provides some statistical information on your account, such as your server’s address, how much storage you’ve used, and how many databases you have.

a2 Hosting
a2 Hosting

The sections in the center of the screen contain collections of tools as follows:

  • Files: This section contains a link to the web-based file manager, tools to track disk usage, and backup features.
  • Scriptaculous Apps Installers: You can install any of hundreds of available applications with a single click. There are multiple options in categories including Blogs, Wikis, Social Networking, e-commerce, and enterprise resource planning (ERP) in addition to the obvious content management systems.
  • Staging: A “staging” area is a web development term for a copy of your “live” website where you can test out new features. A2 Hosting provides the ability to copy your such an area with a click. 
  • Billing & Support: Use the tools in this section to managing billing information, request or upgrade services, open a help ticket, and manage domains.
  • Databases: You can administer databases here using either the MySQL or PostgreSQL database servers, and access web-based management tools such as phpMyAdmin (for MySQL) and phpPgAdmin (for Postgres).
  • SEO & Marketing Tools: This section aids in optimizing the SEO and/or social media links for your site(s). You can also access a free site builder application from here or set up email marketing campaigns.
  • Domains: There are additional links to domain tools here, including registration. You can also set up subdomains or aliases/redirects (automatically sending visitors to one domain when they visit another).
  • E-mail: Create your e-mail addresses, set up mailing lists, adjust spam filters, and configure autoresponders using the tools in this section. There’s a module for calendars and contacts as well, and a tool to enable encryption for your mail.
  • Metrics: You can obtain stats on basics like visitors and bandwidth or use more advanced tools such as Awstats or Webalizer to visualize your site’s performance.
  • Security: A2 Hosting provides SSH shell access to verified users, which you can set up here. You can also manage your SSL certificates (you do get a free Let’s Encrypt cert when you register), or block access by specific IP addresses.
  • Software: While this may seem to overlap with the one-click installers mentioned above, this section is really about your software environments. This includes setting versions of programming languages like PHP or setting up frameworks like the popular Node.js.
  • Advanced: The Advanced section is a collection of miscellaneous tools. These include some configuration for the Apache web server, setting up Cron jobs, error pages (like the dreaded 404 Error page), and how to handle MIME types. A2’s own optimization tools are also located in this section.
  • Preferences: Finally, this section lets you change the language shown in cPanel, manage your users, set your password, or change your contact info.

Control Panel/Administration: Straightforward, no matter where you find it

All the primary administration options are available via the main site menu, the cPanel, or both. The tools themselves straightforward, with easy-to-use-forms that let you change your payment method, for example.

One useful feature is the ability to create sub-accounts. If you’re a small web developer using A2 Hosting to service your own clients, you can set each one up with a Sub-Account that allows them to not only access their files but upgrade their own services or pay invoices.

On top of this, Turbo accounts also use a replacement to the generally-available Apache web server that is tuned for performance. Finally, there are a number of options you can activate such as caching you can turn on for top speed.

A2 Hosting’s claim to fame comes in the form of the many enhancements they provide to ensure your site is working as fast as it possibly can.

Key Features: Geared for speed

A2 Hosting is designed around providing the speediest servers available, even with shared hosting plans, so it's a bit of a disappointment that these features aren't available at every level. If you want to take advantage of A2's fantastic speed, and the great alternatives and options they offer to get things moving faster, you have to pay for one of their more expensive tiers.

a2 Hosting
a2 Hosting

Support: 24/7 phone, web chat, and ticket system

A2 provides a robust set of customer support options, with 24/7 phone support, live chat, and a ticket system. They have a toll free number for customers in the United States, and local support numbers for various countries around the world. You'll also find access to their web chat support system at the top of every page on the site.

a2 Hosting
a2 Hosting

If you prefer asynchronous communication, you can also use their ticket system. This system allows you to submit a ticket and wait until a helpdesk staff member gets back to you, so it's a good option if your problem isn't mission critical.

Server Uptime Guarantee: 99.9% guarantee backed in writing

A2 promises that your site will be up and accessible 99.9% of the time, and they back up that promise in their uptime commitment document. According to that document, they'll credit you 5% of your monthly bill for each hour that your site is down beyond the initial 0.1%.

The catch is that they don't count things like regularly scheduled maintenance, DDoS attacks, or network conditions outside their own network.

Price: Great performance, but a little expensive

Compared to some other hosting providers, A2 runs on the expensive side. Their plans range from $9.99 per month for the Lite plan to $24.99 per month for the Turbo plan if you pay on a monthly basis. That's a lot of money for a shared hosting plan, and the $18.99 per month you'll pay with a 36 month commitment isn't that much better.

The caveat here is that you're paying for speed, especially at the Turbo tier. You can find shared hosting that's a lot more affordable, but you won't find alternatives that are both cheaper and as fast as A2.

Competition: A2 Hosting vs. GoDaddy

The most direct competitor for A2 Hosting as an all-in-one hosting provider is GoDaddy. Both offer tools catering to users ranging from newbies to tech gurus. Both provide both Linux and Windows options, and both position themselves as a host for any type of site.

The main difference between them is at the high end of their shared hosting plans. A2 Hosting’s plan provides the performance enhancements mentioned throughout this review, where GoDaddy provides the same raw processing power, yet none of these special enhancements.

GoDaddy's Ultimate plan is cheaper than A2's Turbo plan, at $19.99 per month versus $24.99 per month with no long term commitment. If you pay for 36 months in advance, it's an even bigger difference: $18.99 per month for A2 compared to $12.99 per month for GoDaddy.

If you're after speed, go for A2. If price is you main concern, look elsewhere.

Final Verdict

Worth it for some, but this kind of power isn't always necessary.

A2 Hosting provides a solid service that can handle any type of site, from basic to complex, with little difficulty. The company also makes all the right tools available for those who know how to use them. If you're just getting started with building websites, you might be able to use another service that costs less and still has great value, but A2 is a great choice if you're after speedy shared hosting.

Specs

  • Product Name A2 Hosting
  • Plan Tested Lite
  • Other Available Levels of Service Shared (Lite, Swift, Turbo), VPS, dedicated, reseller
  • Storage Unlimited
  • Bandwidth Unlimited
  • Platform Linux (CloudLinux), Windows
  • Registration Process Multi-step “shopping cart”-style registration
  • Domain & Site Management cPanel
  • Support 24/7 phone support, web chat, ticket system
  • Server Uptime Guarantee 99.9% backed in writing
  • File Access FTP, SFTP
  • Shell Access Yes
  • Site Builder Limited site builder, one-click WordPress
  • Email 25 email addresses
  • Years in Business 18
  • Version Control Git, Subversion
  • Payment Options Credit Card, PayPal
  • Price (monthly) $9.99/mo
  • Price (yearly) 7.99/mo