A2 Hosting Review – Impressive List of Features and Generous Refund Policy
A2 Hosting is a respected name in the industry, having been around for almost two decades at this point. Initially established back in 2001 as ‘Inquinet’, the company went on to change its name to A2 Hosting just a couple of years later and became a household brand ever since. Even though A2 is a fairly popular choice for webmasters these days, the provider still tends to take a back seat to hosting juggernauts like BlueHost and HostGator. Do these other companies have better marketing campaigns or does A2 simply not have what it takes to compete with the big dogs? That’s what we wanted to find out when we decided to put together this review.
At first glance, A2 may seem like the perfect hosting provider. They have reasonable prices, plenty of hosting plans to choose from, a good selection of features, and an unbeatable money-back guarantee. At the same time, though, the provider is known to struggle in the performance department at times, they don’t make it clear right away that certain tools need to be purchased separately, and their checkout process can be a bit confusing. Just like any other hosting provider, A2 has its fair share of pros and cons, so let’s not waste any more time and take a closer look at everything the company has to offer.
Navigation and Ease of Use
Getting started with A2 Hosting is pretty straightforward. The company’s website is fairly well designed and you can expect to find most of the information you might be interested in on the home page. The company uses a lot of buzzwords to advertise its products, particularly in the “Solutions” section, some of which may or may not be a bit misleading. Aside from that, though, the company is pretty upfront about what it’s offering and why you may want to choose A2 instead of other hosting providers.
Once you select a hosting plan, you will be asked to register a new domain or transfer an existing one. Domain transfers and site migrations are free in most cases so switching over from a different provider is a piece of cake. Like most hosting providers, A2 will automatically select a long-term plan for you during checkout so you may want to pay attention and switch to a different billing cycle if needed. Luckily, there’s no need to worry about being charged extra for additional tools because these aren’t added automatically to your package.
The problem with A2 Hosting’s checkout process is that the company doesn’t do a good job at properly explaining all the terms you’re going to come across, such as Railgun, CloudFlare or Turbo Boost. If you’re an experienced webmaster you’ll likely not find this problematic. However, it can become an issue if you’re a novice because those are all paid services and you don’t know if you’re going to need them. If this is your first time purchasing a hosting plan, it’s probably best to stick with the basics and avoid getting any optional tools until you know what they do and if you actually need them.
A2 Hosting gives users two options for managing their accounts. Shared hosting plans come bundled with cPanel while some of the other packages include both cPanel and the WHM interface. Unlike DreamHost, which has a custom control panel, A2 decided to go with a traditional account management interface. This is great not just for users who are already familiar with cPanel and WHM but also for newcomers because these control panels are very intuitive and easy to use.
It’s worth noting that A2 Hosting offers both Linux and Windows-based servers. This is a very nice feature but it comes with a couple of caveats. The first one being that Windows-based servers are more expensive. Unless you’re certain that you want a Windows-based server, make sure to pick Linux instead because it will save you a lot of money in the long run. The other main difference between the two is that Windows-based plans use Plesk instead of cPanel or WHM. Plesk works similar to those two but the UI is quite different and may take some getting used to if you’re switching from cPanel.
Plans and Pricing
A2 Hosting is a middle-of-the-pack provider when it comes to pricing. The cheapest hosting plan (Lite) will set you back $3.92 per month with a three-year contract. That’s just a little bit cheaper compared to rivals like SiteGround ($3.95/mo) and InMotion Hosting ($3.99/mo) but quite a bit more expensive than DreamHost ($2.59/mo), Bluehost ($2.75/mo) or HostGator ($2.75/mo).
The basic plan only supports a single website and a limited amount of email addresses and databases. However, you do get unlimited bandwidth and SSD storage along with a plethora of features and tools. The full list is quite extensive so we’re only going to mention some of the highlights. These include free SSL certificate, free Cloudflare CDN, website staging environment, free site migration, DDoS protection, 1-click install for WordPress and other content management systems, domain and subdomain parking, spam protection, and more.
Upgrading to the Swift plan ($4.90/mo) will cost you less than $1 dollar extra and gives you support for unlimited websites, unlimited databases, and unlimited email addresses. In addition, the hardware is also a little bit better and you get access to free automatic backups. Meanwhile, the Turbo ($9.31/mo) package is quite a bit more expensive but includes a bunch of extra features, most of which are designed to improve the performance of your website. A few examples of performance-focused features include the proprietary A2 Site Accelerator and Turbo Mode, as well as the professional version of Cloudflare.
While you can host a WordPress site on a shared hosting plan, A2 also offers managed WordPress plans that make working with the CMS a lot easier. The main difference between these two types of hosting is that the managed version comes with certain features that will allow you to take a more hands-off approach to hosting. Simply put, A2’s team takes care of much of the heavy lifting for you so you won’t have to worry about things like security, updates, patches, performance tweaking or even installing WordPress itself. Because of this, managed WordPress packages cost a bit more than your regular shared hosting plan.
Namely, the basic package costs $11.99 per month and can only support a single website. This option is primarily aimed at beginners who want to try their hand at managed hosting. With the basic plan, you only get access to 10 GB of storage but you benefit from unmetered bandwidth, a free SSL certificate, 1-click WordPress staging environment, automated backups, and a free Cloudflare account. Among other things, sites hosted on a managed plan also come with Jetpack Personal pre-installed, DDoS protection, free webmail, Turbo mode, and a Plesk control panel for managing your account.
Once you reach the $18.99 per month tier, you’ll be able to host up to 3 websites on the same account, you get one additional GB of RAM, and the available storage goes up to 25 GB. There are no other noteworthy extra features aside from that so if you’re not looking to host more than 1 website, you’re generally better off sticking with the basic plan. The situation is fairly similar when it comes to the final tier. For $36.98 per month, you’ll get some more resources and support for an unlimited number of websites, but that’s about it.
A2 is quite famous for offering some of the most appealing reseller hosting packages on the market. The company’s plans are reasonably priced and come with all the features you need to start your own small web hosting company. Needless to say, this is a very niche type of hosting that most average users are likely to overlook. But if you own a business and want to start selling hosting services to your clients, you’ll find that A2 is more than capable of facilitating that sort of venture.
Buying a reseller hosting plan from A2 will set you back anywhere between $9.80 and $30.38 per month. All plans come with almost identical features and tools, but varying amounts of resources. As you may have already guessed, the more you are willing to pay the more resources you will have at your disposal. Similarly, each type of plan can only support a certain number of client accounts – between 40 and 100 depending on the plan.
Many of the tools and features included here can also be found in the shared and WordPress hosting packages so we’re not going to mention them again. There are, however, a couple that are unique to the reseller hosting plans, such as a free eNom reseller account and free WHMCS. In case you’re not familiar with those name, WHMCS is a popular web hosting billing and automation platform while eNom is a hosting company that also sells a lot of products related to domain names.
A2 provides an alternative to WHMCS in the form of Blesta, which is a similar, albeit a lot more expensive, management and billing platform for hosting providers. You can choose either WHMCS or Blesta with any of A2’s reseller hosting plans except for the cheapest one, which comes with Blesta by default.
If you’re in the market for a VPS hosting solution, A2 may have exactly what you’re looking for. Things could get confusing for some people because the company offers no less than three different types of virtual private servers (VPS). But don’t worry because we’re going to break things down for you.
The first type is unmanaged VPS hosting, which is somewhat similar to the cloud hosting plans offered by companies like DigitalOcean. This is the cheapest type of VPS, with prices ranging between $5 and $15 per month. The standard plans don’t feature a whole lot of resources but that’s not necessarily an issue because they can be customized to your liking. Unmanaged VPS plans give you the option of choosing whichever operating system you like and come with administrative level root access, but there’s no cPanel. Unmanaged VPS hosting is mainly aimed at developers, however, they can be made more user-friendly by adding an optional cPanel license to your package for $19.95 per month. That would bring the total cost to at least $24.95 per month.
If you want to make things easier on yourself, you could simply pay $25 per month and get a managed VPS hosting package instead. You lose root access by doing so but you would gain a lot more resources in exchange along with some extra features like free site transfer, SSL certificate, and automatic updates. Not to mention the fact that A2 takes partial care of the security and optimization of your server. Unlike the unmanaged version, however, these plans can’t be customized and there are only three to choose from so you are a bit more limited in that regard.
As far as the third type of VPS is concerned, this is essentially a combination of the first two. Namely, it’s managed VPS hosting but with root access. The prices and resources are identical to the standard managed VPS plans and there are again only three (non-customizable) packages to choose from. At first glance, this would seem like the best type of VPS hosting offered by A2 since it combines the best of both worlds, however, there are a few drawbacks. In exchange for getting root access, users lose out on some pretty helpful features like Cloudflare CDN and automatic server backups.
A2’s dedicated servers are pretty cheap compared to those offered by other providers and the company doesn’t seem to skimp out on the resources either. For $99.59 per month, you can get a starter unmanaged dedicated server that runs on a dual-core CPU and features 8 GB of RAM, 1 TB of storage, and 10 TB of data transfer. There are a couple of other, more expensive, options that have much better specs but, surprisingly, none of them come with SSD storage.
As if things weren’t already confusing enough with the VPS plans, the situation is even worse here. There are four different types of dedicated servers to choose from, including the unmanaged ones we just discussed. The managed servers come in two varieties – standard and root access. This is the same scenario we’ve seen earlier, where one type of server comes with full root access and but is missing some features. Otherwise, the two are identical in terms of specs and pricing. In both cases, prices range between $141.09 and $290.49 per month.
Last but not least, you can also buy a third type of managed server, this one featuring SSD storage. Interestingly enough, you can only get 256 GB of SSD storage regardless of which plan you purchase. The specs are otherwise identical to the ones you’ll find in any of the other plans and the same also goes for the features and tools. Prices here range between $129.30 and $249.90 per month.
Key Tools and Features
If you take a close look at any of A2’s hosting plans you’ll notice that the come accompanied by a massive list of features and tools. The list is so long, in fact, that it can seem overwhelming for new users who don’t really know much about hosting. With that in mind, we decided to condense things a bit in order to make the information more accessible to newcomers. Down below you can find a summary of the tools and features offered by A2 Hosting that we consider absolutely essential.
If you want to purchase a domain name without buying a hosting plan it will cost you $14.95 per year. Unlike other companies, A2 Hosting doesn’t charge extra for domain renewals or transfers so you can expect to pay the same amount for any action involving domains. A2 includes two optional services in the form of DNS management and email forwarding, both of which you can add to your cart for free during check out. Unfortunately, you’ll need to spend an extra $9.95 per year if you want to also add domain privacy so the total cost for registering a domain with the company is actually closer to $25 per year.
A2 Hosting is one of the few providers on the market that doesn’t offer free domains with their hosting plans. That’s not exactly ideal because you’ll need to fork out an extra $14.95 per year when you sign up, and that’s without domain privacy, which is a must these days. The company does offer free site migrations so you won’t have to worry about those extra costs if you’re transferring from a different provider. If you’re starting fresh, however, A2 Hosting starts to look like a less budget-friendly option than we originally thought. You can host your site on a free subdomain (example.a2hosted.com), but it’s pretty safe to say that no serious webmaster would want to use an extension like that.
A2 Hosting supports both MySQL and MSSQL databases. Databases can be managed straight from the cPanel and can also be imported along with your website if you’re transferring to A2 Hosting from a different provider. You can create as many databases as you want if you sign up for a hosting plan that supports them (not all of them do), but there is one exception. The starter shared hosting plan only allows you to create and manage 5 databases so you’ll need to upgrade to a higher tier if you need more than that.
Backup and Restore
The ability to create backups of your site and databases is definitely one of the most important features you should look out for before signing up with a hosting provider. In the case of A2 Hosting, you can have access to both automatic and manual backups, though not with all plans. Once again, the basic shared hosting package is the most limited one and doesn’t support automatic backups. You can manually back up files and store them offsite, but it will cost you $2 per month for 5 GB of storage. If you have particularly large backups you can buy additional storage for an extra monthly fee.
Upgrading to one of the other plans unlocks a tool that automatically backs up your files on a regular basis and allows you to easily restore them when needed. A similar tool is available with managed the WordPress plans but, in this case, the backups are enabled by the Jetpack Personal plugin. All the other types of managed hosting (VPS, dedicated) also come with automatic backups. Unmanaged hosting plans don’t include such a tool but users can still back up their files via FTP.
A2 Hosting makes a pretty big deal about the fact that it offers free emails, and rightly so since many other providers charge for them. You can only create up to 25 @domain email addresses with the basic shared hosting plan but that limitation disappears once you upgrade to any of the other packages. All mailboxes support POP3, IMAP, and SMTP and come with an advanced spam filtering system. You can also access your mailbox directly via the control panel as A2 also supports webmail clients like Horde and Round Cube.
A2 Hosting is not really a great option if you’re looking to build an online store. The company does include a couple of eCommerce-related features like PayPal support and instant merchant account IDs, but that’s about it. You’ll need to get most of the features needed to open a fully-functioning online store via third-party platforms like OpenCart, Magento or PrestaShop. A2 does offer 1-click installs for these platforms so at least there’s that. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly company with good eCommerce functionality we recommend checking out Weebly. If you’re not concerned about the price, however, Shopify is probably the best option available right now.
Certain hosting providers include SEO tools with their plans but, unfortunately, A2 is not one of them. The company does have a proprietary website builder that comes with SEO tools and is available for free with most plans. However, the free version of the builder is pretty basic and the paid versions are too expensive for what they offer. You’re better off building your website with WordPress instead and installing a free SEO plugin like Yoast.
Additional Supported Technologies
If you’re an advanced user you’ll be happy to know that A2 integrates many useful technologies that add a lot of value to most of their hosting plans. A few examples include support for HTTP/2, Anycast DNS, two-factor authentication, automatic Kernel updates, command line WordPress interface (WP-CLI), SSH access, SPDY, and more. A2 also supports multiple versions of PHP, Python, and other scripting languages along with Apache, Node.js, PostgreSQL, Git, Subversion and Mercurial, among other things.
A2 Hosting has average location coverage when compared to other well-known hosting providers. Namely, there are four data centers to choose from, two of which are located in the US while the other two can be found in Europe and Singapore. The company uses a redundant network and power supply to ensure that downtime is kept to a minimum in case of an outage and its data centers feature state-of-the-art SSAE16 certified security systems.
Performance and Reliability
There are a lot of factors that contribute towards the performance of a website. While you can take certain steps to optimize your website on your end, you can’t do anything to improve the server the site is hosted on. It’s the job of hosting providers to make sure that their servers run smoothly at all times and some of them are much better at this than others. So which category does A2 fall into? We set up a simple WordPress site on a basic shared hosting plan in an effort to find out.
Page Loading Speed
Our first round of testing didn’t yield particularly encouraging results. Our site routinely took well over 1 second to load despite the fact that we didn’t have much content and there wasn’t much traffic slowing things down. Generally speaking, you want your website to load in much less than 1 second in order to ensure a positive user experience. Anything more than that and you’ll begin to notice a steady decline in user acquisition and retention. Not to mention that having a slow site will directly impact your SEO.
To be fair to A2 Hosting, our site wasn’t hosted on a plan that includes the Turbo mode or many of the other technologies the company uses for optimization. A more expensive hosting plan is likely to yield better results, especially if you go with a VPS or dedicated server. Still, A2 doesn’t make a very good first impression and it can be hard to justify spending extra money on a more expensive package when the most popular plan performs so poorly.
Server Response Times
A2 Hosting doesn’t excel when it comes to page loading speeds, but what about its server response times? After all, it’s possible that A2’s servers are actually great but we got poor speeds because our site was badly optimized. Well, that doesn’t really seem to be the case. During our second round of testing, we went straight to the sources and tested the company’s servers from various locations around the world. That gave us an even better idea of what A2 has to offer in the performance department.
As it’s often the case with hosting providers, testing from the US yielded some very good results, with average response times of only around 60 ms, which is quite good. Unsurprisingly, the response times were much slower when testing from all other regions. We got 300 ms from Europe and South America and around 750 ms on average when testing from India and Japan. These aren’t the worst results we’ve ever seen but there is certainly a lot of room for improvement.
A2 seems to struggle with outages more than other providers so we weren’t surprised to find out that the uptime is below industry standards. Not by much, mind you, but enough that it could potentially cause some concerns for certain users. Our average uptime during testing was 99.94% over a relatively long period of time. Ideally, you’ll want site uptime to fall anywhere between 99.95% and 99.99%, which is what most providers offer. Of course, 100% would be even better but achieving that is all but impossible over long periods of time.
To A2’s credit, the company only promises a 99.90% uptime and is fully capable of keeping that promise from what we can tell. However, the company should definitely try to step up its game if it wants to remain competitive in this area. If the uptime should ever fall lower than the promised value, A2 is ready to compensate users by offer service credit equivalent to 5% of their monthly hosting fee for every hour of downtime caused by network issues or equipment failure.
Customer support is arguably one of A2 Hosting’s strongest suits. The company’s “Guru Crew” support team is available 24/7 via phone, live chat, ticket, and email. Support agents are almost always very quick to reply and more than happy to help you with any issues you may have. Depending on which plan you sign up for, you can also benefit from priority support free of charge. As you might expect, priority support is only available with the most expensive hosting package. Namely, managed VPS and dedicated plans.
In addition to the usual support channels, A2 Hosting also has an extensive knowledge base and a blog where it posts regularly. Strangely enough, though, the company doesn’t have community forums. The knowledge base could have been a bit better, but it is relatively easy to navigate and finding the resources you’re looking for doesn’t take long. Many of the articles and guides found there are very easy to follow and come accompanied by screenshots, which is always a nice touch.
What are A2 Hosting’s Most Popular Products?
Similar to a lot of other providers, A2’s most popular products are its shared hosting plans. The company is also known as being one of the top providers of reseller hosting on the market right now.
Does A2 Hosting Support Monthly Billing Cycles?
Yes, users can choose between multiple billing cycles regardless of which hosting package they sign up for. In addition to monthly payments, A2 also supports yearly and multi-annual billing cycle. Even though paying on a month-by-month basis is a good option if you’re on a budget, it’s worth noting that you can benefit from significant discounts by paying for 1, 2 or 3 years in advance.
Can I Upgrade My Hosting Package?
Absolutely. It is customary to start off with a cheap hosting plan and then work your way up from there, particularly if you’re a novice webmaster. A2 makes it very easy to upgrade to a higher tier, downgrade to a lower one or even change your hosting type altogether.
Is A2 Hosting a Good Choice for WordPress?
A2 is a pretty good choice if you want to build and host a WordPress-based site but there better options out there. WordPress itself recommends going with either Bluehost, DreamHost or SiteGround.
What is A2 Hosting’s Refund Policy?
A2 has the best refund policy we’ve ever come across. Namely, the company offers a very generous anytime money-back guarantee. There are some stipulations to this policy (and you can read about them here) but for the most part, it’s exactly what it sounds like. The policy only applies to hosting plans. Other services like domain registrations and migration fees are not refundable.
A2 Hosting isn’t perfect but it certainly has a lot going on for itself. The company offers a very impressive list of features with all of its plans and focuses on security a lot more than many of its competitors. They also have a very wide selection of hosting plans to choose from, including some of the best reseller hosting packages on the market. The prices aren’t the best we’ve ever seen but they are certainly not unreasonable either. We also have to give A2 big props for its fantastic customer support team.
As far as the negatives are concerned, there is a handful that immediately comes to mind. The company doesn’t offer a free domain with its plans, which is pretty unusual in this day and age. Meanwhile, the performance is slightly below average if you’re running a shared hosting plan and you don’t get free backups or emails with the cheapest package. Some of the more expensive plans are definitely worth looking into but the entry one is a bit difficult to recommend.
At the end of the day, A2 Hosting has more pros than cons and offers the best refund policy on the market. The fact that you can try out the company’s services risk-free is a huge plus in our book. If that sounds like your cup of tea, make sure to give A2 a chance.