Looking at Web hosts can be overwhelming with so many options claiming to have the best uptime and fastest speeds, so I wasn’t sure A2 would be any different. After testing the Michigan company out, though, I was surprised at what I found, and I think you will be, too.
Host: A2 Hosting
Brief History of the company
Have you heard of Iniquinet? Neither had I, but that was how A2 started back in 2001. A2 was officially launched in 2003 in Ann Arbor — hence their name — and they pride themselves on their FutureServe Green Hosting initiative. The company is 100 percent carbon neutral, and has developed clean and renewable energy sources since 2007. They offer telecommuting for employees, re-use old hardware, and support Carbonfund.org.
The company has been at the cutting edge of technology, as one of the first hosts to support PHP 5, MySQL 5, and has introduced some of their own, with Server Rewind backup tool added to all accounts for free, and their own PHP version switcher to make site administration even easier.
Data centers are in Michigan, Amsterdam, and Singapore, and allow users to test the download speeds, ping, and traceroutes from each data center.
A2 Hosting Plans and Pricing
All of A2s shared hosting plans come with unlimited storage and Web site transfer and are easily integrated with Drupal, Drupal, WordPress and many other outside apps. To get the best possible price on the lowest hosting plan, you’ll have to sign up for the lengthy 36-month contract. All shared plans include free SSD.
Lite starts at $3.92 per month (regularly $7.99) and gets you one Web site and five databases,
Swift starts at $4.90 per month (regularly $9.99) and you get unlimited sites and resources, including databases.
Turbo starts at $9.31 per month (regularly $18.99), and in addition to the completely unlimited plan, including Web sites and databases, you get Turbo, which speeds your site up by as much as 20 times, and you get the A2 site accelerator.
They offer both managed and unmanaged virtual private server hosting. Managed VPS is extremely customer-focused, with an easy-to-use platform and Host-Guard Management. Unmanaged hosting gives you as the developer complete and full control over your server.
Unmanaged VPS starts at $5 per month and is designed for experienced developers. You’ll get root access, and can add on cPanel if you want, as well as choosing your Linux operating system. Plans start with 20 GB storage, 2 TB transfer and 512 MB RAM
Managed VPS starts at $32.99 monthly (regularly $49.99) and offers full HostGuard Management. You won’t have root access, but you’ll get cPanel for free. Managed plans start at 75 GB storage, 2 TB transfer, and 4 GB RAM.
There are four plans, all with unlimited accounts and free solid state drive hosting and a free eNom reseller account.
Bronze starts at $13.19 per month (regularly $19.99) and include 30 GB storage, 400 GB transfer, and 40 accounts.
Silver starts at $18.47 monthly (regularly $27.99) and includes 75 GB storage, 600 GB transfer and 60 accounts, as well as free WHMCS.
Gold starts at $24.41 per month (regularly $24.41) and includes 150 GB storage, 1000 GB transfer, 80 accounts, and free WHMCS.
Platinum starts at $40.91 per month (regularly $61.99), with 200 GB storage, 2000 GB transfer, 100 accounts, and free WHMCS.
Like the VPS hosting, their dedicated hosting plans offer both managed (with a free cPanel) and unmanaged hosting (which includes root access and is fully customizable).
Semi-dedicated servers start at $9.31 per month (regularly $18.99) and includes free cPanel, unlimited storage and transfer, and 8 GB virtual RAM. You don’t get root access with this plan.
Unmanaged Flex Server plans start at $99.59 (regularly $119.99), and is fully customizable with root access, an optional cPanel license and a choice of Linux operating systems. You also get 2x500 GB storage, 10 TB transfer, and 8 GB RAM.
Managed Flex Server starts at $141.09 (regularly $169.99) and doesn’t include root access, but does include free cPanel and HostGuard Management, with the same storage, transfer and RAM as the unmanaged flex server.
Core Flex Server starts at $141.99 (regularly $169.99) and takes the managed plan but adds in root access.
Solid, consistent uptime is the biggest thing you want from your Web site. Uptime means that your site is, well, up and running. Visitors can click through your site, read your blog, and purchase your goods and services — if your site is up. So, clearly, the closest to 100 percent uptime you can get, the better, although this is a very difficult task to achieve.
A2 has an incredible 99.98 percent uptime. They claim and guarantee 99.9 percent, which is industry standard and cited by many different hosts. A2 is one of the only to consistently exceed their guaranteed uptime percentage, sometimes even achieving the hard-to-reach 100 percent uptime.
The Fastest Hosting Provider? Really?
A2 claims to be the fastest hosting provider, outpacing their competitors by as much as 20 times. What does speed mean for your Web site? Well, many people cite three seconds as the cutoff point, when Web site visitors will click away from a site that hasn’t yet loaded. Newer research shows in about 400 milliseconds, a visitor will leave, and are more likely to visit a competitor’s Web site if it loads less than 250 milliseconds faster than the one they originally visited.
When I checked out A2, and their bold claims to be so much faster are supported by their technical additions, like caching and hosting fewer clients on shared servers. Oh, and they are also backed up by the facts. They are very, very fast, loading well under the 400 millisecond threshold.
Fast server resources & Railgun Optimizer
You already know A2 is super speedy — but do you know why? Starting with the shared servers, everything is stored in SSD. This includes your operating system, databases, and files. All of the shared plans have free CloudFlare support, a tool that many hosts are also including for free. I like seeing that because in additional to making Web sites much faster, CloudFlare adds an extra layer of security and protection.
If you choose the Turbo plan, A2 throws in the Railgun Optimizer at no extra cost, helping to load your HTML up to 140 percent faster. WIthout the Turbo plan, you can still access the Railgun OPtimizer, but you’ll need to pay an additional monthly cost,
Compatible with Common CMS
Through their cPanel, you can install Drupal, Joomla, and WordPress, along with many other popular content management systems, as well as E-commerce apps like OpenCart and Magento. All of them are one-click installs, which is nice for Web administration newbies.
In fact, WordPress comes pre-installed with A2 Optimized. The plugin also works with other content management systems, as well as PrestaShop.. Their techs have already worked out the best possible configurations to make sure your site is as fast as possible, and lets you focus your time on the content and promotion of your niche Web site. They note that A2 Optimized helps to load pages up to six times faster than other plans, and includes ongoing security monitoring.
Free SSDs on most plans
Solid state drives are promoted to be up to 20 times faster than hard disk drives. The SSD stores read and write requests in microchips instead of the traditional arm, that processes information from one site to another. The arm that is used in HDD is what contributes to the length of time it takes to perform operations; with that extra operation being removed, the SSD can move faster. The SSDs are also much more stable and durable than the HDDs.
Allows customers to choose server location
For the most part, customers can choose the server location that best suits their audiences. If they have a higher concentration of visitors in Europe, selecting the Amsterdam location makes sense to help their visitors see the fastest possible speeds. They have another data center in Singapore, and their main location is in Michigan. The international data centers are Equinix data centers, while the Michigan site is their primary location.
All three data centers are redundant and SSAE16 certified, which includes a security key is needed to enter the gated parking lot, the data center, and the fully enclosed locked server rack. They also have video surveillance.
The Michigan data center also features a multihomed network connectivity, a redundant power supply with a strong diesel generator. The center is kept at the optimal temperature for properly functioning servers, and features a static-free floor.
Free HackScan to keep site safe
Once you’ve got your site up and running, you want to keep it that way — and hackers have made it their goal to prevent yours. A2 includes HackScan for free, to give you additional security by providing virus scanning, 24/7 monitoring, dual Web hosting firewall, and brute force defense. What’s nice about HackScan is that, unlike other security measures, you don’t need to have any technical background or in-depth knowledge of the software for it to operate correctly. Once you’re up and running, so is HackScan.
Ease of Use
Account Management & the Control Panel - CPanel
The account management pane is very easy to follow, and puts the most popular and relevant features and services in prominent locations. A list of your hosting plans lets you quickly switch between plans by clicking a large blue button. Opening a service ticket is also an option right on the top menu, giving you quick access to their thorough customer service reps — or gurus.
While the AMP is highly customized, cPanel is not — a big plus in my book. The only customization A2 has done is to add their banner and green background. If you’re used to cPanel’s traditional layout and use, jumping right in on A2 will be very easy, and if you’re new to cPanel, the layout and functionality is quite straightforward. Thanks to their commitment to the traditional cPanel, they’ve added in a benefit for those transferring sites that are operating with cPanel — free Web site migration.
Free Site Migration
As long as you’re using cPanel, A2 will migrate your site, for free — and who doesn’t love free? Most sites are running cPanel for their control panel, anyway, and while there are quite a few sites that do offer free site migrations, it’s great to see that in addition to their already great service, uptimes, and speed, A2 give customers free site transfers.
30 Days Money Back Guarantee
Any money-back guarantee is good, so I like that A2 offers a full 30 days to decide if the host is for you. As long as you cancel online within that time period, you’ll get a full refund for services paid to A2. This doesn’t include any migration fees, set-up fees, or domain registrations, but that’s normal. You can get a refund on your SSL certificate if you cancel within seven days.
If you wait too long, there’s no need to worry. After 30 days, you’ll get a prorated refund of any unused service. After 120 days, you’ll get your refund via PayPal. The promise that refunds will be hassle-free, as long as you’ve followed the Terms of Service.
Good customer service is one of the biggest things I look for in a hosting company. Yes, fast speeds and solid uptimes are vital, but if you have a problem and can’t get ahold of anyone, you’re stuck. They have very fast response times, sometimes even connecting with concerned customers instantly. They offer 24/7 standard ticketing and e-mails, as well phone service, every day of the year.
In addition, A2 has a fantastic knowledge base where you can look up information you need about commonly asked customer questions. They offer educational video tutorials, and their friendly representatives will point you toward the information you want and need.
Some Negative Sides Too:
Linux hosting plans only, No Windows hosting
The biggest difference between Linux and Windows is that they are different operating systems. Most hosting companies are run on Linux, but also offer a Windows hosting option; A2 does not. In most cases, there won’t be a big problem — unless your Web sites are running certain Windows-only applications, like C#, Visual Basic Development, MSSQL, MS Access, and Microsoft Exchange or SharePoint. They also use different control panels — Linux uses cPanel and WHM, while WIndows is more likely to use Plesk.
File names between the two systems are different, with Linux files being case sensitive and Windows files keeping the same name regardless of the case.
Again, this won’t be a big deal unless your Web site is running Windows applications, but you’ll run into some difficulty if you’re trying to transfer to A2 from a Windows host.
Pricing is expensive
Compared to other hosts, A2 is on the pricier side. They aren’t the most expensive host I’ve reviewed, but they certainly aren’t the cheapest, either. As is customary, they offer a cheaper price if you sign up for a longer contract, typically a 24-month plan.
If you want any of their additional services, like Turbo Boost, which promises insanely fast site loading times, be prepared to pay even more, as these are only available on the premium plans. This goes for the unlimited Web sites or databases, as well.
Pros and Cons in a while:
- A2 offers tons of customization options. Whether you want to use Softaculous or A2’s site building tool, or code your site yourself, whether you want managed or unmanaged hosting, whether you want to use WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla — they’ve got you covered.
- Server Rewind is a great backup tool that allows you to restore file and database points.
- They have privately owned servers with a redundant network, strong back-up tools, and high levels of security.
- SSD hosting is standard on all plans, regardless of the level that you choose.
- Customers can choose which of three data centers works best for their audience.
- Compared to many of the other data hosts, A2 falls into the pricey range; not the most expensive, but certainly near the top of the pack.
- If you want to get the best possible price, you need to commit to a lengthy 24- to 36-month contract.
- While many other Web hosts are now offering 45- to 97-day money-back guarantees, A2’s full refund is only available if you cancel within the first 30 days.
- A2 only offers Linux hosting.
- Certain tools, like ColdFusion, mod_perl, and MSSQL, among others, aren’t supported.
- The advanced level of capabilities may cause more difficulties for Web newbies.
- If you want to get an advertised discounted price, you need to enter a coupon code. It’ not the main con, but it is time-consuming and can be irritating.
Do I Recommend? Yes I do
If you’re looking for a solid, reliable host for your niche Web site, I really think you should check out A2, especially if you’re ok with paying slightly more for a higher-quality site. They know what their customers want — fast speeds, high uptime percentages, and top-notch customer service — and have the experience and data to back up their claims.
Those with experience or advanced skills will most likely appreciate all of the technical benefits A2 offers, but anyone new to hosting will be able to jump right in and get started.
Not many of us have heard about A2 Hosting, but it is THE FASTEST type of shared hosting provider. I’m being serious here. Founded in 2001, this company was formerly known as Iniquinet. The company boasts a strong claim of making your website 20% faster than before.
They go a long way in supporting their claim by delivering constant uptime ratio over one year. The uptime percentage is 99.98% as opposed to the standard 98.90%. This is because the numerous servers they have across USA, Europe, UK, and Asia.
The shared hosting package is insanely fast thanks to the low loading time of 202ms. The loading time can be further controlled with the “Caching System” and image compressing. Then there is the Customer Support Center. You can reach the support guys through email, submitting tickets or even via phone 24/7 for 365 days.
This is great achievement since they’ve been on the circuit for 15 years and counting. They’ve got HackScan system to guard you against hackers, free site migration system and a handy money back guaranty of a month. Although A2 restricts usage for cheaper hosting packages, it is easily the best option for shared hosting space.