A2 Hosting review | TechRadar

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A2 Hosting is an experienced provider with products for just about every web hosting need: shared plans, managed WordPress, VPS, cloud, dedicated, reseller and more.

The company has a strong focus on performance, with website talk of ‘blazing fast web browsing’ and ‘20x times faster’ ‘Turbo Servers’, but it also has plenty of other features on offer.

Shared hosting begin with the Startup plan. Baseline hosting products often have some major restrictions, but the limits here are relatively minor: 100GB storage, 5 databases and support for a single website, no problem at all for many users. And the rest of the plan is seriously impressive, with features including unlimited bandwidth, free SSL, unlimited email accounts, basic Cloudflare integration, cPanel, a choice of four data centers (Michigan, Arizona, Amsterdam, Singapore), a template-based website builder, 1-click install of WordPress and hundreds of other apps via Softaculous, and 24/7 support via phone, ticket and live chat.

Prices look great at a headline $2.99 a month, but that’s due to steep introductory discounting and a three-year term – on renewal the costs leaps to $8.99.

If you prefer a shorter term, the Startup plan is $10.99 billed monthly, or $6.99 a month for the first term of the annual plan, rising to $8.99 on renewal.

A2’s Drive plan hosts unlimited websites and removes all other limits from $4.99 a month on the three-year plan, $11.99 on renewal (that’s $8.99 initially, . $11.99 on renewal for the annual plan.) It also doubles your allocated cores and physical memory; potentially a major speed boost for heavy-duty sites. Backups are included, too (they’re often a chargeable extra elsewhere).

The top-of-the-range Turbo Boost and Turbo Max plans get you speedy NVMe storage, optimized servers (Turbo Cache, APC/OPcache, Memcached) with fewer users, extra resources (more CPU cores, physical and virtual memory) and assorted extra optimizations, including support for HTTP/2, SPDY, ESI and Cloudflare’s Railgun, along with a custom WordPress LiteSpeed cache setup.

Prices range from an initial $9.99 a month over three years, to $24.99 on renewal, depending on the plan you choose (a detailed comparison table on the website explains exactly what you get in each case.)

We’re unsure whether the various Turbo extras will give you ‘20x faster’ speeds overall, but they should make a major difference for many sites, and it’s far more power than you get with many shared hosting plans.

The company claims to offer ‘ultra-reliable’ hosting, with a 99.9% uptime ‘commitment’. That’s not quite the same as a guarantee or SLA, and you don’t get credits if uptime is lower, but having a figure is a start. 

If you sign up but the service doesn’t work for you, A2 offers a 30-day ‘Anytime Money Back Guarantee’. You can cancel after that and receive a prorated refund, too, for example cancelling after three months and receive some money back. There are some potential catches in how this is calculated (read the small print here) but it’s still a welcome extra touch.

Overall, A2 Hosting’s shared range is cheaper than many, and there are some unusual pluses in its choice of data centers and the performance-boosting extras in the Turbo plan.

If you don’t need A2 Hosting’s extras, though, you might be able to save money elsewhere. 

For example, HostGator’s budget Hatchling plan delivers fractionally more than A2’s Lite (no limits on email accounts or databases). The headline three-year price is only fractionally lower than A2 ($2.75 vs $2.99), but the HostGator plan is $2.04 cheaper on renewal. Savings increase as you move up the HostGator range.

WordPress hosting

A2 Hosting’s shared hosting plans make it reasonably easy to build or import a WordPress site. The company offers a free site migration service, experienced users can do it themselves via database tools and the File Manager, and the bundled Softaculous platform enables installing WordPress within minutes.

A2 also offers a range of managed WordPress plans with some valuable extras.

The service automatically updates both WordPress and your plugins, for instance.

Site Staging support enables users to create and work on a copy of their site, allowing them to edit themes, try plugins or make other major changes without any risk to their production site.

A bundled Jetpack Personal license supports easy automated backups of your WordPress site, and throws in a host of other tools: an unlimited image CDN, brute force protection, spam filtering, website stats and hundreds of free WordPress templates.

There’s a further bonus for WordPress geeks in WP-CLI, an expert-level tool which enables managing WordPress from the command line. 

Once you look past the steep initial discounting, pricing is only average. The single site, 10GB storage plan starts at $11.99 a month on the three-year plan, rising to $24.46 on renewal. 

IONOS managed WordPress Pro ONE plan also has only 10GB storage and supports a single site, but it’s based on a capable cloud platform, with staging, daily backups and smart web hosting. It’s priced at $18 billed monthly (no need to pay for years of hosting up front.)

Bluehost has Managed WordPress plans that support hosting unlimited websites and throw in malware detection, domain privacy, Jetpack Site Analytics and assorted other business-friendly features. They’re priced from a reasonable $19.95 a month for the first three years, rising to $29.99 on renewal.

Servers

If your web project needs more power than regular shared hosting, A2’s range of VPS and dedicated products might appeal.

These server plans score for their extreme configurability.

For example, A2’s VPS range comes in Unmanaged (you handle everything yourself), Managed (more power and support) and Core (managed with root access, the best of both worlds) flavors.

A2 Hosting’s Unmanaged VPS plans are very configurable (Image credit: A2 Hosting)

Choose the Unmanaged option and you’re able to build your own plan by selecting your preferred amount of disk space (20GB-250GB), CPU cores (1-12), RAM (512MB to 32GB) and bandwidth (2TB-9TB).

Oh, and you’re also able to choose an operating system (Linux distro only, no Windows) and data center (US, Europe, Asia), as well as optionally adding a cPanel license and a caching setup (LiteSpeed.)

There are too many combinations to list them all here, but the range starts at $5 a month (two year plan) for an unmanaged 512MB RAM, 20GB storage, 1 core and 2TB bandwidth plan, and ends with a $50 a month (two years again, $100 on renewal) Core managed plan delivering  8GB RAM, 150GB storage, 8 core and 4TB bandwidth.

Dedicated products follow the same Unmanaged, Managed and Core pattern, and start at $99.59 a month on the annual plan ($119.99 on renewal) for an 8GB RAM, 2 x 500GB storage, 10TB transfer and 2 core setup.

These plans these prices are fair value, but there’s no single comparison we can make to tell you if they’re right for you. This depends on the combination and the priority of the various features you need.

If you’re interested in a VPS plan, for instance, take the time to think about just how much bandwidth, storage space and RAM you really need, then compare A2’s offerings with some of the top competition (Hostwinds also has a very configurable VPS range, making it a great place to start.)

Manage your account from a standard WHCMS dashboard (Image credit: A2 Hosting)Account setup

A2 Hosting’s plans have loads of features, and understandably the website does its best to boast about every single one. Each package is laid out side by side under the ‘Compare’ tab, making it easy for you to see which features are included for the different tiers.

Once you’ve made your choice, the website asks for the domain you’d like to use. You’re able to register something new, transfer a domain to A2, or use an existing domain and update your nameservers. There’s also a convenient option to use an A2 Hosting subdomain (yourname.a2hosted.com), which allows you to postpone any domain decisions until later.

A configuration page enables choosing your data server location (US, Europe, Asia). 

Optional extras include offsite backups from $1.99 a month for 5GB, and Barracuda’s Spam Firewall from $3 a month for a single domain (you’re able to cover unlimited domains for $10.)

An ‘auto-install’ option enables choosing an application to be automatically installed in your account (WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, PrestaShop, WooCommerce and more than 30 others are available.) This isn’t strictly necessary – your account already comes with Softaculous, allowing you to install these and hundreds of other apps – but it does make life a little easier.

The next page asked for our contact and payment details. A2 supports payment via cards, PayPal, Skrill or bank transfers. We chose a one-off PayPal amount (you won’t be signed up for a subscription unless you ask for that) and processed it as normal. 

Creating a site

A2 Hosting’s web client dashboard is powered by WHMCS, the standard portal system used by many other web hosts.

WHMCS isn’t pretty or particularly intuitive, but there’s not much to learn. You’ll find your hosting plan in the Services area; there are sections for Domains, Tickets and Invoices; a ‘Connection Details’ panel gives you all the technical data you need (nameservers, incoming and outgoing mail server names, control panel links, usernames and passwords, and more), and a mass of cPanel site management tools are only a click away.

You can install WordPress directly from cPanel (Image credit: A2 Hosting)

A2’s cPanel setup includes Softaculous, a well-designed platform which enables the easy installation of WordPress, MediaWiki and hundreds of other web apps.

A File Manager allows you to upload a static website (or anything else) to your website, and work with any files that are already there.

The drag and drop website builder has a handful of attractive templates (Image credit: A2 Hosting)

A2’s free drag-and-drop Sitebuilder is very simple, with a handful of templates, and only enables creating single-page sites. But it has a decent number of widgets – galleries, slideshows, maps, standard and custom forms, YouTube and audio content, basic social integration, more – and is easy enough to use. (Check out the plans for the full commercial version here.)

There are no real surprises here, but it’s still a capable set of tools, with everything you’re likely to need when setting up and managing your site.

A2 Hosting did quite well in our performance and uptime tests (Image credit: Uptime.com)Performance

A2 Hosting claims its products offer great performance, but website promises don’t always mean very much. We purchased A2’s Lite plan, put a simple static website online, and used Uptime.com to monitor our website availability at five-minute intervals over 7 days.

The site had 100% uptime, as we’d expect for a relatively short testing period. Uptime.com still checked our site more than 2,000 times, though, so it’s good to see it was always available.

Average response times were faster than many competitors at 267ms (typical starter shared hosting plans manage 200-400ms.)

The results didn’t score quite as well for consistency – the slowest response time was 747ms, and the chart shows a number of significant spikes – but again, it still performed better than most of the competition.

Keep in mind that we were testing A2’s cheapest account, too, with its default settings, so this is the very slowest it’s likely to be. Optimizing the CDN, updating our account to get more resources or A2’s ‘Turbo Features’ could deliver very different results.

(Other providers also give better results if you choose their high-end products, of course. Don’t read too much into these figures if you’re looking for a VPS, a dedicated server or any more powerful product; individual hosts and plans may perform very differently.)

Final verdict

A2 Hosting’s shared plans aren’t quite the cheapest we’ve seen, but you do get a lot for your money, and experienced users will appreciate the company’s many performance-optimizing features and tweaks.



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