In 2001, there was a company called Iniquinet. Two years later, it went through a massive rebrand. Its result - A2 hosting. The company is now well established as a solid hosting provider. Emphasis on speed and unlimited resources, mentioned in many A2 hosting reviews, have turned it into a vastly recommended provider.
It comes as no surprise - in a market as competitive as web hosting, companies have to find their key strengths and features to win a share of the clients. While many companies focus on their pricing, this host advertises itself as a quick, speedy solution. In this A2 hosting review we will see whether or not these promises have been fulfilled. Such a promise is easy to make but difficult to actually deliver. Is A2 one of the good companies? Or is it all a beautiful marketing trick?
Let’s dive right into it and find out.
A2 Hosting Services
- Shared web hosting
- Cloud hosting
- VPS hosting
- Dedicated hosting
- Reseller hosting
- Domain names (reseller of Enom)
A2 hosting puts less emphasis on shared web hosting than many other providers. While many promote only their shared hosting and rarely mention any other of their services, A2 hosting proudly shows all of its plans on the front page. There are plenty of services the company offers, ranging from web hosting to regular users, to reseller and dedicated hosting fit for big companies.
The host has some extra interesting features every client will be getting. Here's what they are:
No matter what, losing data from your server is an awful thing. A2hosting makes sure that doesn’t happen and gives a free DropMySite license for every client. With that in your disposal, even the biggest problems won't mean the end of your website.
Speedy SSD disks
In a world where many top companies still use HDD disks for their hosting, A2 is ahead of the curve and use faster SSDs. That means faster performance and increased reliability - and for web hosting, those two things are very important. With A2 hosting, you will use the newest and the most advanced technologies available.
Free SSL certificate
Website security is no joke and A2 knows that. You can either pick a more advanced paid certificate or activate a free Let’s Encrypt SSL, already included in your package. SSL provides safety for the people visiting your site as well as helps to improve your rankings on the search engines. Those two things can help your website succeed.
The advertised “superior” speeds of even the cheapest hosting have drawn my attention enough to give them a try. To test them, I took the A2 medium-tier shared hosting plan. You can also choose between Linux and Windows. I picked Linux because, in order to get a fair comparison with the competition, I had to use similar operating systems.
What’s included in A2 hosting packages?
There are three web hosting plans you can choose from.
- Lite - a regular one-website plan with 5 databases, 25 emails and unlimited data+bandwidth.
- Swift - the ‘most popular’ plan, offering unlimited databases, websites and email accounts.
- Turbo - a top-tier plan, offering “up to 20X faster” speeds and more resources.
Check out the table below to see how different are the features of these plans:
|Disk space limit||Unmetered||Unmetered||Unmetered|
|How many domains allowed||1||Unlimited||Unlimited|
|SSD or HDD used in servers||SSD||SSD||SSD|
|SSL||Supported, included in the plan (Let’s Encrypt)||Supported, included in the plan (Let’s Encrypt)||Supported, included in the plan (Let’s Encrypt)|
|Anti-DDoS protection||Not included||Not included||Not included|
|Anti-malware protection||Included (HackScan)||Included (HackScan)||Included (HackScan)|
|Website Builder||Not included||Not included||Not included|
|Assisted Website Transfer||Free||Free||Free|
|Auto-installer||Included (+Softaculous)||Included (+Softaculous)||Included (+Softaculous)|
|Money back guarantee||30 days||30 days||30 days|
|Customer Support||24/7 live chat, email, phone, Skype||24/7 live chat, email, phone, Skype||24/7 live chat, email, phone, Skype|
|Choice for server location||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Free Automated Backups||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Many hosting providers display their prices as "monthly", however, in many cases they're only partially correct. Often, providers ask you to pay for the entire period in advance. This way, instead of paying 5 dollars a month, you have to pay 120 - but you get 24 months of hosting. The real monthly prices you pay once every month are usually way higher and have little to do with the promotional deals that are advertised. So let's see how A2 hosting does it:
These are the prices for all these plans you’ll have to pay in the cart.
This is the checkout page for the cheapest, "Lite" plan. As you can see, the advertised $3.92 price is only available with the "flash52" promotional code (it's applied automatically to all periods of purchase). The real prices go from $7.99 to $9.99. In the table below you'll see the overall prices you'd have to pay if you decided to purchase A2 hosting:
|Payment Period / Plan||Lite||Swift||Turbo|
|3 months||Not available.||Not available.||Not available.|
|6 months||Not available.||Not available.||Not available.|
*The prices may include extra VAT.
Unlimited storage and bandwidth in every plan is a good advantage. There are no set limits. However, A2hosting still keeps the right to suspend you if you abuse their services. That is true with every major hosting provider so that can not be seen as something unusual.
Every plan supports SSL and includes a free certificate which is a good practice trying to ensure the safety of all their clients. The Let's Encrypt certificate is free of charge anyway but this kind of security is definitely way better than no security at all.
Skype is a good way to contact customer service. If you prefer a voice chat, this is a good alternative to phone calls - it's free and available on many different platforms.
And finally, as mentioned earlier, it is good to see more and more companies move to SSDs from older, less reliable HDDs. Good reliability and superior speeds are the things nearly every provider keeps promising - it's great to see this host upgrading its databases to deliver that.
The lengths of packages available are 1 month, 12 months and 24 months. Lack of 3 and 6 months is disappointing but not unusual. The introductory prices are pleasantly surprising as well - $4.90 for a one month plan is very good.
Regardless of that, after the package you buy runs out, you will be subject to paying renewal prices. A2 Hosting renewal fees may be complicated to some. After your package runs out, you will get the same length package but will have to pay a different amount.
|LITE PLAN||Introductory price in cart||Price of your next package||Discount compared to the monthly package|
|1 month package||$4.90||$9.99||-|
|12 month package||$52.86||$107.88||10%|
|24 month package||$93.96||$191.76||20%|
|SWIFT PLAN||Introductory price in cart||Price of your next package||Discount compared to the monthly package|
|1 month package||$6.37||$12.99||-|
|12 month package||$64.62||$131.88||15%|
|24 month package||$117.48||$239.76||23%|
|TURBO PLAN||Introductory price in cart||Price of your next package||Discount compared to the monthly package|
|1 month package||$12.25||$24.99||-|
|12 month package||$123.42||$251.88||16%|
|24 month package||$223.32||$455.76||24%|
The renewal price depends on how long was your subscription. The longer was your starting plan, the bigger is your discount after it runs out.
A2 Hosting Customer Service
You may think that you know everything by yourself and that you don't need good customer support. That is until something eventually goes wrong. Then, the quality of the agents helping you can either make or break your day and the entire hosting experience. Good hosting companies know that, so they do their best to improve their customer services as much as possible. This is exactly what I was testing here.
Just like many companies, A2 hosting attempts to be proactive rather than reactive. This means that many questions its clients may have are already answered in their Knowledge Base. Sadly, it didn't perform as well as expected. Simple questions, such as "change nameservers" didn't yield any suitable answers. They were there but in order to find them, I had to conduct a Google search rather than an internal A2 one. For most of the cases, the answers are available, it is just a bit tricky to find them.
If you won't find what you're looking for or will still want to talk to a live person, A2 hosting offers three main ways of communication:
- Live Chat
It is now time to see how did each of those options perform:
Ticket Service Evaluation
Tickets are usually sent when there are problems which don't need immediate responses. However, wait times are still very important. Waiting for a day or two to get a response you may receive way quicker in live chat or a call could prove to be very frustrating and counterproductive.
In order to see how A2 hosting ticket system deals with sales questions, I put out a simple request:
It took me around 10 hours to get a response. It's a fairly good time, although it definitely lags behind many other hosts who manage to put out a similar reply in a matter of a couple hours or even a few minutes.
It is worth noticing that A2 hosting also gives you an option to buy "Priority Support" for $19.95 a month. This puts your tickets ahead of everyone else. If you're really serious about your ticket waiting times and really want to go to A2 hosting, this may be a suitable option.
Skype Service Evaluation
Instead of offering phone support, A2 hosting uses Skype. Some may find that disappointing, as many are used to phone calls. Regardless of that, Skype actually has some advantages. For example, you can call the support using any device that Skype supports. That includes desktop computers, tablets or even smart TVs. Of course, you need to download Skype in order to reach customer service but it's free of charge and very easy to setup, so it shouldn't be a serious problem. You don't need to search for the customer service on Skype as well. One click on the website immediately redirects you, so the call is done automatically.
Skype call selections were very similar to any regular phone support. You have options for billing, sales, and technical questions. After choosing, I was pleasantly surprised that there were almost no waiting lines. In all 10 of the tested cases, it took less than a minute to get connected to an agent.
The agents I was connected with were speaking good English with no problems and were fairly knowledgeable. As you may imagine, phone support isn't the best platform to do difficult inquiries that require a lot of text or even code. That being said, simple billing or sales questions were answered to me with no hassle.
Overall, I must say that Skype customer service was a pleasant surprise. It was nearly as simple as a phone call and I can contact them using my TV. I say that's pretty good. Do you think this is the best way to connect to your clients? Comment below - let's chat!
Chat Service Evaluation
Chat service is arguably the most important of the three. It is believed to be the most popular form of live customer support currently available. This is why I'll be going slightly more in-depth here. When testing chat service, I'll be looking into three very important factors:
- Wait times - they have to be as minimal as possible. If you have a serious problem with your website, every minute wasted is more painful than the last. You don't want to spend time waiting in lines.
- Agent knowledge - this one is obvious. Customer service representatives have to be knowledgeable. You need the people to provide you with the best, most accurate information possible.
- Human contact - customer service agents have to be respectful, familiar with your problems and capable of making your difficult day at least slightly better.
Ir order to do a fair test, I set up multiple (around 10) chats in the various times of the month. These are my findings:
The wait times are best described as "unpredictable". Sometimes, they ranged around 7-10 minutes, which is not very good. After waiting for around 11 minutes, you get disconnected and instead offered a look at their Knowledge Base.
However, there were a few occasions when I got connected nearly immediately. So it is very difficult to say with confidence, just how many minutes does it take to get connected. What can I say for sure is that it's not always lightning quick.
Going further, in terms of knowledge and human contact, I can say that A2 hosting customer service is doing really well. Here is an example of what happened when I decided to ask a few stupid questions:
The chat took nearly half an hour but the time just flew by. It has to be said that I waited about 7 minutes to be connected with this particular agent. Then it took 6 minutes to transfer him to my colleague. As good as their knowledge and human contact is, the customer service representatives are currently let down by the waiting times. Whether it's a problem with understaffing or software, I don't know. A2 hosting needs to improve on that - they are very close to their chat support being perfect but it's not there yet.
First Impressions During and After the Purchase
A2 hosting has a serious selection of payment methods you can choose. Below you can see a list of all the options available.
As you can see, this is quite an impressive lineup. Nonetheless, A2 hosting still lacks support for BitCoin - which is disappointing, considering the rising popularity of cryptocurrencies. Despite that, if you decide to spend your non-crypto currency on A2 hosting, the company will give you plenty of ways to do that.
In the checkout, there are a lot of upselling options.
It is worth noticing that none of those options have been preselected for me. You pay for what you select but there's no feeling that you're being "tricked" into buying something.
Upon finishing entering contact details and package information, the account was immediately put ‘under review' (by then, I still haven’t given them any payment details).
Then I went on and opened a chat conversation. The chat opened instantly, but I had to wait approx. 10 minutes to get a response.
The agent immediately closed the window as soon as I paid for the account. The overall activation time was 1 hour. Then, after it was finished, I finally got to see the dashboard.
The cPanel link was clearly visible. It was a regular paper_lantern cPanel, common with many hosts. "If it's not broken, don't fix it" - perhaps that's what A2 hosting was thinking? If so, I can definitely support the decision. There is a big chance you've already seen a very similar panel somewhere else:
NOTE - You will be subject to a completely different Plesk panel if you choose Windows hosting. It is also quite intuitive and simple to use. Just like in cPanel, A2 hosting didn't change much compared to the stock version.
Plesk panel. Source: hostingadvice.com
During the analysis, A2 struck me as hosting which tries to make things as simple as possible, as well as providing a huge variety of choices. Stock panel interfaces, operating system selection, and quick SSD disks indicate that it is a company that picks substance over form. Well, now it is time to see how good the substance is. In this series of trials, I will see just how quick A2 hosting is. Here's what the tests will be:
- Host’s speed during low upkeep
- Host’s speed with a website created with ImpressPages website builder
- Server’s overall uptime
- Anti-theft security evaluation
The tests you'll see here will go on for several months. That means this review will get constant updates as time goes by.
IMPORTANT NOTICE - we don't say that the tools are always right - they're not, the tools are not our mothers. However, we tested plenty of various services and deducted that Bitcatcha has been delivering the most stable results. During the testing, we conducted 10 tests in quick succession. The ones you see uploaded here are the average ones, the speeds you should be expecting as you're browsing your website.
Host Speed During Low Upkeep
An HTML website requires a very small amount of the host's resources. It should come as no surprise, after all, it's just a few lines of code. In theory, this will yield the best possible results. I created and uploaded this, very simple website:
This is how it did:
It is not bad but nothing close to ideal. The coveted 200ms response time (recommended by Google) has been achieved in only one international server - and only just. However, no server has been over 1 second and that is worth praising. It's quite well balanced all around the world. Just a shame it's not as quick as promised.
Host Speed With Website Builder
Similar to NameCheap, A2 hosting has no built-in website builder, other than the cPanel's Site Publisher, which helps you to a make a simple one page website (something like a countdown). Therefore, just like in the NameCheap review, I will be using ImpressPages, a CMS very similar to a drag-and-drop builder. This is a website that I've made. It has multiple pages, maps, video elements and other things that make it more complex than the HTML one.
Let's see how it did:
A very similar story, only slightly lower response times. As usual, India (Bangalore) is left behind and is on a verge of being dangerously slow. Other locations do pretty well, still circling around the perfect 200ms mark but often going short.
Overall, after doing evaluation of HTML and ImpressPages websites, you can tell that A2 hosting is somewhat well optimized. The speeds don't go down that much on a more complex website and worldwide, only the Indian server has problems. However, there is a lingering feeling that a host, putting so much emphasis on speed, should deliver slightly better results.
Server Overall Uptime
NOTE - This section will get constant updates with the newest information. You can also click the link above to see the live status. If you see a host being offline, it doesn't mean that all websites on that host are currently down. A server failure, which may make several websites go offline is not the same as a database failure - the latter is way bigger and far more noticeable worldwide.
I set up a simple WordPress website and put it in an uptime status tool. The tool tracks the website once every minute. This helps us to see the host's overall availability.
What you see below are the latest results.
The response time here is usually around 300-400ms - which is quite good and goes in line with the results found in many other A2 hosting reviews. In January 2018, A2 has actually slightly improved the performance, as the best response times dropped to 250-350ms.
A2 HOSTING PERFORMANCE UPDATE: February 2018
However, as the months went by, I noticed some interesting problems going on. One of them is what I affectionally call "hiccups", when a server takes several seconds to respond, despite usually taking way less. Here is an example of one that happened in February 2018:
49 seconds of response time may actually qualify as a minor downtime! This is actually one of the notable problems A2 hosting suffers from. It's nothing unusual between plenty of providers but it still needs to be noted. Speaking of bigger downtimes, there have also been a few.
On the 29th of August, one took 35 minutes. 2nd of November - 15 minutes. 27th of December - 40 minutes, 5th of February - 16 minutes. That is quite a while. I have to admit - I expected better. You can't blame a host for having an odd problem, that would be unfair. In this case, however, A2 really needs to improve it if expects to surge ahead of the competition. Nothing tragic - but things can be improved, definitely. The response times are good, I'd agree. It's just that the random spiking and odd downtimes need addressing.
A2 HOSTING PERFORMANCE UPDATE: June 2018
Well well well! Things have once again changed for A2. Their average server response speed has shot up to 450ms, and those spikes are still alive and well, sadly.
Anti-Theft Protection Evaluation
Now, you can have a terrific hosting service. But if every Tom, Dick, and Harry will know how to break into your account, it won't be of any use. That's why I am testing this as well. The trial will be conducted in two parts.
In the first one, I will try to imitate a brute-force break-in. This means I will effectively try to "guess" the password by typing the incorrect combination multiple times. Then, after around 20 tries, I will eventually get it right and will see, whether A2 is going to allow me in as well. Many hosts implement a simple system, which detects many incorrect login attempts. It can automatically trigger multiple things. It can either be a lockout from your account, even with the correct password, it can be a Captcha or it can be something else, like a security question.
After typing the incorrect password for 20 times and getting it right on the 21st, what happened was...nothing. I was allowed in with no problems. Either A2 hosting uses a completely different security system which I was unable to trigger or they have nothing at all. Despite that, it is still slightly disappointing to see nothing happening.
For the second test, I went to the live chat and pretended to not have my password nor my email logins. My plan was to find the way I can get someone's password without providing any solid form of identification. This is what happened:
As you can see, one website URL and one security question are deemed to be enough. Many other companies ask for more tangible proof, such as your ID card or your bank details. A2 pick a different route. I am not sure if I like it - and I wish more A2 hosting reviews put extra emphasis on this particular problem. You can't be too safe! This host is probably not being safe enough.
A2 Hosting Reviews - Conclusion
A2 hosting sure had its ups and downs. Transparent pricing, good plans, friendly customer service and a simple-to-use interface gave me a great first impression. However, the performance of the medium-tier Linux plan could have been better. It wasn't bad but needs improvements to be ahead of the competition. On top of that, the password retrieval was quite simple. In theory, one person pretending to be a friend could get your password away with relative ease. To sum it up, I believe multiple positive A2 hosting reviews to be completely correct - It is a decent solution for many people. The host is only a couple minor changes away from being a genuine contender.
- Free backups.
- Free SSL certificates to provide security for your website.
- One month plan provided.
- Plenty of customer service options.
- High renewal prices.
- Not many plan lengths to choose from.