If you’re in the market for budget hosting that doesn’t feel like budget hosting when you run it through speed tests, you should keep reading my A2 Hosting review to learn more about A2 Hosting’s features, as well as to get a peek at the real-world tests that I ran.
A Brief Intro to A2 Hosting
Originally launched in 2001 under a different name, A2 Hosting is located in Ann Arbor, Michigan (hence the A2 name). That’s all nice enough – but the most interesting thing about A2 Hosting is this:
It’s not part of the Endurance International Group (EIG) conglomerate of web hosts. If you’re not familiar, EIG owns many major web hosts nowadays, including big names like HostGator, Bluehost, and tons, tons more.
A2 Hosting, on the other hand, is independent. In my opinion, that’s a major plus because EIG’s reputation is…well, let’s just say it’s a bit less than sterling.
A2 Hosting Review: The Feature/Spec List
Don’t worry – I’m going to run real-world tests and dig into all of these features in more depth in the next sections. But to start off, I just want to give you a quick peek at everything you get with A2 Hosting’s affordable shared plans.
- Unlimited bandwidth – transfer as much data as you need.
- SSD for everything – SSD offer performance improvements over the physical drives that some hosts still use.
- One-click WordPress installs – pretty much standard nowadays, but still good to have.
- Free SSL certificate – via Let’s Encrypt. A plus since some major hosts still don’t support Let’s Encrypt.
- “Perpetual security” – firewalls, virus scanning, etc.
- Three different data centers – choose from Michigan (USA), Amsterdam (Europe), or Singapore (Asia).
- Latest technologies – PHP 7.X and HTTP/2 (HTTP/2 is only available on the top-tier shared plan).
- A2 Optimized Plugin – gives you auto-configuration for things like caching, image compression, minification, and more.
- WP-CLI – if you need it, you can have WP-CLI pre-installed.
- Free site migrations – A2 Hosting will bring over your site for free.
- 24/7/365 support – get help whenever you need it via live chat, ticket, email, or phone.
While it’s not managed WordPress hosting, it is a solid feature list for the money. For example, with the exception of a few hosts, most budget hosts don’t give you PHP 7.X or HTTP/2, both of which offer performance improvements over the older technologies used by many others.
Next, let’s dive into A2 Hosting’s performance in some real-world tests…
A2 Hosting Performance – Real Testing Data
No matter how great a host’s feature list looks, it doesn’t really mean much if the performance isn’t there. So…let’s start with performance. I’ll run A2 Hosting through a few Pingdom tests from different data centers as well as a Load Impact test to see how it performs under pressure.
Here’s exactly what I’m testing:
- A2 Hosting TURBO Plan.
- Hosted at the North American data center.
- A2 Optimized plugin installed. This plugin automatically adds important optimizations like caching, minification, GZIP compression, and more.
- Divi 3.0 theme installed with the Homepage Company template as my homepage to add some file size and requests to the test page for a more accurate situation.
Other than the included A2 Optimized Plugin, I didn’t add any performance optimizations of my own. Nor did I tweak any of the A2 Optimized Plugin’s default settings.
Note – because I’m using an unoptimized Divi template, A2 Hosting doesn’t have the easiest job here. Many reviewers test using what are essentially blank WordPress installs (which makes it easy for pretty much any host to appear to load fast). This install is far from blank. Keep that in mind as you look at the testing data.
I’ll start with two different Pingdom tests from two different data centers.
Pingdom test from Dallas, Texas:
For my Dallas, Texas test, my test site loaded in 1.15 seconds. For a test page with 851 kB and 78 external requests, I’d say that’s pretty speedy:
Pingdom test from San Jose, California:
The Pingdom test from San Jose, California was pretty similar. This time, my site loaded in 1.25 seconds. Not much difference!
And finally, let’s put the test site through some stress testing with a scenario from Load Impact. Unlike the first tests that are based on a single visitor, Load Impact uses 25 different virtual users over 5 minutes to see if a site’s performance holds up as traffic increases.
For reference, I ran my Load Impact test with a load zone in Columbus, Ohio. Here are the results:
Other than that small spike at the beginning, my test site performed well as the number of users increased. That is, the green line (load time) stays flat as the blue line (number of users) increases.
Again, considering my test site was close to 1MB and had 78 requests, I’d say A2 Hosting did a great job sticking around the one second mark in my Pingdom tests. And the Load Impact test showed no performance loss under pressure.
Hands-on With A2 Hosting Interface
Alright, so you saw how A2 Hosting performs in the real world. But how about the rest of the features?
A2 Hosting uses cPanel for its backend which is fairly standard for budget hosts – but it also means there’s not anything super exciting to see in the backend interface.
I’ll give you a quick run-through and try to highlight some of the unique features. But for the most part, you know exactly what you’re getting if you’ve ever used cPanel before.
The Backup Wizard is a nice touch for letting you run manual backups and/or restores:
You also get access to Server Rewind, which you won’t find at a lot of shared hosts. This allows you to drill down and restore individual files if needed:
And the A2 Optimized tab lets you configure server side caching, SSL, and some other optimization details from your cPanel dashboard:
All in all, it’s cPanel…but with some helpful added goodies that you won’t find at very many shared hosts.
How Much Does A2 Hosting Cost?
In the previous two sections, I’ve shown you that A2 Hosting has stellar performance and a solid feature list (though it’s not managed WordPress hosting). But how much do those features and performance cost? Surprisingly little, actually.
A2 Hosting’s cheapest plan, LITE, starts at just $3.92 with promotional pricing (starts at $7.99 thereafter depending on how many months you pay at a time). That’s good for one website, five databases, and unlimited transfer.
A2 Hosting’s SWIFT plan ups that to unlimited sites and databases, as well as all the other features in LITE. For that, you’ll pay $4.90 promotional and $9.99 regular.
And finally, the TURBO plan gets you more power for higher performance, as well as all of the other features in SWIFT. It costs $9.31 with promotional pricing and $18.99 with regular pricing.
Should You Go With A2 Hosting?
I’ve personally tested a number of WordPress hosts at this point and the two top-performing hosts in this price range are almost always:
- A2 Hosting
Between the two, A2 Hosting is a bit cheaper, while SiteGround includes some extra managed WordPress features like automatic updates + more (depending on your plan).
If you want the absolute best performance at the absolute lowest cost, then A2 Hosting is the winner. If the lack of managed WordPress hosting functionality is a deal breaker, then you might want to go with something like SiteGround instead.
All in all, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed by A2 Hosting’s performance or support. Both are pretty dang good. And I don’t think you’ll find any better at the sub-$10 or sub-$20 price range.
Want to get started with A2 Hosting? Click below to go to their website:
A2 Hosting offers a 30-day money back guarantee, so you’re not risking any money by giving it a try. Additionally, they’ll migrate your site over for free – so you’re not risking your time, either. We also have an A2 Hosting coupon code that can save you some cash.