A2 Hosting is an independent web hosting company founded in 2003. They are based in Ann Arbor Michigan but serve hosting markets globally. A2 Hosting positions itself as a high-performance, speed-focused hosting company with excellent support.
Let’s dive into a review of A2 Hosting and discuss what they are, their pricing, pros and cons, and possible alternatives.
What is A2 Hosting?
Is A2 Hosting Legit?
A2 Hosting positions itself as a growing, stable hosting provider that is not owned by one of the 3 large web services holding companies (ie, GoDaddy, Endurance, and Web.com) that also has the breadth, resources, and expertise to serve websites for businesses, organizations, and long-term projects.
A2 Hosting started in 2003 and has seen rapid growth in the past few years.
Like most hosting companies, A2 Hosting also provides email, a website builder, and various complementary services with a 24-hour support team and a 30-day money-back guarantee.
A2 Hosting is legit. They aren’t a fly-by-night hosting company.
What Is A2 Hosting Used for?
A2 Hosting is used to host websites and web applications such as WordPress. They have a specific marketing focus on businesses, organizations, and rapidly growing websites. They offer a full suite of website products ranging from domain names to shared hosting plans to managed VPS hosting to even web design.
However, like I’ve stated in all my hosting reviews, finding a good hosting company is about finding the right fit based on your goals & resources. Here are my pros & cons and an overview of A2 Hosting’s solutions as an A2 customer.
Here’s my A2 Hosting review – structured with pros & cons based on my experience as a customer.
|Hosting Plans||Web Hosting, Reseller Hosting, VPS & Dedicated Servers|
|Tech Support||Help Desk, Live Chat, Phone & Knowledge Base|
|Uptime||Excellent (100% past 6 months)|
|Guarantees||30-Day Money Back|
|Best For||Small businesses and DIYers|
|Strengths||Deep discounts, features & customer support|
|Weaknesses||Upsells, confusing signup, and overstated marketing|
|Promotion||Up To 72% Off|
A2 Hosting Pricing
Web Hosting Plans
Web (i.e., Shared) hosting is the bread and butter of the website hosting world. A shared hosting plan consists of individual accounts on a Linux server. They can run WordPress or any application on a LAMP Stack. It’s a cost-effective and reliable way to run most websites. Learn more about Shared Hosting in this guide. A2 Hosting has three main shared hosting plans.
|Plan||Startup||Drive||Turbo Boost||Turbo Max|
|Free Domain Name||-||-||-||-|
WordPress Hosting Plans
Even though WordPress can run on shared hosting, many hosting companies have WordPress hosting plans due to customer demand and the hardware demands of WordPress. Many hosting companies offer “WordPress hosting” that is *exactly* the same as their shared hosting plans.
A2 Hosting is like this to a degree. Their WordPress plans are just Web hosting plans with WordPress auto-installed. However, they are also the same pricing as their Web hosting plans. No harm, no foul – and a decent deal. Additionally, they do have a Managed WordPress Hosting plan buried in their menu. Those WordPress plans are more expensive but have more unique features specifically for WordPress websites.
VPS Hosting Plans
VPS hosting is a great way to get a specific allocation of server resources, without having to lease an entire server. Even though your website lives on the same server as other sites, you have total control over a set amount of resources. Learn more about VPS hosting in this guide. A2 Hosting has several very competitively priced VPS hosting plans that offer managed VPS and unmanaged VPS options.
Reseller hosting is basically a shared, VPS, or dedicated server plan with 3rd party billing and management enabled. Reseller hosting allows anyone to basically start their own hosting company without actually starting a hosting company. Read more about Reseller hosting in this guide. It’s a great way for agencies to get recurring revenue and provide extra value for clients. A2 has a range of reseller hosting products.
Dedicated hosting is basically just leasing an entire server with management and support bundled. It’s an affordable way to get dependable pricing for a very large site. See their plans here.
Pros of A2 Hosting
There are a lot of A2 Hosting reviews online – usually with user-generated reviews based on anecdotes and personal experience. That’s fine but I take a different approach. Like I mention in all my hosting reviews, there is no such thing as a “best” web host. It’s all about the right fit for your project based on your goals, budget, experience & expertise. Here are the pros (advantages) for considering A2 Hosting.
Support Access & Options
Like I’ve mentioned in other hosting reviews, reviewing customer support is tricky. Just like your local restaurant on Yelp, the most positive and most negative reviews are generally worthless.
You never know when issues are customer-caused or when someone simply encountered that one amazing/horrible employee.
I’ve had a good experience with A2 Hosting. But that’s very anecdotal. So, I also like to look at “proxies ” for customer support. In other words, things that indicate something about the culture & processes of customer support.
First – A2 Hosting provides a lot of different channels for customer support.
They have a phone number front and center. They have an extensive knowledge base, live chat, and even Skype access. They do well triaging requests via social media.
Second, A2 Hosting’s reps are very “hands-on” – they offer custom installs and plenty of solutions where your rep will go in and fix the issue rather than talking you through the process. While some customers may or may not like that option, it does signal that they see customer support as an investment rather than a cost. That’s the type of general conclusion that I look for – and the one that I think matters in the long-term over a one-off experience.
Like their independent competitors in InMotion, HostPapa, GreenGeeks, and SiteGround, A2 Hosting’s customer support is a major pro to choosing them over a big brand hosting company (like GoDaddy) that may or may not prioritize support in the same way. This point segues into another big advantage for A2 Hosting.
Transparency & Independence
First off, I don’t think that a company is “good” or “bad” simply due to its size. It’s all about tradeoffs.
There are a lot of major advantages to using a big company. They usually have the resources to provide big comprehensive solutions. They usually have lower unit costs that can be passed to the customer. They are also usually more stable than small, upstart companies.
That said small companies are usually able to be more agile, closer & more responsive to the customer, and less likely to view customers solely through the lens of a Net Promoter Score .
In the world of hosting – it really depends on your goals & preferences. There is no right answer.
That said, it’s a big advantage that A2 Hosting is a founder-owned, independent company – simply because that is so rare in 2017. Most hosting companies are brands of Endurance International, GoDaddy or the Web.com group.
And not only is A2 Hosting independent, they are stable and growing and really use their independence to promote transparency and accessibility that a big brand simply can’t match.
If you are someone looking for a hosting company rather than a hosting brand – A2 Hosting will tick that box. If not, you can ignore this section and keep focusing on your priorities.
Global Data Centers
On a related but different note than speed & performance, A2 Hosting scores well as a globally focused host that can efficiently serve websites around the world.
While there are lots of factors in website speed (like TTFB), the physical location of your server matters a lot. Requests for information travel over physical wires to a physical server. Even at the speed of light, distance matters, especially if you own/maintain a site or if your visitors need to load up many different files.
If you and your audience are on one side of the globe, it’s good to host your files near both you and your audience.
*Note – if you are in one country, but your audience is spread out, most sites solve this problem with a CDN.
Until recently, most cutting-edge hosting companies were based & focused on the US market. If you were in Asia or Europe -then you might be stuck with lackluster local hosting and/or slow connection times.
- Michigan – USA
- Arizona – USA
- Amsterdam – Europe
- Singapore – Asia
You to select your data center among the two they operate in the US, Europe, or Asia. If you are ex-US or are trying to serve an audience exclusively there – A2 Hosting’s data center options are a compelling advantage.
Hosting Customizations & Features
The last major advantage of A2 Hosting that I want to call out is their focus on hosting features and customizations. They are not only a full-spectrum hosting company with products tailored for nearly every need, they also have a focus on the exact features that you get with your plans.
A2 Hosting provides a free SSL certificate for each domain in addition to unlimited storage and unlimited websites on mid-tier hosting plans.
Now – I think some of their “features” are misleading marketing-speak. But, like their speed claims, they do come through with providing the hosting that your project will need.
Cons of A2 Hosting
Like any web host, A2 Hosting has disadvantages. There are plenty of A2 Hosting complaints online. But remember, that like the pros, these are all in the context of your goals & priorities. With that said, here are the cons that I found while using A2’s hosting service.
Speed, Performance & Uptime
A hosting account can be a lot of things to your business, but the core function of a hosting server is to serve your website files whenever someone requests them. But – the implied adverb there is to serve those files quickly.
In an age of global audiences and multi-device connections, speed matters more than ever. While there are a lot of variables in play with website speed, it’s primarily your hosting server’s job to send the requested files to the visitor’s browser as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
A2 Hosting makes a lot of claims about their speed.
Some of those claims are misleading hyperbole. Some of those speed claims are upsells.
But overall, A2 Hosting does fine but also doesn’t live up to the hype.
One of the main factors of site speed is Time To First Byte (TTFB) – ie, how quickly the server sends the first byte of the first file in response to a request. Here’s how an A2 Hosting website tested with zero speed improvements.
Overall, A2 Hosting does fine enough with speed so that you can have a fast site with some improvements.
They do offer features like SSD Storage, Turbo Server, free Cloudflare CDN that can both help with your TTFB and speed. However, they are still starting from a place slightly behind their direct competition.
The same goes with uptime. A2 Hosting has not had downtime incidents outside of industry-standard expectations. However, they also don’t make industry-standard promises on uptime either. So if they do have downtime, you won’t necessarily get compensated.
Renewal Price Point
Like I’ve mentioned in other hosting reviews, comparing pricing across hosting companies can be maddening. It’s very difficult to compare apples to oranges because plans generally come with various caps.
That said, I try to look at compare pricing based on the 3 “D’s” of core hosting features –
- Domains – how many websites you can run on your account
- Databases – how many software installs you can run
- Disk Space – how many files you can upload to your account
After looking at “core” hosting features, I like to factor all the possible “bonus” features. Bonus features are features that you should only factor in if they pertain to your goals. For example, if you plan on running Google Ads, then a credit there might be worthwhile, but if not, then it’s something to ignore completely.
Either way, A2 Hosting has 4 main tiers for shared Linux hosting – the Startup ($8.99/mo at renewal), Drive ($11.99/mo at renewal), Turbo Boost ($19.99/mo at renewal), and Turbo Max ($24.99/mo at renewal).
With heavy discounting, their plans are not too bad compared to both competitors and discount brands.
That said – they are definitely pricier than most hosting companies that I’ve looked at for a few reasons.
First, their renewal pricing is only valid for 2-year plans. If you only want to pay annually – their renewal pricing is a bit higher.
Second, their Startup plan is pretty heavily capped. It’s really suitable for literally one website with no additional use cases.
Third, they don’t include some key “bonus” features that their competitors do include. I’ll touch on those later, but things like backups, dedicated IP addresses, “performance”, “priority support” and spam filtering all get bucketed as upsells rather than as pre-packaged features.
Fourth, I’m not entirely clear on what justifies paying double the price for “Turbo Server” – there are even some features that move from Included to “Available”. On the face of it, it appears that they promise to put you on a less crowded server. But the thing is – that wouldn’t seem like it would enhance minute to minute performance on an absolute measure. It would, however, “increase” speeds if compared to crowded servers under constant load.
I’m not a network engineer and I’m certainly not privy to how A2 Hosting has their network setup. It might be fabulous. But the thing is – after looking at & using many hosting companies, it seems like simply a way to get more money per month without providing immediate value month to month. It seems like those old-school JCPenney “sales” that were only sales because they reset the retail price cue every month.
Now – to be clear, that’s not a bad thing. Price is not a particularly good metric. Every customer should look at overall value for their needs. But either way, A2 Hosting works at a higher price point than other hosts, and I’m not sure their raw features meet the price point….which segues into the next section.
The one big caveat to pricing is their global payment options. There are not many hosting companies that work with different currencies – but A2 Hosting does.
If international currencies are important to you – then by all means mark that in A2 Hosting’s pricing advantage.
Technical Marketing Speak
I work in marketing. I love it. I think good marketing can make the world a better place.
But marketing is a tool. And I absolutely do not like it when companies use “marketing-speak” to misrepresent products and services. It’s fine to simplify, but tell it like it actually is. And it’s fine to re-frame or re-position, but not at the cost of hiding other facts.
A2 Hosting does this a lot. They have a sleek website. They have good copy. But they consistently invent features that aren’t actually features or they position facts outside of context so they seem great…but really don’t make any sense.
Here’s an example.
The chart looks great. It’s one of those marketing assets that makes you nod and move along to the buy button. Everyone does it to an extent, but there are a couple things here that bother me.
First, the Performance Plus pitch grossly simplifies what it takes to “maintain your site’s speed during traffic spikes.” That all depends on your caching, the size of your site, the size of your “traffic spike” (ie, is it hundreds, thousands or millions of requests?), and dozens of other variables. It plays on fear rather than a more accurate upside like “smoothly handle a resource-intensive site.
Second, the Cores, Physical and Virtual Memory allocations are missing any sort of context. They are presented to persuade you to buy a more expensive plan – not to provide any truly useful comparative information.
In fairness to A2 Hosting, I do like the specificity and I do know that providing concise, useful information is a challenge on a sales page. That said, combined with the next disadvantage, their marketing-speak serves as a disadvantage for any customer trying to make an informed choice of hosting company.
Onboarding & Product Setup
Onboarding is the process of moving a new customer to an active, happy customer. It’s a critical process for any company, but especially for hosting companies who are selling an inherently technical product.
While A2 Hosting has many of the common ingredients for a good onboarding (ie, email confirmations, intuitive client area and standard cPanel) – everything in the process of setting up my account was slightly off. It was a bit frustrating – enough to make it a disadvantage.
They start out their orders simply with an Order Confirmation.
Their account area is fairly simple.
Their welcome email looks comprehensive…but it’s not. Most sign-up emails have critical account information so that you can get started right away (see examples in my Website Setup Guide).
But A2 Hosting’s emails do not.
It tells me to get my DNS information in their help area.
But when I go to the help area…it tells me to go back to the email.
But there’s no information in the email.
So back to Google/customer support.
Either way – from their cPanel, they have customized it to emphasize their “A2 Customized Installers” rather than the standard Softaculous installer.
The problem with their customized installers is that it makes the installed software way harder and cluttered than it needs to be.
If I were a new, inexperienced user, I would be regretting my purchase about now. It’s these situations where A2 Hosting needs a good support team because their onboarding is creating problems that should not exist in the first place.
Upsells & Offers
Upsells are not inherently a “bad” thing. If presented well, they can be useful. But upsells need to be clear, useful and presented well. While not as bad as some big brand competitors, A2 Hosting does not do upsells well.
Here’s what you see on checkout – a wall of “configuarable options” – aka, upsells.
While not garish or overwhelming, those configurable options create a lot of questions.
Every single option (apart from Server Location) either creates doubt or confusion in the mind of the customer. Additionally, since they are all presented out of context – I have no idea what they are or why they are useful or how they apply to my purchase.
But the frustrating offers/upsells don’t stop at the checkout screen. They are integrated into A2 hosting’s “optimized software” as shown earlier.
But they are also advertised within the server backend. As seen here –
In this case, it’s less about the offer and more with what the offer is. It’s a truly horrible “SEO” product. The kind that makes me ashamed to work in the SEO industry.
Yeah. I’m not sure how much money Attracta pays A2 Hosting for that product placement, but wow does that negatively affect A2 Hosting’s otherwise solid, clean brand.
Not only are there video sales letters – but A2 Hosting also automatically provided my email to Attracta for an email automation setup that I did not sign up for – pure spam.
But the frustrations with offers/upsells/messaging gets worse. A2 Hosting takes credit for providing free, open-source products from other companies for free. As part of their “Optimization” upgrade, they supposedly install a bunch of exclusive software to help your site.
In the case of the WordPress install, it turns out to be some standard, free plugins available to anyone via the WordPress plugin repository.
It’s one thing to provide an auto-install service – that’s fine. It’s another to use someone else’s work and use the value from their work to add “exclusive” value to your product.
Now – from a day to day use perspective – none of this matters. You can ignore the upsells, ignore the offers and remove the bundled plugins. But as far as choosing a company based on trust & values, I see it as a disadvantage to A2 Hosting.
Guarantees, Backups & Bonuses
Guarantees and backup services are “bonus” features in the grand scheme of hosting. But for something as important as your website, they can be life (err wallet) savers.
A2 Hosting’s money-back guarantee is fine but is not impressive compared to direct competitors.
They also only provide “server rewind backups” for free with your standard plan. If you want true regular backups, you’ll need to subscribe to a 3rd party service.
Again, that’s fine, but it’s something to factor in while comparing price & value among competitors.
Lastly, their actual bonuses/freebies are pretty thin on the ground. In fact, 3 of their 4 freebies are ad placements to benefit A2 Hosting. Nothing outside the norm, but something to factor in if you already know some of the services you’re looking for.
Overall, A2 Hosting’s guarantees, backups, and freebies are ok on their own, but a disadvantage compared to the rest of the industry.
A2 Hosting Alternatives
Is A2 Hosting Worth It?
There’s a reason A2 Hosting is one of the fastest-growing independent hosting companies. They have a solid product and a great support.
If you are looking for a full service hosting company with solid support, good performance, and global data centers / payment options (and you don’t mind a few upsells), then – sign up for an A2 Hosting plan.