Based in Ann Arbor, MI, A2 Hosting have been around since 2001. Originally called Iniquinet, they changed their name to A2 Hosting in 2003 and havn't looked back. They position themselves as developer friendly and have a real focus on speed.
A2 Provisioning and Installation
Signing up at A2 was easy, but I was frustrated by the wait for provisioning as I signed up outside of US office hours. If you are in the US it won't be a problem, but if you're outside the US you might have to wait for your order to be approved and provisioned.
Installation of WordPress on A2 is automatic and customized with A2's own plugin which automatically installs and configures some popular plugins to optimize the performance of your site. For the purposes of our testing however we've installed the same stock installation of the WordPress across all the hosts to ensure that we are doing an apples to apples comparison.
A2 Systems and Support
A2 provide 24/7 phone and chat technical support which is great. Just note that provisioning only happens in US office hours.
A2 Load Test
A2 position themselves all about performance, and they offer an auto-optimized install of WordPress which is a great feature you should use if you choose A2. That said, to ensure an apples to apples comparison we didn't use their auto-optimized install and instead cloned a stock standard install of WordPress across all hosts. In our latest round of testing A2 performed OK, but not exceptionally. Average Load Impact user load time was 1.03 seconds, but as you can see in the chart above it did trend up over the course of the test ending closer to 3 seconds as the concurrent user count approached 100. The test did also record some server request failures as the number of concurrent users reached the limit of our test at 100, which strongly suggests that the server was beginning to struggle as the number of concurrent users got to around 60. We've said before that this is alot for any entry level shared hosting plan to cope with, but the fact is that other hosts did cope better.
A2 Page Speed & Uptime
|West Coast Load Time||1.06s|
|East Coast Load Time||0.911s|
|Average Page Load Time||0.986s|
|A2 Hosting Uptime||99.98%|
Our test site on A2 had a little downtime in the last period which has pulled the average down. That said, the average home page load time from the Pingdom West and East Coast data centers has improved bringing down the overall average to under 1 second which is great.
A2 scored 74 on the YSlow grade in our latest tests which is ok but not exceptional, and it is a drop of one point since we last tested. We totally expect A2 would score better if you were to opt for their auto-optimized install of WordPress.
About A2 Hosting
A2 Hosting is a web hosting service focused on WordPress, offering an SSD hosting option specifically designed for faster WordPress loads.
The company exclusively owns all their servers, with the primary data center location being near Detroit, with additional capacity in Reykjavik, Iceland.
In addition to WordPress, the company features hosting for Drupal, PrestaShop and Joomla sites.
They offer three standard hosting plans, Lite, Swift and Turbo, as well as a “Performance Plus” option for an additional fee, to “maintain speed during traffic spikes.” High-speed hosting options include US and European server locations (the top plan uses US servers only), and all plans come with a 12 core server minimum, 64 GB RAM minimums and 10 GBs redundant network.
All plans are offered Bing/Yahoo! ad credits, but not Google ad credits at this time, although A2 does promise that a customer’s site will be listed in Google within 24 hours using Attracta. All plans are offered Bidvertiser ad credits, as well as free iContact email marketing trials. Accounts above the most basic one come with unlimited databases, while the starter plan comes with five.
What are the basic web hosting plans?
There are Lite, Swift and Turbo plans. The Swift plan is a noticeable upgrade over the Lite but isn’t that much more expensive, while the Turbo plan is quite a bit more expensive than Swift, with the main difference being, as you might guess from the name, “turbo”-powered increases in page load quickness.
What’s the money-back deal if I’m not satisfied?
Just cancel your account and they’ll give you a full refund within 30 days, or a prorated refund for your unused service after 30 days.
I want to leave my current host, but transferring’s a pain. Do they help with that?
Sure do — if you want to leave your current host, and switch to A2 Hosting, just If you use cPanel with your current host, they’ll transfer your site for you. Contact their Guru Support team for the details.
Do they offer any special security features?
Yes, quite a few — they have a product called HackScan, offered free on all hosting plans. Exclusive to A2, it’s hack protection scanning that helps block hacks before they can invade and damage your site, as company officials explain. It’s part of what they call “Perpetual Security,” proactive protection against malicious hackers and security threats, “squashing threats before they potentially develop into something larger.” It includes KernelCare – Daily, Automatic & Rebootless Kernel Updates, Dual Web Hosting Firewall, Brute Force Defense and Auto-Heal Hosting Protection.
What’s their domain hosting offer?
A2 says you can host as many domains as you want on their Swift Web Hosting and Turbo Web Hosting plans and manage them in your cPanel control panel. You can also have unlimited subdomains and parked domains on those plans too.
What’s their SSD offering?
“Some hosts claim to offer Solid State Drive Hosting but only host your OS or MySQL databases, not your files,” company officials say, adding “we use SSD for everything so you get the biggest speed boost possible. That’s why our SSD Hosting loads pages faster than our competition, and why even we host our site on SSDs.”
What’s the email setup?
Pretty standard, really. You can access your e-mail the way you want, be in via POP3 or IMAP. If you want to use webmail from RoundCube, Squirrelmail or Horde you can do that as well from within your cPanel control panel.
What are the uptime guarantees?
They promise the usual 99.9% uptime, saying their “24/7/365 support staff” includes “expert system admins hard at work ensuring your server runs at its peak,” and they “make sure your server includes the latest security patches.” They offer a quadruple redundant network, featuring multiple global transit carriers with 10G Level 3, 10G CenturyLink/Saavis, 10G Cogent and 2.5G Comcast.
I have a WordPress site, how are they handling that?
They offer an in-house product called A2 Optimized, a WordPress plugin providing auto-configuration to improve WordPress performance with auto-optimizations like compression and caching. In fact, they tout “6X faster page loads compared to standard hosting with A2 Optimized.”