A2 Hosting Review

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A2 Hosting Review

In 2000, A2 hosting was born in Ann Arbor, MI out of a side project that it's CEO has for a few years prior. Unlike other hosting companies that merged and/or expanded to become massive conglomerates in the hosting space, 20+ years later A2 hosting is still based in Ann Arbor and is independently owned an operated, one of the last "mom and pop" shops when it comes to web hosting.

In this article I'll be going over A2's product offerings including Domain Names, Shared Hosting, Wordpress and Dedicated Hosting. Read how A2 hosting stacks up against it's much larger completion.

The Gist

This is a pretty comprehensive review of all of A2 Hosting's product offerings from Domain Names, Shared Hosting, etc. If you just want a quick summary instead here are my thoughts:

Browsing the product offerings at A2 I found them to be consistent with similar products from other hosting providers. The website is a little old school in terms of how you checkout but don't let that hold you back from doing business with them because the product offerings and prices are stellar.

Prices aren't as good as some of their competitors, but they aren't bad or unreasonable, I found that with their hosting you can get some good deals, but in some areas they were up to 5% more expensive then competitors.

Overall you get what you pay for and in this case you pay a little extra for a higher quality of service. I would recommend A2 hosting as one of the top hosting providers of 2020.

Check out A2 Hosting's Product Offerings

Domain Names

domain names

A2 Hosting offers a selection of domain names that are fairly priced and offer quite a wide array of domain TLD's (Top Level Domains, ie. .com, .org, etc). In fact I was shocked at some of TLD's they offered like .io, .sh, and .fm and more. These top level domains are hard to come by and often mean going to a less than reputable web host but putting up with it because they have the domain that you need.

These domains are also fairly priced with no gotchas. If you ever see a domain name listed for $1-2 dollars for the first year, the bait and switch is they give you the first year for that price, then all subsequent years are the standard domain price, with can be 2X or 3X that first year price.

A2 hosting doesn't play these games and though this has the downside of costing you a bit more the first year, don't expect sticker shock when you renew your domain the following years. And on a personal note, I'm personally willing to pay more to work with a company that is transparent and honest like this.

One other thing I like about A2 Hosting's domain offerings is there are zero up sells or gotchas when checking out. While this won't really affect your service with A2, I note this because this is a sign of a company that has real ethics in web hosting, something I very rarely see with other providers.

As for pricing, here pricing for some common domains. Note that this is a flat price with no "1st year" sales, it should also be noted that you will get a minor discount when registering for multiple years. To see a full list of their domain names offered, check out this handy table from A2 that lists all the TLD's they offer

TLD Price Per Year
.com $14.95/yr
.org $14.95/yr
.net $14.95/yr
.co.uk $10.95/yr

Other notable things about their domain offerings is they offer free Whois masking and a range of SSL certificates that includes a free SSL certificate from Lets Encrypt or paid SSL certificates with more features if that is something you need.

This also I find to be very fair, Whois masking in my opinion should always be free because it costs the registrant nothing and as for SSL certificates I love that they give their customers lots of options depending on their needs. Too many hosting companies offer professional SSL certificates to everyone as the only option in order to make a quick buck so I really respect A2 for offering customers a good deal of choice in this matter.

Shared Hosting

shared hosting

Like most other web hosting providers, A2 offers a number of tiers of Shared hosting that come with a vast array of features in each tier. In fact, this is probably one of the most comprehensive (and a bit complicated if I might add) feature sets I've seen from any web host. First off, all tiers of shared web hosting at A2 come with the following features:

  • git support
  • Free SSL certificate (via Lets Encrypt)
  • 4 regions to choose from: Michigan, Arizona, Amsterdam and Singapore
  • Cloudflare integration
  • Staging Environments
  • DDOS detection and automated mitigation
  • A2 Optimized Wordpress plugin: Optimizes Wordpress for A2's servers
  • Unlimited email addresses with optional advanced spam filtering offered through Barracuda.

In addition, all shared servers are run on hardware that has at least 12 cores and 64GB of RAM. This means that you will have far fewer issues with "crowding" (this is where your site experiences a slowdown because there are lots of users on the same physical hardware) on a shared server that is hosted with A2 versus their competitors.

Startup

The base tier of shared hosting. This tier gives you:

  • 100GB of storage
  • 1 CPU
  • 765MB RAM
  • 1 Database
  • 5 Websites

This tier is perfect if you are just starting out and want to save money at hosting. It's also the most affordable, with the best deal starting at just $2.99/month.

Drive

If you want more features and more power over what is offered in the startup plan then consider upgrading to the "Drive" plan. This plan gives you the following:

  • Unlimited SSD Storage
  • 2 CPU's
  • 1GB RAM
  • Unlimited Databases
  • Unlimited Websites
  • Backup and Snapshots

It should note here that even though the plan specifies "Unlimited", this is obviously not the case from a technical perspective; however, what I take it to mean is A2 does not place any arbitrary restrictions on your storage/databases/etc.

If you need more storage than Startup offers or want backups while still keeping costs down. This tier is perfect and starts at just $4.99/month.

Turbo Boost

A2's Turbo Boost shared hosting tier is where things start to get really fast. While you still only get 2 CPU's, you get extra features including:

  • Unlimited Storage on "NVME" Drives: NVME drives are significantly faster than their SSD counterparts. And light years faster than standard hard drives.
  • Unlimited websites
  • 2GB of RAM.
  • Turbo Servers: These servers are reserved for higher hosting tiers and will be much less "crowded" than the lower tiers.
  • HTTP/2: This bit is quite complex, but long story short, servers with HTTP/2 allow your site to load much faster than those that do not support it.
  • Lightspeed Cache: An awesome caching tool for Wordpress, Magneto and other types of applications that will run on your server.

The Turbo Boost tier also offers something called "Performance Plus" for an additional $3/month. This is an autoscaling feature meaning that if your site experiences a surge in traffic, while other servers will simply crash, with Performance Plus, A2 will automatically throw more resources to your server so it will continue to serve up content without interruption.

The Turbo Boost tier offers some pretty compelling features over the Drive plan. If you're serious about having a high performing website that loads quickly for your visitors, the Turbo Boost plan is perfect and starts at $9.99/month.

Turbo Max

The Turbo Max plan from A2 is a bit of a specialty plan as it does not offer any extra features over Turbo Boost. This plan's main selling point is that it offers double the resources of the Turbo Boost plan. While the Turbo Boost plan only gives you 2 CPU's and 2GB of RAM. The Turbo Max plan doubles this and gives you 4CPU's and 4GB of RAM. However you will be paying significantly more for this plan as it starts at $14.99/month.

After going over these plans here are some of my key takeaways. First off skip the Startup plan. While it is the cheapest, I find it rather restricting and you can get a similarly specced shared server for much cheaper with other hosting providers. Now as far as the best deal here, I will have to agree with A2 and say that the Turbo Boost plan is the best. I'm honestly floored that you get as much as you do on this plan. I've done reviews on a number of hosting providers and when I read that you get 2CPU's and 2GB of RAM on a server for ten bucks per month I had to do a double take because I've never seen such a generous plan before.

Learn More About A2 Shared Hosting

Wordpress Hosting

If you are looking to host Wordpress specifically with A2 then you've come to the right place. A2 Hosting offers two ways to host Wordpress: Shared Wordpress Hosting and Managed Wordpress Hosting. If you want ot learn more about the differences between the two types of hosting you can check out my article that goes in depth on this topic.

Shared Wordpress Hosting

wp hosting

I'll be very brief here. Shared Wordpress hosting from A2 offers an identical feature set to that offered through their Standard Shared Hosting. You can read my thoughts on it above. Here I will just cover features that are relevant to Wordpress.

For starters, all their tiers offer multiple PHP versions that you can run as well as MySQL. Additionally all offer the "A2 Optimized" plugin which optimizes your Wordpress site to run on A2's servers.

If you get the Startup plan you will be limited to just 5 MySQL databases while all other plans give you the option to have unlimited databases. If you are just starting out I don't think that you will be affected by the limit on Databases however if you are migrating a larger site over or planning on running a large Wordpress site then I can see this becoming a limitation.

Also the Turbo Boost and Turbo Max plans comes with Litespeed Cache which speeds up your site dramatically. While I wont get into the technical details of how all of this is done, the gist is while users would normally requests content from your server at all times, with Litespeed Cache if a part of your site hasn't changed, those unchanged parts are served up by Litespeed instead of your site which dramatically increases your sites performance.

Again I am trying to keep this section brief because all the information has been covered above in the Shared Hosting section

Managed Wordpress Hosting

wp hosting

If you need to get your Wordpress site off the ground quickly and don't want to deal with the hassle of setting up your own server and doing all the maintenance work required, consider opting for A2 Hosting's Managed Wordpress service which handles all of this for you.

A2 Hosting offers 3 tiers of hosting for Managed Wordpress: 1-Site, 3-Sites and Unlimited. These plans are just like they sound, 1-site lets you host 1 site, 3-site lets you host 3 and Unlimited lets you host Unlimited sites (this obviously comes with technical limitations, so it's not truly "unlimited"). Let's dive into the plans and what they have to offer.

Core Features

These are the core features that come with every tier of managed Wordpress hosting.

  • Turbo Servers: Shared servers that are less crowded than traditional shared servers, give you more power and advanced caching using Litespeed Cache.
  • Staging Environments: If you make a change to your site you can spin up a staging environment to test what the change will look like for users before pushing it out.
  • Unlimited Databases
  • Unlimited Email Addresses
  • WP-CLI
  • Plesk Control Panel: If you've heard of cPanel, this is pretty much the same thing but more modern and more suited to managing Wordpress sites.

1 Site

The 1 site plan is the most affordable managed Wordpress hosting option from A2 hosting. This tier costs as little as $11.99/month after term and promotional discounts. This tier offers the following:

  • 10GB Storage Space
  • 2GB Memory (RAM)
  • 2 cores @ 2.4GHz

3 Site

The 3 site managed Wordpress hosting plan lets you setup 3 sites and supports Wordpress Multisite. Wordpress Multisite lets you manage multiple Wordpress sites from a single Wordpress admin panel. This tier comes in at $18.99 per month after term and promotional discounts. This tier offers the following:

  • 25GB Storage Space
  • 3GB Memory (RAM)
  • 3 cores @ 2.4GHz

Unlimited Sites

This is the highest tier of managed Wordpress hosting. This tier gives you the most power and the most options but also costs the most, coming in at $36.88 per month after promotional and term discounts. This tier lets you host unlimited Wordpress sites using Wordpress Multisite and offers the following features:

  • 40GB Storage Space
  • 4GB Memory (RAM)
  • 4 Cores @ 2.4GHz

Learn More About A2 Wordpress Hosting

VPS Hosting

VPS (Virtual Private Server) hosting, unlike shared hosting, gives you an entire virtual servers all to yourself. This is a major step up from shared hosting in terms of performance but is also a major step up in terms of price. While most hosting providers simply give you an VPS, A2 Hosting's VPS offerings take it a step further and offer 3 distinct types of VPS hosting that are meant to satisfy different needs.

Un-managed VPS Hosting

vps hosting

If you have looked at VPS hosting with some of A2 Hosting's competitors, this tier of hosting comes close to what most others offer. This tier of hosting simply gives you a server and lets you do whatever you want to do with it. Their type of VPS hosting is the most flexible and is the most affordable option but comes with some drawbacks.

A2 Hosting offers 3 tiers of un-managed VPS hosting: Entry, Mid and Elite

With all of these tiers you get a dedicated IP address and the ability to load whichever Linux operating system on it that you see fit. Additionally, for an extra $22 per month you can add "Turbo Boost" to the server that will add HTTP/2, Litespeed Cache, and some other things.

I would personally not recommend getting this, when you have a VPS you can enable things like HTTP/2 for free and if you end up needing some of the features down the road it easy to upgrade.

As far as the tiers go. Though I mentioned previously that A2 had 3 tiers, that's somewhat irrelevant because they allow you to completely customize your VPS for you needs. Here's a breakdown of the various options you can get for your VPS.

Base Tier: The smallest VPS you can get gives you 20GB of Storage, 1 CPU Core, 512MB of RAM and 2TB of Bandwidth for $5.00 per month.

More Storage: Storage can be added in blocks of 10GB of costs an extra $1/month

More CPU Cores: Each additional CPU core costs an extra $1/month

Memory: Memory costs $4/512MB of $8 per Gigabyte. After 1GB you can only add in increments of 1GB.

Bandwidth: Each additional Terabyte of bandwidth costs $20. The only options available are 2TB (base), 3TB, 4TB and 9TB.

Operating System: You get your choice of Linux OS's (they have all the major ones you can think of) and the option to install some with cPanel or Webuzo if you choose.

cPanel License: If you plan on using cPanel you can purchase a license for it and have it preinstalled. Note that 1GB of RAM is required to run cPanel.

Server Location: You can choose where to have your VPS located: Michigan, Arizona, Amsterdam, or Singapore.

Overall, Managed VPS hosting gives you some incredible flexibility to run your website or server while also making it easy to get exactly what you need. I was impressed with the simple pricing and easy configuration a VPS with A2 Hosting. And they are the only web host that offers truly affordable VPS hosting starting at $5 per month when most others charge 3-5X that price.

Managed VPS Hosting

managed vps hosting

While un-managed VPS hosting may give you the most flexibility. Depending on what you are doing this may be overkill. On the one hand having the power and flexibility to do whatever you want on a VPS is nice, but on the other hand it can be a burden as you are now responsible for all of it.

Luckily in situations like this, A2 hosting has you covered with their Managed VPS hosting plans. Managed VPS hosting is much like managed Wordpress hosting in that you are given access to an admin panel where you can set up applications, email accounts, domains, and databases but the actual nuts and bolts of the underlying system are all taken care for you. This means you never have to worry about your server needing patches or updates and you don't have to worry that it's configured properly, A2 hosting will handle all of that for you and let you run the applications you need on it seamlessly.

A2 Hosting offers 3 distinct plans for Managed VPS Hosting: Power+, Prestige+ and Pinnacle+. Unfortunately unlike with un-managed VPS hosting, you cannot create a custom VPS solution.

All Tiers

All tiers of Managed VPS come with the following notable features

  • All Storage on SSD Drives
  • 2 Dedicated IP Addresses
  • SSL Certificate
  • Cloudflare CDN
  • HTTP/2
  • NewRelic monitoring
  • Choice of PHP Versions, MySQL and MariaDB

Additionally you can get several upgrades including:

  • Turbo Boost Servers ($22.00/mo)
  • Page Level Caching ($30/mo)
  • Softaculous Premium ($3/month)
  • Cloudflare Firewall (price not specified)

Power+

The base Managed VPS tier, the Power+ tier starts at $25/month after term and promotional discounts and gives you:

  • 4CPU Cores
  • 4GB RAM
  • 75GB Storage Space
  • 2TB Bandwidth

Prestige+

The mid-tier for Managed VPS. The Prestige+ tier starts at $35/month and gives you:

  • 6 CPU Cores
  • 6GB RAM
  • 100GB Storage
  • 3TB Bandwidth

Pinnacle+

The top-tier for Managed VPS. The Pinnacle+ tier starts at $50/month and gives you:

  • 8CPU Cores
  • 8GB RAM
  • 150GB Storage
  • 8TB Bandwidth

It's hard for me to recommend a tier because that will highly depend on what you need for you site. Personally I think the prices are fair and you do get quite a bit for your money. I still wish though that A2 Hosting would let you customize these further. At the end of the day a Managed VPS is just like an un-managed VPS, you just have someone that is doing all the behind the scenes for work you. You should be able to customize your VPS and have it be fully managed.

Core VPS Hosting

core vps hosting

If you like the idea of Managed VPS hosting but find the lack of root access a deal breaker, I am happy to report in this case you can have your cake and eat it too because A2 hosting offers the best of both worlds in their Core VPS offerings.

Core VPS Hosting is just like Managed VPS hosting with one key difference: you get root access. This is fantastic because it lets you take full advantage of Managed VPS hosting while at the same time having root access "just in case" you will ever need to do something more custom on your VPS. I won't cover features of plans here for Core VPS hosting as they are identical to Managed VPS hosting.

Learn More About A2 Hosting's VPS Products

Dedicated Hosting

dedicated hosting

Dedicated hosting takes it a step further than VPS hosting and instead of giving you virtual server, assigns you a dedicated physical computer in a server room of your choosing. This hosting option offers the most power and can handle large scale websites or other custom workflows not suited for anything less. However this power comes with a hefty price tag and some distinct limitations that you won't get with any other type of hosting (you can read more about that here). While most web hosts give you the option of choosing your hardware, beyond that and setting up the box for you there isn't much else in the way of options. Just like with their VPS hosting however, A2 Hosting offers several options for dedicated hosting: Core Servers, Managed Servers and Un-managed Servers.

Because these servers are customizable, the only difference between each category is the processor used in the server. Here's a breakdown of which processor every tier uses:

Tier Processor Used Price Starting At
Sprint Intel Core i3 @ 3.1+Ghz $99.59 / month
Exceed Intel Xeon E3 @ 2.4+Ghz $165.99 / month
Mach 2 X Intel Xeon E5 @ 2.1+Ghz $248.99 / month

Additionally each tier comes with the following features that can be upgraded

Feature Base Amount Upgradeable To
RAM 8GB 32GB (512GB on Excite Tier)
Hard Drive Space 2 x 500GB 2 x 4TB / 2 x 1TB (SSD)

Note that these are all the tiers avaliable for every category of dedicated server. Any discrepancies in price will be pointed out.

Much like their VPS offerings, A2 hosting offers the same levels of service for it's Dedicated Servers: Un-managed Servers, Managed Servers and Core Servers. All of these tiers function the same way as they would for VPS hosting so I won't be going too deep into the benefits of each type. If you're interested in learning more about the benefits of un-managed vs managed vs core servers, I cover this extensively in the above section on VPS servers

Un-managed Servers

With un-managed servers, A2 simply installs the server and hardens it for you, then leaves you to do the rest. This is great for those who want flexibility but can add an unnecessary burden if you are trying to get up and running quickly and have minimal overhead. Ultimately though this is the cheapest solution and these days even setting up a dedicated server on your own is pretty easy so I would recommend this option to most.

Discount SSD Server

These servers offer less storage than the other server options, however the tradeoff here is you get SSD storage instead of regular spinning disk storage. This is an no brainier and makes everything 10X quicker but comes at the cost of storage space. Unless you need a ton of space though, I recommend making the sacrifice and getting this tier of hosting as it's going to be much faster.

Pricing for the servers is a bit different as well. Here are the differences in price versus standard dedicated server pricing.

Tier Price
Sprint $129.30 / month
Excite $203 / month
Mach $249.90 / month

Managed Flex Server (Managed Dedicated Server)

Managed Flex Servers is just a fancy name A2 hosting uses for it's Managed Dedicated Servers. They function in the same way as a managed VPS or managed Wordpress hosting would work. You get access to cPanel and all of the other tools you would normally expect. However with managed servers you don't have root access as A2 hosting will manage all the updates and upkeep of the server for you.

Tier Price
Sprint $141.09 / month
Excite $207.49 / month
Mach $290.49 / month

I don't quite like the pricing here. I wish it was just a flat rate over the regular server to host it in a managed environment. After all there is not any special work one would have to do on a server with a Xeon Processor and 32GB of RAM versus one with an Intel Core processor with 4GB of RAM for example.

Core Flex Server (Dedicated Root Server)

Core flex servers give you the best of both worlds in terms of Managed and Un-managed Servers. With Core Flex Servers you get root access however the serve is still managed by A2 hosting. For anyone getting a dedicated server and wants to go down the managed route, I always suggest going with this option over a just a Managed Server. The reason I say that is right now you might not have a reason to use root on your server, but there might be an application that comes down the road that you will need ot integrate and that app will require root access.

Prices for this type of server are identical to pricing for Managed servers. I did not expect a price difference here. After all the only actual difference between this type of hosting and traditional managed hosting is you get root access on this tier.

Final Thoughts

I think that A2 hosting is a fantastic hosting company to do business with. Their hosting and domain products are on par with the biggest names in webhosting but their biggest differentiator is their straightforwardness. Often times I put multiple "Marketing Fluff" disclaimers in my reviews when I come across wild claims or misleading features. This article contains exactly zero of these sorts of disclaimers.

Nevertheless there is still room for improvement at A2, I wish their managed hosting was just a flat rate over their un-managed hosting and I found that overall their prices are a bit higher than competitors. Additionally, I could not find enough technical info on what their Turbo servers offer over regular ones. While they do list the various benefits, it still feels a bit black-boxy to me.

If you are looking for a high quality webhost that is fair and pulls no tricks, I highly recommend giving A2 hosting a look.

Learn More About A2 Hosting's Dedicated Hosting Products