If you plan on starting a business website, a personal blog or any other kind of website, then you are going to need to get hosting. Simply, hosting is a service that allows you to store the files that make up your website and then dish them up to visitors when they type in your URL.
To do this, your files will be uploaded onto a big server somewhere, which will be permanently connected to the web and meticulously maintained by a team of staff. This ensures that the server never crashes or dies and thereby prevents any downtime for your website or service.
There are many different hosting companies that provide this service, including the likes of Bluehost, HostGator, GoDaddy and many more. Most of these serve offer pretty much the same things, but they vary in a few key ways:
- Downtime – Just how well maintained are the servers? How often do upgrades or technical difficulties prevent your site from being available?
- Software – What software is pre-installed on the server to help you manage your website?
- Bandwidth – How many visitors can visit your site at once before the server starts to stain and your pages slow down/go offline?
- Space – How many megabytes or gigabytes worth of data can you store on the server?
- Extras – Do you get a domain name with that? Email? Tech support?
- Pricing – How much does hosting cost per month or year? Are there different plans that provide different features?
Choosing the right hosting service is crucial then as it will affect not only the performance of your website but also your wallet.
And that’s why it pays to think outside the box and look at some of the lesser-known names.
In this review, we’re taking a look at A2 Hosting to see how it performs against some of the bigger names in the industry. Is this a hidden gem? Is it the right choice for your business?
So, just who is A2 Hosting?
This is a relatively young hosting company having been around since 2001 and starting life under a different name: Iniquinet. Bit of a mouthful that…
The company has data centers based in multiple regions around the world, including the US (Michigan), Asian (Singapore) and Europe (Amsterdam). This is good news, seeing as the different data centers can be used to serve up files locally, potentially speeding things up a little.
The company is still ‘lesser known’ compared with the very big players. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. On the contrary, it could mean fewer other users to share server space with and it could mean better customer service. What it certainly does mean, is lower pricing compared with some of the competition.
The company makes all of the usual claims: 99.9% uptime commitment, ‘blazing fast servers’, great customer service and powerful developer tools. But can it deliver?
Let’s take a look.
A2 Hosting boasts a number of features on its website, each of which make it sound like a compelling choice. These include…
High Performance ‘Swift Servers’
While every hosting service offers a range of different features, what matters more than anything else in every case is the speed. If your pages take ages to load, then you will lose visitors.
So how fast is A2 Hosting? The website claims that it is very fast. A2 Hosting uses a technology called ‘SwiftServer’, which has been developed as the cumulation of ten years of experience. The service is claims to be 20X faster than the main competition. But does it really hold up?
In our experience, the answer is yes. Our site loaded quickly, even with loads of plugins and large images to handle. We saw low bounce rates for the content we were displaying as a result and really we didn’t have any complaints. Even during times when we experienced higher-than-average traffic, the servers performed well.
It’s easy to say things like ‘up to 20x faster’ because it doesn’t really mean anything. What you might be interested in, in just how it compares to other top providers.
The good news is that A2 Hosting is demonstrably quicker than BlueHost, which is one of the biggest names in the industry. Not 20x quicker by any means, but around 1.5x, which is pretty impressive for the ‘little hosting company that could’!
24/7/365 ‘Guru Crew’ Support
Don’t you just love all of the made-up jargon that these companies come up with in order to market their wares? ‘Guru crew’, ‘swift servers’…
Either way, the bottom line is that A2 Hosting claims to offer support around the clock. Not only that, but they claim that their support team are hand-picked for their knowledge and their customer service. In other words? No automated helplines and no outsourced call centers. And with 24/7 support, it should be available at all times.
Well, the good news is that the company delivers on that promise. We got rapid and helpful responses to all of our questions and we found the whole thing to be a fast and seamless experience.
We were never left waiting and we really did feel that our answers were handled by experienced, honest and helpful individuals with a background in tech. That’s a very refreshing difference.
Other companies like Bluehost offer support but either it isn’t 24/7 or you end up waiting for a response: getting an ‘email ticket’ for instance that takes days to answer, or waiting in a queue on the phone. No such experience with the ‘Guru Crew’.
This is something very important to consider when you are shopping for a hosting service. Imagine the scenario otherwise: you set up your website, you spend months building momentum and getting regular fans and visitors… then something goes wrong and your site goes down.
You don’t know why. And you can’t get through to anyone who can help. Turns out the help office is closed for the next two days because it’s the weekend.
And in that time, you’re losing money, damaging your reputation and seeing your site drop down the rankings on Google. It’s simply not good enough and that’s why A2 Hosting is such a refreshing change.
One of the other highly important factors to consider is the uptime and the reliability. What you need is a server that isn’t going to be constantly down for maintenance, updates and repairs. Or that isn’t going to go down because of technical issues.
Of course, there will always be times when things go wrong and the servers go down. And sometimes your server will need a firmware or security update (unless you have cloud hosting) but at the end of the day, you still want the uptime to be as good as possible.
A2 Hosting offers a 99.9% uptime commitment. That means that they are guaranteeing your site will be online for 99.9% of the time and if it isn’t, you can get a refund. That’s a confident gambit and it’s one that we can honestly say seems promising.
Again, this factor is occasionally out of a hosting company’s control. With other hosts, we’ve seen similar promises that ended up falling short – and the company appears to rely on the customer not realising or not checking.
This could very well turn out to be the case here too. But in our tests, we never saw any downtime and we can say it’s certainly one of the more reliable options.
Here’s a nice touch: A2 Hosting offers ‘green hosting’ meaning that you can rest assured that your site is being looked after a company that takes its moral responsibilities seriously. A2 Hosting is a partner of Carbonfund.org, which is an organization that fights climate change. They are also 100% carbon neutral and have a lot of their own green policies.
This is all nice to know but it’s also good for business: many customers will prefer to use companies that they know are green. And if you use a green hosting service, that means you can make more claims about your own carbon footprint.
If you’re just using a ‘site builder’ or you’re outsourcing development of your site to a third party, then you might prefer to ignore the technical side of things. For those that are a little more on the techie side though, you may be interested in some of the developer features.
The good news is that an A2 Hosting account will come with a selection of different tools to help you take care of matters yourself. From file managers, to Server Rewind Backups, you’ll get everything you need here.
The servers also run PHP, MySQL, PostgreSQL and Python, meaning that you can get a host of different web apps and services up and running, no matter what kind of business you’re looking to offer.
The other good news is that the company is always open to suggests and available for ideas. In other words, if there’s a feature you’d like to see that they don’t have yet, you can request it and they’ll look into adding it!
The servers are all also optimized for WordPress, Drupal and Joomla for easily building sites. Many come with a top-end control panel.
So, what do you get in terms of bandwidth, storage etc.? The good news is that you can choose the package you want to suit your needs. A2 Hosting offers all of the different hosting solutions that you could possibly want and competes with the top offerings once again in terms of pure features and versatility.
A2 Hosting offers:
Shared Hosting: The most basic type of account, this means that you share a server with another company or client. You share space, bandwidth and more and this means that your site will occasionally go down for maintenance. However, this is also the cheapest option.
Right now, the shared hosting plan starts at $3.92-$7.99 per month, which is incredibly affordable and much lower than a lot of the competition.
Dedicated Hosting: Dedicated hosting means that you get your very own server that is completely dedicated to you. If you have a big enough site, you might even get multiple servers.
Either way, this means you get control over when the downtime for maintenance occurs and you aren’t sharing bandwidth or space. Necessary for large corporate clients.
This is $99.59-$119.99. The cheaper prices are during offers and deals.
VPS: VPS is a ‘virtual private server’. It’s essentially a half-way-house for those that aren’t sure if they need a private server or not. It acts like a private server with only a few caveats and is cheaper.
This starts at $5 per month.
Cloud Hosting: Cloud hosting is a smart solution that provides you with automatic backups and nearly zero downtime guaranteed. Why? Because your files are stored on multiple different servers and then served up by whichever one is available. If one server is down, or too busy, then your files simply get dished up from a different one.
Overall then, we have very little negative to say about A2 Hosting. One thing we would have liked to have seen is CPanel, which has become nearly the industry-standard when it comes to server control panels. The tools that are available are perfectly good though and provide all the options you might want, so this is only a very minor gripe.
And otherwise, A2 comes out on top in all regards. You’re getting top speeds, a range of pricing plans and features, some of the BEST customer service and a small company that clearly really cares about its clients.
Simply put, it is a mistake to go for the biggest companies that charge higher prices when smaller, more capable companies exist out there. They don’t have quite the resources to push into the marketing, but this is an advantage for the webmasters that find them!
A fantastic service, great experience and top notch business in general. A2 Hosting gets a full, unreserved recommendation.