Sunday 27th May 2018

A2 Hosting Review

Overview

Overall rating:

7.3/10

Price:

$3.92

Uptime (Jan 18):

99.97%

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Overview

Overall rating:

7.3/10

Price:

$3.92

Setup:

6 hours

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Overall

We like A2 Hosting (although you may not arrive at that impression after reading this review – we’re just thorough!) however we wouldn’t recommend them at this price range (you can get superior performance and/or features at a lower price with other hosts).

We performance test their lite package on a minute-by-minute basis; it’s good but not great.

  • A2 Hosting offers free site migrations providing your previous host used cPanel (a number of other web hosts charge a premium for this service)
  • They monitor resource usage on their shared hosting accounts (across CPU, bandwidth, HTTP connections, databases, IOPS and physical and virtual memory). There’s more information below (we highly recommend you read the ‘restrictions’ section in full).
  • We find their bandwidth allocations confusing and unclear. We discussed this with them and we’ve provided more information below.
  • They don’t offer a free domain (unlike a lot of other web hosts).
  • They don’t offer HTTP/2 to their ‘lite’ package customers (you have to upgrade to their ‘turbo’ package). HTTP/2 is somewhat revolutionary and well worth taking advantage of if you can (you’ll also need SSL to use HTTP/2 – a free certificate is fine)
  • They offer a 99.9% uptime ‘commitment’ (note the interesting use of the word ‘commitment’; ie it’s usually ‘guarantee’). There’s more information below.
  • Their hosting packages automatically renew after the term expires. You can cancel by email up to 15 days before the term expires.
  • Performance is acceptable but not great. Uptime is good but response time is average. We’d expect performance gains from their ‘turbo’ package (twice the price)
  • Their ‘lite’ package includes a free staging area for WordPress installations (the only other host we’ve seen offer this is Siteground and they did so on a significantly more expensive hosting account)
  • Slightly concerned by their ‘free SEO tools’ which seem to promote ‘paid’ directory link placement for search engine gain
  • They do provide backups and ‘server rewinds’ however there are caveats and this only applies to the ‘swift’ and ‘turbo’ packages. The only option for ‘lite’ customers is a manual backup via cPanel.
  • They offer full refunds up to 30 days and, interestingly, a prorated refund (for services you haven’t used) after 30 days (this is interesting and something we haven’t seen before; the best we’ve reviewed so far is Dreamhost’s 97 day money back guarantee). More information below.

Features

7/10

service

8/10

Performance

7/10

Cost

7/10

Host overview

Performance: January 2018 (to date)

Response Time:

937ms

Uptime:

99.97%

Average uptime for all hosts in January 2018 (to date) is 99.80% while average response time for all web hosts in January 2018 (to date) is 1,254ms.

Cost, setup and website migrations

While A2 Hosting promises 20x faster speeds than other shared web hosts under their ‘turbo’ package, we are keen to test their service delivery across all their packages and so started out with the ‘lite package’ (which is half the price of the turbo package).

A2 hosting advertises their ‘lite’ package for $3.92 per month (or £2.91 per month in the UK), however, like with most hosting companies (with the exception of a few, eg Dreamhost) you can only qualify for the advertised price if you pay 36 months in advance.

You can pay monthly however it will end up costing you significantly more and we often recommend locking in the introductory rates for as long as possible. A monthly subscription costs $4.95 for the first month and $9.95 for each subsequent month (a total annual cost of $114.79).

We went for the 12 months in advance ‘lite’ package which ended up costing $52.86 (exc. tax). This package will automatically renew at the end of the term for the same term and at a higher rate (it will end up costing you $119.88 excl. tax in your second year).

A regular .com registration costs $14.95 and domain privacy costs $9.95 per year. Unlike a lot of hosts (eg Hostgator, Bluehost and Just Host), A2 Hosting doesn’t charge more for renewals than registrations (they charge $14.95 for .com renewals).

A2 hosting also offers free site migrations (unlike a number of other hosts eg Dreamhost, Just Host and Bluehost, all of which charge a premium up to $149.99, and FatCow and Host Papa, neither of which even offer site migrations).

A step up to the turbo package will see an extensive range of features added to your account.

We’ll cover this in a separate review, but the major advantage is an Apache drop-in replacement (LiteSpeed server) which improves overall server performance, as well as fewer users per server and the A2 optimized feature (caching).

You also gain access to CloudFlare plus.

Setup on the ‘lite’ package was relatively painless. A2 Hosting made it simple to find their nameservers and we were live within 6 hours (we use their 1-click WordPress installation script as well).

Restrictions

A2 Hosting set a number of restrictions across I/O (input/output or read/write speed), entry processes (concurrent script executions), storage and CPU usage.

  • I/O is limited to 1MB/s for their ‘lite’ package. You can contrast this with GreenGeeks which limits I/O to 4MB/s (for comparisons with more hosts please use the comparison tool at the top of the page)
  • According to our admin panel CPU usage is restricted to 0/100 (which in itself tells us nothing) and we’re informed by one of their sales engineers that each cPanel (account) is limited to 10% CPU usage. For comparison purposes, Siteground limits cPanels to 20% of CPU for no more than 10 seconds. This restriction on CPU usage isn’t made publicly available by A2 Hosting.
  • Their storage restrictions are a lot higher than most and are set at 600,000 inodes (an inode is just meta data, or information, on files – 1 file is typically equal to 1 inode). It’s very unlikely the average user would ever exceed this restriction. This restriction is also treble what some other hosting companies set.
  • Entry processes are restricted to 15. ‘Entry processes’ refers to the permissible number of concurrent script executions (eg loading an index.php file). As far as we’re aware it is not affected by script executions by the cPanel user (eg cron jobs). This limit is quite a lot higher – better – with other web hosts, eg GreenGeeks sets this limit at 100.
  • There are a number of restrictions on the types of website you are allowed to host (as is typical across all web hosting companies)
  • There are restrictions in their TOS on customer service as well (see below)
  • You’re restricted to hosting only 1 website and 5 databases under their ‘lite’ package.

They don’t mention bandwidth on their price comparison page and we’re informed – by their chat representatives – it’s ‘unlimited’. However, that’s not what their terms of service state.

Section 3d of A2 Hosting’s terms of service specifically state ‘Our Hosting accounts are allocated bandwidth depending on the package you select.  The bandwidth for Services purchased does not rollover and is not creditable across periods.  In the event you require more bandwidth than you have purchased, your account may be suspended until the next period’

Why would you allocate something that’s ‘unlimited’? You wouldn’t, so ‘allocated’ suggests to us there is a limit (hence our confusion).

A2 Hosting chat representatives tell us that this section only applies to VPS and reseller accounts however further up the page (section 3b) the terms of service define what constitutes all services:

A2 Hosting offers a number of different products and services, including those listed below.  These TOS and our Policies apply to all Services, whether or not listed below.’

Section 3bi then lists ‘shared web hosting’ under the definition of ‘all services’

From this we can conclude:

  1. The terms in section 3 apply to all hosting services
  2. All services include shared hosting services
  3. You’re purchasing bandwidth when you purchase a shared hosting account (they’ve told us it’s unlimited)
  4. Bandwidth is allocated to shared hosting services (as part of ‘all services’) and in accordance with section 3b

Except, as far as point 4 is concerned, apparently it isn’t. According to A2 Hosting’s chat representatives there is no bandwidth allocation (they say it’s ‘unlimited’) on shared hosting accounts and it’s monitored based on average server usage.

This is indirectly and ambiguously confirmed further down where they say “For Shared Web Hosting and Reseller Hosting, the terms “unlimited” and “unmetered” are defined by our experience with similarly situated customers.“

We asked them if the TOS are incorrect and they say they aren’t, however they didn’t explain why and they were taking upwards of 3 minutes to respond between questions (it was live chat). We find this confusing.

We’d like to say we have a clear answer on this but we don’t. We’ve submitted a ticket for more clarification and will update this review if we receive it*. We’d hope they update their TOS if shared hosting accounts aren’t allocated bandwidth (simply to make them clearer).

NOTE: it’s unlikely most of these restrictions will apply to the majority of users (though they may apply to some of you) but we’ve researched and provided you with this information so you can make your own mind up.

*A2 Hosting did respond to us however they responded questioning how much bandwidth we need rather than addressing the specific question we sent them. At this point we realised we probably weren’t going to receive an answer or any kind of positive outcome (eg modifying their terms of service to be clearer).

Backups, guarantees and security

Your hosting account will automatically renew after your term expires. We looked around for a means to disable automatic renewal however we couldn’t find one (although you can disable automatic renewal for domains).

There is an option in A2 Hosting’s control panel to cancel your account though. It’s important to note you can only cancel 1 day before renewal if you use A2 Hosting’s online cancellation form. You can cancel by email however it has to be at least 15 days prior to the expiration of your term.

A2 hosting does offer backups but only on their ‘swift’ and ‘turbo’ packages. These packages also come with server rewind (the ability to revert to a previous instance of your website).

It’s important to note that A2 Hosting state in their terms and conditions that:

  1. These backups may not include all files
  2. They’re limited to 50GB in size (if you’re website is larger than 50GB they will no longer back it up).
  3. Irrespective whether you’re a ‘lite’, ‘swift’ or ‘turbo’ customer you can of course backup your website manually via cPanel

A2 Hosting also offers an interesting refund guarantee. They include the standard 30 day money back guarantee (you’ll receive a full refund if you cancel within 30 days of payment), however they also include an ‘anytime money back’ refund policy.

If you choose to enact this they will re-bill you at the regular price of their services (you may have taken a discounted package) and only the difference between the discounted amount and the re-billed amount will be refunded.

It’s also important to note any free domain registration (not available at the time of review) will also be deducted from the refund amount at $14.95 (you will retain your domain name).

If you request a refund after 4 months you’ll receive one in the form of a PayPal payment. SSL certificates are refundable for up to 7 days but domain registrations are non-refundable.

A2 also offers a 99.9% ‘uptime commitment’ (note the interesting use of the word commitment).

This applies in most circumstances excluding the obvious exceptions like ‘scheduled maintenance’ (then again, GreenGeeks uptime guarantee compensates you for downtime experienced as a result of scheduled maintenance). A2 Hosting lists times and dates when scheduled maintenance will take place, including every Sunday morning (this should only result in 15 minutes of outage) from midnight till 5am.

If they fail to honour their uptime commitment then they will credit your account with 5% of the hosting cost for every 1 hour of downtime experienced (to a maximum value of one month of free web hosting).

The admin panel

A2 Hosting - cPanel

The admin panel features everything you’d expect a cPanel installation to feature including fully configurable zone files, email management, database management and the ability to quickly and easily activate add-on services (like the free CloudFlare CDN).

On top of this you can schedule cron jobs, utilise softaculous for 1-click installations and upload files via the file manager (or you can use FTP).

A2 Hosting - Bandwidth

Of particular use will be CPU usage and bandwidth monitoring, which is available under the ‘metrics’ section in cPanel.

A2 Hosting Customer Service

  • Live chat support: yes
  • Ticket support: yes
  • Phone support: yes

A2 Hosting’s support representatives are responsive. We’ve submitted 2 tickets to them – on 30th December 2017 and 11th January 2018 – and we received a response, in both instances, on the same day.

We’ve also tried their live chat; while their chat representatives are a lot more responsive than most, we struggled to get to the root of some of the more technical questions we had to ask.

When we’ve tried to contact them via live chat they’ve responded within 30 seconds each time. All in all, their customer service is a lot better than most.

Lite - Monthly Term

Price

$4.90

Bandwidth:

Unlimited

Storage:

Unlimited

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Lite - 12 Month Term

Price

$4.40

Bandwidth:

Unlimited

Storage:

Unlimited

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Lite - 24 Month Term

Price

$3.91

Bandwidth:

Unlimited

Storage:

Unlimited

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Lite 36 Month Term

Price

$3.91

Bandwidth:

Unlimited

Storage:

Unlimited

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