A2 is the next contender in our $1000 Web Hosting Case Study that pits the most popular web hosts against each other to show our visitors everything they need to know to make an informed buying decision.
A2 Web Hosting is a USA based company from Ann Arbor, MI that was started in 2001 as Iniquinet before changing its name in 2003. Their slogan is "Offering Service We'd Want To Use Ourselves".
If you take a look at their company timeline you can see that they are actively releasing new features every year and even participate in the 0-emissions program through carbonfund.org to work towards a greener future. So, is it the right choice for someone looking to start their first blog? Let's find out!
As a refresher on shared hosting, your account and websites will all exist on a server that is shared with other accounts from A2 (hence the name "shared hosting". The makes a lot of sense for efficiency because web servers only consume resources when they are actively serving traffic. Since most websites don't have visitors 100% of the time there are gaps where the resources are unused. By putting multiple websites on one server, and balancing them as efficiently as possible, the hosting companies can cut costs and offer lower prices.
There is a downside, though. You may be familiar with the fact that Airlines oversubscribe their flights since they know that some people will cancel or miss their flight. They are taking the same risk by putting more resources on the flight than it can hold. In those rare cases where everyone shows up for their flight, they have to bump people.
The same thing happens with web servers. If all of the websites on the server (or 1 website with a ton of traffic) start generating more traffic than the server can handle, the server will slow down and all of the sites may load slower or become unavailable. So, it is efficient most of the time and can be terrible during the worst times.
This might be too technical for some people, but the highlight is that their storage (hard disks) are resistant to hard drive failures and are set up to be faster than web hosts with standard hard drives. For more information about Raid 10, check out their Wikipedia article.
They also use SSDs for the Operating System, WordPress files, and all of the files for your site. This is quite a bit different from other SSD-based web hosts that only use them for the Operating System and WordPress, but not your files and images.
You can create a free SSL certificate from Let's Encrypt and all of the plans with A2 will support it. Some of the other hosts in our study didn't support SSL until the higher priced plans.
This is one of the more unique features from the web hosts in our case study. They offer the standard 30-day money back guarantee like the other hosts, but they will also give you a pro-rated refund at any point no questions asked. This should make it a lot easier to try them out knowing you can walk away if you don't like it.
Cloudflare offers free CDN plans, but not all web hosting companies have easy integration. A2 has built-in Cloudflare support (the free and paid Cloudflare options) so you can easily set it up with your website. CDNs reduce the distance for certain visitors by caching your site contents in locations that are geographically closer.
A2 also offers free website scanning (other web hosts charge a small monthly fee for a similar service). The security system will scan your website for known vulnerabilities and hacks and let you know if it detects a problem so you can easily fix it or restore from a backup.
For those of you who need to have access to the actual operating system for your website, A2 offers free SSH access and wp-cli options so you can run your dev environment or develop WordPress themes or plugins easily.
1st Year $/mo
Make sure to take into account more than just the introductory price when making your decision. Most hosting companies have different rates depending on how many months you pay for up front and the renewal prices are usually much more expensive than the initial promotional offer. We've tried to break down the total cost for you so you can get a real understanding of the effect on your wallet.
The 3 and 5 year columns represent your total cost after that much time. The 1 year cost is what you will have to pay on day 1.
1 Year Cost
3 Year Cost
5 Year Cost
*A2 Web Hosting only offers 2 years up front.
1 Year Cost
3 Year Cost
5 Year Cost
Their budget plan is aimed at small blogs and websites that are just getting started. The Lite plan doesn't have any of the performance enhancements found in the higher priced plans and the 1 CPU core and 1/2 GB memory will be able to run websites that handle hundreds of visitors a month without a problem.
This is the first plan that comes with A2's Server Rewind function that allows you to automatically restore a previous version of your website if something happens.
The extra server resources will help you handle more traffic as well. With 2 cores you will be able to run a WordPress (PHP) thread as well as a database thread at the same time so your website should be able to handle traffic in the 10,000 visitors a month range.
The most expensive shared hosting plan from A2 starts to include their performance optimized services.
Their TurboServer (the specific type of server where these accounts are hosted) is a variant of apache that uses a PHP cache as well as optional page caching and memcache to reduce the load on the server and allow it to handle more traffic with the same cpu/memory. This is why there isn't a large jump in the hardware with this plan.
This high powered plan also includes Cloudflare's Railgun service which compresses your website to allow faster propagation of your site to Cloudflare's CDNs. This is normally an extra $1/mo.
Finally, your website will have access to the SPDY and HTTP/2 protocols (new iterations of the HTTP protocol) that will decrease page load time for supported browsers.
The jump between promotional price and renewal price is quite large. Make sure you understand your total cost over a multi-year period before making your purchase so you aren't surprised later. The cost may be worth it, but it is better to be prepared than surprised and confused.
Other web hosts just put you in a queue when all of the agents are busy, but I didn't have that option here. I will try again later to see if I can get some from LiveChat.