A2 Hosting Review: Everything Your Small Business Needs
In this A2 hosting review, we will cover everything from the basics to the small (but important) details. Whether you’re a complete newbie at this website ownership thing is irrelevant. But, fair warning:
I am trying to make this article as accessible and easy to understand as possible.
A2 Hosting is not nearly as popular as other hosting options. Still, I found it to be a great option for small business websites. The only problem? All the reviews and articles you find online are loaded with terms and technical lingo. It gets overwhelming very fast.
When people are overwhelmed, they tend to make the easiest, as opposed to the best choice. So this article will be mostly targeted at small business owners, the type of people that don’t really have years of experience with computers and technology.
If you’re a bit more knowledgable about the whole thing, feel free to skip ahead to after my explanations.
With that disclaimer in mind, let’s jump straight into it!
What Is Hosting?
Say you have a bakery. You want to create a website for the said bakery. Maybe you want to include a landing page, a page with your menu, any news, perhaps also one that lets people contact you and make orders. Your website will include information – pictures of your menu items, a map of your location, the text, etc.
This information is stored on the site files. They are the photographs, the text, and the music. They are also .php files or .html files that say what the site will look like or tell the server to do a series of actions.
A hosting service gives a place for your files to reside.
Why can’t I just store them on my own computer?
Well, technically, you can but it will be expensive and complicated. You would need a dedicated high-speed Internet connection. At the low end, this starts at around $200, while a super high-speed T1 line (needed for larger, high traffic websites) will set you back thousands of dollars every month.
Once you have that covered, you would also have to connect a powerful computer to this. Remember, this is the machine that will be storing all the information on your website and giving it to browsers to use. A lot of factors determine how fast and unproblematic your website will be but the processor, memory, and hard disk of your Web server (the machine that stores the files) are a major factor.
This is not all. You would also need to set up a server program. That is software, which “serves” the files to browsers like Google Chrome, Mozilla, Internet Explorer, whatever you might be using to access the internet. The most popular server program is actually free but it’s notoriously hard to configure properly.
To that end, you would also need to hire a Webmaster, who knows both the hardware and software that goes into hosting a site. People are using the Internet 24/7. If you want your website to run smoothly, Webmasters should be looking out for it round-the-clock.
Bottom line: You need a powerful computer, high-speed internet, and a bunch of smart, tech-savy people to host your site. Unless you are Facebook (or some other huge website), it’s easier and cheaper to hire that service. And that is what web hosting is.
If you want to have a functioning website, you need a hosting service to store your files and “serve” them to browsers. There are many companies that offer this and A2 is one of the better ones. But before we get into that, let’s clear a common question that people ask right after ‘So… what is hosting?’
Hosting Vs Domain Name
New website owners become confused by this question. You can think of the domain name as a phone number. It’s what people use to access the site. But if the phone is disconnected, it wouldn’t serve too much. The hosting service contains the ‘essence’ of the site. The domain name is a means to access that essence.
So Why Do I Pay For A Domain Name?
You don’t actually buy the domain name. Registrars own the names and you rent it from them.
Why do registrars own names?
Because you need to root the domain. Basically, there needs to be a computer that directs people to the right site. Without that computer, domain names would not be connected to their respective website files. A lot of hosting providers would also sell you a domain name but you could buy it from a separate company.
The point here is that you pay for a domain name because registrars need servers to direct people to the correct site. Server, in this case, means a computer. It’s like a telephone exchange. You used to have a person manually connecting calls. In this analogy, the server is like the phone operator (except, obviously, it’s a computer, not some lady connecting cords).
A2 Hosting Review: What Makes A Good Hosting Provider
So now you know what you need for a website:
- A place to store the files
- A domain name that points to those files
Side note: speaking of files, those are both the images/texts/music and instructional files like .php and .html. Content management systems (also known as “CMS”) manage those files (the digital content). WordPress is an example of a CMS and it can be easily integrated into A2 hosted sites.
You also know what a hosting provider gives you (for a monthly or yearly fee):
- Powerful computers that store your website files – known as servers
- Software that “serves” the files to browsers – confusingly, also known as a Web server
- 24/7 high-speed Internet so your website can be functional at all times
- Webmaster support for any issues that might come up
How do you know what a good hosting provider looks like?
The Magic Three
In my experience, there are only three things that really matter in web hosting:
- How fast your website will run
- Whether the hosting is reliable and will not crash often and for long
- How helpful the customer service is
There is a good reason for all three of these:
- Speed matters because if a page loads for more than 3 seconds, 50% of people abandon it. The speed of a website is crucial to its’ success, no matter what the website it.
- Reliability is important because it doesn’t help if your site is super fast for just 3 hours every day. The other 21 hours you are losing visitors.
- Customer service is crucial because problems will come up. I’m sorry to be a pessimist here but sooner or later, something will go wrong with your website. You need the people from the web hosting company to be responsive and efficient – the quicker you resolve the problem, the less you lose.
A2 Hosting Review: The Speed
This is A2’s major perk. They are not the cheapest hosting service out there, or the most ‘Internet famous’. They are, however, the fastest.
They have claimed that they’re 20x faster than their competitors.
Is it true?
I’m not going to run the tests to verify, but I will say that to the naked eye my niche sites hosted on A2 seem to be a bit quicker than the other hosting providers that I use.
In a world where major sites load in milliseconds, every fraction of the moment counts. People are impatient. No matter how cool your website is, they will not visit it unless it loads fast.
47% of visitors expect a website to load in under 2 seconds, and 40% will leave a website if the loading process takes more than 3 seconds!
Need more convincing? How about conversions?
Amazon found that a page load delay of 100 milliseconds decreases conversions by 1%.
Walmart ran the opposite experiment. They found that if a page loaded a tenth of a second faster, their incremental revenue increased by 1%.
You are losing money if your site doesn’t load fast enough.
A2 Hosting Review: Speed, Is The Hype Real?
Does A2 Hosting live up to the speed claims? In my experience, it definitely does. But let’s check out some people that actually measured it.
When hostingfacts.com did their A2 hosting review, they tested the average load times over a period of two months. Here is how that looked like:
- December 2017 average speed: 411ms
- January 2018 average speed: 371ms
- February 2018 average speed: 372ms
- March 2018 average speed: 390ms
- April 2018 average speed: 377ms
- May 2018 average speed: 395ms
- June 2018 average speed: 364ms
- July 2018 average speed: 344ms
- August 2018 average speed: 355ms
- September 2018 average speed: 385ms
This averages out to 376ms for the entire period. The industry average is 890ms. This is over 50% above the average!
What does that mean for your website? Well, if you host it on A2 Hosting, it will load faster than its’ competitors. If we are thinking in terms of conversions, that’s at least 5% more in revenue just by choosing the right hosting.
But the real perk here is how you will stack up to your competitors. If your page loads faster, people will prefer it. It’s an edge you can have over your competitors and in the long run that will make you more than a 5% increase in sales.
A2 Hosting is the fastest hosting service on the market. That has been tested out and they have been holding their #1 position for a long time now.
When it comes to speed, there is no better choice than A2. Now let’s talk about item numero dos on my magic three list.
A2 Hosting Review: The Quality
It doesn’t matter how fast your site runs if it crashes all the time!
This is measured in a bunch of different ways. The most important one, however, is ‘uptime’. Uptime is when the site is ‘up’, when it’s running. Downtime, on the other hand, is the time when your site can’t be accessed.
Uptime is a way measure to system reliability. It doesn’t just refer to web hosting. In the most general sense:
Uptime = time the system is working/time that it’s supposed to be working * 100%
In other words, it’s the percentage of time that your site is up and running!
Ideally, uptime should be 100%. When a company advertises 100% uptime, whether they are selling you a web hosting service, a cloud, or any other sort of system, you should be suspicious. While it should be technically possible, 100% uptime is mostly a marketing strategy.
For instance, ask yourself: should maintenance downtime be included in the calculation. After all, turning off the system and doing maintenance is important for the overall quality of the service. But it is techincally a period where the system is not working…
Anyway, you should still aim for web hosting providers that offer optimal uptime. That’s just common sense. The more reliable your website, the more visitors you get, the more conversions (if you are selling something).
How The A2 Hosting Quality Stacks Up
A2 has a 99.9% uptime commitment.
This is good enough for most small business websites. But what A2 is not telling you is what comes after that third 9.
I agree this is a bit geeky. At a 99.9% uptime and with the best speed on the market, your website will be pretty damn successful. But the fact is, A2 Hosting has a 10-month average of 99.91% uptime. This is below the industry average.
What does that percentage mean?
There are 438 290.639 minutes in ten months. If the site was functional 99.91% of the time, this means it worked a total of 437 896.177425 minutes.
In other words, the site was not functional for 394. 4615751 minutes over a period of ten months. If you divide that by month, it gives you around 39 minutes of downtime every month.
Of course, this is an average. A2 does seem to be improving the uptime on their websites. Right now, the uptime is not ideal. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend A2 hosting to everybody – if you’re running a very large site, those downtimes can really add up and you would be losing money.
When it comes to smaller websites, however, the downtime is negligible. It’s something I would definitely sacrifice for the perfect loading time that A2 Hosting has.
A2 Hosting Review: Customer Service Quality
The third factor when it comes to the best web hosting provider is customer service. I could not overstate the importance of this one. Sure, you might think speed and quality come first but really, they all work together. When you’re choosing the right hosting service, you want the best balance between the three.
Because problems always come up!
Sure, that’s not what you want to hear but it is what will happen. So how good is the customer service that A2 provides? Pretty damn great.
Their support team is quick, efficient, and they are based in the US. I get the tendency to outsource customer service to places where labour is cheaper. When it comes to your website, though, I would definitely prefer a US-based call centre. They speak your language and they are qualified enough to help you quickly.
Both of those are crucial to customer service being actually helpful.
The customer support are available 24/7 (you should expect no less from a hosting provider). You can find them on the phone, through email or instant chat, or you can submit a ticket directly. All of those work fast and will have your website back up and running in no time.
A2 Hosting have held a perfect A+ score on BBB for over 15 years now. A huge part of that is on the customer support team.
A2 Hosting Is Compatible With Common Content Management Systems (CMS)
Remember what I told you about owning a site? You need files, a place to store the files, and a domain to point people in the right direction. Digital content is managed through CMS’s. A2 is perfectly compatible will all the popular content management systems.
This includes WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, OpenCart, Magento and much more.
WordPress now power 30% of all sites on the Internet. I am guessing that is what you’ll be using. A2 hosting has a fuss-free set up for WordPress sites. It literally requires just one click.
Depending on the package you choose, you can get the A2 Optimized WordPress plugin pre-installed.
What is A2 Optimized?
Here is how they described it:
A2 Optimized is designed to make it quick and easy to speed up and secure your website by installing and configuring several well known, stable plugins with the click of a few buttons.
It does some magic for you and your website comes out safer and faster. Speaking of safe…
A2 Hosting Protects You From Hackers
No, hackers don’t just exist in tacky Hollywood movies. The bigger and more successful your website, the more enticing it will be for the bad guys of the Internet. Website safety is a must, especially if you are handling money or sensitive information.
A2 provides HackScan which offers a few different levels of protection&
- Dual web hosting firewall
- Virus scanning
- Round-the-clock security monitoring
- Brute force defence.
They come pre-installed and you don’t need to be a pro at technical maintenance and computer safety to use them. A2 is taking this extra step and, to me, that really boosts their points in the quality of hosting domain.
You also get the Cloudflare Content Delivery Network (CDN) for free. And the next logical question is:
What The F**k Is CDN
Think of the Cloudflare Content Delivery Network as your friend who always knows how to avoid traffic. Essentially, they take the visitors to your site through the fastest path (a.k.a. the path with the least resistance). This means traffic flows and your visitors will get even faster loading speeds and more uptime.
But even better, Cloudflare CDN also blocks malicious threats, so you get three things for the price of one:
And when I’m saying ‘for the price of one’, I really mean for free. Yup, your A2 hosting membership already includes Cloudflare CDN.
A2 Hosting Review: The Price Breakdown
The cheapest plan on A2 is Lite, advertised at $3.92 per month. You would have to sign up for 36 months to take advantage of that price and it comes with a few limitations.
Personally, I think the Turbo is a much better investment. For starters, you get unlimited websites and databases (which is not the case for cheaper plans). While the Lite plan is still faster than A2’s competitors, Turbo takes it to the next level. It really is a turbo speed, pun completely intended
The Turbo will set you back $9.31 per month.
Why The Turbo Is Faster
The Turbo servers come with 256 MB of APC memory. If you are new to this, APC memory doesn’t really mean a lot. When it comes to speed, though, it will make all the difference.
APC stands for Alternative PHP Cache and it is one of the best ways to speed up your PHP applications.
And the next question is…come again?
PHP is a programming language. Web applications are written in PHP. These are chunks of code that tell your computer (or, more accurately, the computer of your website’s visitor) to do a certain thing. A server (the program, not the computer) has to execute those things. They are a series of actions that allow your website to have an in-built application. Anything from login to adding comments, to much more complicated functions can come in PHP.
But here is the thing with PHP:
This means that the code is compiled into bytecode (the actual language that the computer understands) every time the function has to happen. APC offers an alternative to that. Instead of “translating” the PHP into bytecode every single time, the bytecode is stored and reused.
The APC memory is the place where that bytecode lives. And 265MB of APC memory is more than enough to significantly improve your website’s speed.
A2 Hosting is fast. If you want to take it to the next level, the Turbo option is the fastest.
A2 Hosting Review: In Conclusion
Even though A2 is not the cheapest option on the market, it’s a matter of getting what you pay for. You will not find a web hosting service with better speed. Even with the slipping uptimes, this is still the best option for your small business website.
Faster is better. That’s why this A2 hosting review will end in a definite:
Besides, they have a 30-day money-back guarantee. You can get a taste for it yourself at zero risk.