A2 Hosting Review – Affordable and Fast WordPress Hosting

Today I am going to be diving into A2 Hosting. These guys have been around for a long time, for over 15 years in fact! So they definitely know their way around the hosting world. I have seen their advertising forever, and never got around to personally trying them out. I never trust other people’s reviews. So today is the day. Check out the details below in my A2 Hosting review, and see if they might make a good fit for your WordPress site.

I am using my test domain, https://wpdev.website in this review to run all the tests.

A2 Hosting Features

A2 Hosting, originally founded in 2001, has data centers located in the United States (Michigan), Europe (Amsterdam), and Asia (Singapore). They are privately owned, not by EIG, so this is a big plus! For those of you who don’t know, BlueHost, HostGator, and a bunch of other hosts are owned by EIG. You will never find me recommending them here on this blog. Why? Because they have a reputation for horrible support and I have migrated many people away from them due to horrible performance.

Many affiliate marketers make a killing off of BlueHost, and in reality they don’t even use them. That is a huge pet peeve of mine. If you want good hosting, you need to spend a little bit of money. These penny ads for HostGator, which I’m sure some of you have seen, are ridiculous. The way these hosts actually make their money are on up-sales and add-ons, such as domain sales, SSL certs, etc. If you don’t have money to spend, it means you should probably just use the free WordPress.com solution until you are at a point where you can.

A2 Hosting offers a variety of different hosting packages on their SwiftServer platform:

  • Shared Hosting (Linux and Windows)
  • VPS Hosting (Unmanaged and Managed plans)
  • Reseller Hosting
  • Cloud Hosting
  • Dedicated Hosting (Unmanaged and Managed plans)

a2 hosting wordpress hosting

Today I am going to be testing their “Turbo” shared hosting plan which starts at under $10.00 a month. This includes the following, which is typical for most shared hosts:

  • Unlimited websites, databases, storage, transfer. (as we know, unlimited you should take with a grain of salt, but that is not really a big deal)
  • Unlimited websites and domains
  • Cpanel
  • 24×7365 Support
  • Money back guarantee
  • 99.9% uptime
  • WP-CLI
  • Your choice of PHP 5.6 or 7

But the main reason I was wanting to test their “Turbo” plan is because it includes a few additional performance options and features, such as Turbo, A2 Optimized, HTTP/2, and Server Rewind. Something I really wanted to see on a share server plan. This sets them apart from some other shared hosts in the same price range.

Turbo Feature

Their “Turbo” servers provide a drop-in Apache replacement that according to them load pages up to 20X faster page loads compared to standard hosting. This is due to fewer users per server and they have their own PHP API that provides speed improvements over FastCGI and PHP-FPM. APC (Alternate PHP cache) is also enabled by default and have more physical and virtual memory than the other plans.

A2 Optimized

Another feature on the “Turbo” plan is that it includes the A2 Optimized site accelerator, which is a cPanel plugin providing pre-configured caching for your applications from a single interface for even faster page loads. Caching options include:

  • Turbo Cache – The entire HTML contents of a page is stored by Turbo Cache and served without running PHP. PHP is one of the biggest slow points of WordPress.
  • OPcache/APC – Tests show OPcache can cut PHP page response time in half.
  • Memcached – Increases the speed of your MySQL databases by keeping your most important data in memory for quicker retrieval.

HTTP/2

Their “Turbo” plan also includes HTTP/2, whereas the cheaper plans don’t. HTTP/2 is a protocol update to HTTP/1.1 which works when you are running over HTTPS on servers that support it. With Google pushing for HTTPS everywhere and starting to show warnings for sites that aren’t secured, I highly recommend that everyone migrate to HTTPS and ensure you use a host that is HTTP/2 compatible.

a2 hosting http/2

HTTP/2 enabled on A2 Hosting

Benefits of HTTP/2 include:

  • HPACK compression and Huffman encoding which decreases the size of your headers by over 30%.
  • It is fully multiplexed, instead of ordered and blocking.
  • It can use one connection for parallelism.
  • It allows servers to “push” responses proactively into client caches instead of waiting for a new request for each resource.

To put it simple, websites running over HTTPS on servers that support HTTP/2 will load faster guaranteed!

Server Rewind

Server rewind is also a great feature of the “Turbo” plan. By default, A2 Hosting plans include offsite backup. But with server rewind, you can easily restore your data from saved snapshots right from the cPanel dashboard.

a2 hosting server rewind

A2 Hosting Server Rewind feature

This is similiar to what you see with automatic backups from higher-end managed WordPress hosts. Note: Complimentary backups are provided for accounts up to 50 gigabytes on a best effort basis. Each weekday backup is kept for 7 days, each Sunday is kept for a month.

Getting Started

Getting started with A2 Hosting is super simple. Simply head over to the WordPress hosting page and choose a plan. In my testing I am using the Turbo plan on the right. If you use the coupon code: WOORKUP at checkout you can get 51% off on your first term! Note: To get the $9.31 price you will need to pay annually.

a2 hosting plans

After getting your account setup, you can take advantage of a free SSL certificate with Let’s Encrypt. Simply open up a quick ticket and they will get it installed for you in no time. You will need to have your domain (DNS) pointed to them for this to work.

let's encrypt certificate

You will get access to the latest version of cPanel. I’m not a big fan of this, but it has been a while since I used a host with cPanel. The new version isn’t too bad. Some improvements have definitely been made.

a2 hosting cpanel

The first thing I did was go down under Software and click into “Select PHP Version.”

select php version

By default it was running PHP 5.5. PHP 7 has dramatic speed improvements so I select that and click on “Set as current” and “Save.”

php 7

Now we are ready to do some performance testing.

A2 Hosting Performance

I am using my test domain, https://wpdev.website in this review to run all the tests. It is running WordPress 4.7 with the default Twenty Seventeen theme. All I care about is really squeezing as much performance out of a base install as possible. By default, these were the plugins installed by default with the A2 Hosting Turbo plan. You have the A2 Optimize WP plugin, Clef, EWWW Image Optimizer, Rename wp-login.php, and W3 Total Cache.

a2 hosting default plugins

I installed a few additional free plugins that I always install on my sites:

  • Disable Emojis: This disables the emojis script (wp-emoji-release.min.js) from running, an unnecessary JavaScript file.
  • Disable Embeds: This disables the embeds script (wp-embed.min.js) from running, an unnecessary JavaScript file.

For full page caching to work in the W3 Total Cache plugin I had to enable URL rewrite functionality. To do this, download your .htaccess file via FTP and add the following to the very top.

<IfModule LiteSpeed>
 CacheEnable public
 RewriteEngine On
 RewriteCond %{REQUEST_METHOD} ^GET|HEAD$
 RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^example.com [NC]
 RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} !login|admin|register|post|cron
 RewriteCond %{QUERY_STRING} !nocache
 RewriteRule .* - [E=Cache-Control:max-age=300]
</IfModule>

I then ran 5 tests via Pingdom and this was the average. 477 ms, pretty impressive for a shared host.

However, by default Memcached and TurboCache are not enabled. So in cPanel under the Advanced category I click into “A2 Optimized.”

a2 optimized

I first enable Memached. Memcached is a highly effective caching daemon, which was specifically designed to decrease database load in dynamic web applications. Note, this requires the W3 Total Cache plugin running for it to work.

enable memcached

I then enable TurboCache. TurboCache is a caching system at the web server level. The first time a page is requested: a static copy of the html to display the page is stored on the server. Subsequent requests to pages that have been cached are served from the copy instead of running the scripts and database queries over and over again.  Running a static cache like TurboCache is one of the best ways to boost the performance of your site.

enable turbocache

I then ran 5 tests again on Pingdom and took the average. We are now down to under 450 ms which is great!

optimized a2 hosting speed test

But I have never been a fan of the W3 Total cache plugin. So I decided to use what I recommend for others that need a caching plugin. And that is the free Cache Enabler plugin by the team over at KeyCDN. So I disabled the W3 Total Cache plugin and enabled Cache Enabler. I then ran 5 tests again on Pingdom and took the average. And what do you know? It was even faster! And Cache Enabler is pretty much a one-click install with almost no configuration necessary.

a2 hosting cache enabler

One slight issue in Pingdom I was getting was a query string error.

remove query strings

To fix this I simply install the free Query Strings Remover plugin. That leaves me with a 99 score on Pingdom.  The last point is caused by a Google fonts “leverage browser caching” issue, which I would have to host locally on the server if I wanted to fix.

99 score pingdom a2 hosting

Also, since the A2 Hosting server was located in Colorado, and the Pingdom testing center is in Texas, I was curious if I could speed the site up even more. So I installed the free CDN enabler plugin and got KeyCDN up and going. You can check out my tutorial on how to get KeyCDN setup. I then ran 5 tests again on Pingdom and took the average. And what do you know? Even faster yet. Under the 360 ms mark.

a2 hosting and CDN

So my best recommendation would be to combine A2 Hosting with a CDN. You could even use Cloudflare (free) if you don’t want to pay for one. I prefer KeyCDN myself. But as you can see, A2 Hosting + CDN equals a pretty fast base setup! I was pretty impressed to say the least.

Uptime

I have not had much time to test this, but so far A2 Hosting has had a 100% uptime. This is over a 60 day period.

a2 hosting uptime

Support

I didn’t need much from their support, but I wanted to test how quick their first response was to a support chat. I opened a chat on 01.24.17 at 1am and one on 01.25.17 at 6pm. Both were answered in under 1 minute. So pretty fast!

a2 hosting support

Summary

All in all, I was very impressed with A2 Hosting. If you are needing an affordable host that delivers speed, I do recommend adding them to your list as a possibility. They are still privately owned, have HTTP/2 support, free SSL with Let’s Encrypt, and the latest version of PHP 7. If you use the coupon code: WOORKUP at checkout you can get 51% off on your first term!

Visit A2 Hosting

If this A2 Hosting review was helpful, pleas let me know below. Thanks!

GET MORE STUFF LIKE THIS

Marketing, WordPress, Blogging Tips, SEO and Reviews, once a week.

6 Comments

  1. Kory January 26, 2017
    • Brian Jackson January 26, 2017
      • Ahmed Nagdy January 26, 2017
  2. Jonathan Ridehalgh March 8, 2017
    • Brian Jackson March 8, 2017
  3. Sufyan March 21, 2017

Add Comment

7 Shares
Tweet
Share
Share
Buffer