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A2 Hosting Review – Our Second Favorite Canadian Web Host
The cloud computing landscape is a crowded place. Everywhere you look, there’s a new company popping up and offering to host your website at a lower cost, but with faster speeds and higher reliability…
…The question is, can you trust them?
That’s where we come in – we spent the last year, and a good part of 2017, analyzing web hosts from different locations all across over Canada. We crunched the data and compiled our results to pick our favorite ones. One of our top picks is a little hosting company called A2 Hosting, which doesn’t have a huge reputation but still offers great value for money. In fact, it compares pretty well to our top hosting pick, SiteGround.
A2 Hosting has actually been around for a long time. The company started in 2001 by CEO Bryan Muthig, a former Unix SysAdmin. This was back in the earrrrly days of the internet, and has remained an independently owned company since that time. It came about as a hobby project from a single systems administrator and has now grown into a high-powered hosting solution for clients of all sizes.
A2 Hosting’s cloud platform runs on a set of three large data centers, located in Michigan, Amsterdam, and Singapore. Given the closeness to Canada, we’ve run the bulk of our testing through the Michigan data center. We’ve launched over 50 web projects on A2 Hosting infrastructure in order to run and measure the tests for this review.
How Fast is A2 Hosting?
There’s no denying that A2 Hosting offers some of the fastest speeds on the internet today. According to their website, the average performance of their platform is up to 17.6 times that of their top competitors. Verifying that exact claim is challenging, but in the tests performed by Hosting Canada, we rated A2 Hosting’s performance to be incredibly fast.
And when it comes to gaining visibility on the internet, either for small blogs or small business websites, speed is perhaps the most critical factor. If your webpages don’t load fast enough, visitors will be inclined to close their browser tab and move onto a different option. Maintaining high performance on your cloud systems will ensure you keep your users happy.
As we mentioned, our speed tests with A2 Hosting performed quite well compared to other competition. When running new web projects through their Michigan data center, the average response time came in at a lightning 222 ms. This measures the the exact time that it takes for the server to receive a request from a user’s browser and deliver the required HTML content back to the user. Such fast speeds put A2 Hosting in the same category of top web hosting services like SiteGround.
Best of all, A2 Hosting’s response time results were consistent across all our testing locations, which included the major Canadian cities of Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, and Winnipeg.
How is A2 Hosting So Fast?
You might be wondering what exactly our speed test results mean, and how can A2 Hosting jump so far ahead of so many competitors, especially considering they are still a relatively small operation.
The answer is in the architecture of their platform, which takes advantage of efficiencies that benefit their customers directly.
First off, there’s the concept of Shared Hosting Resources. All cloud companies either own or rent space with massive data centers, and within these locations are physical pieces of hardware like CPU’s, hard drives, and networking equipment. Together they form a platform which can be split into different entities known as virtual machines.
When you, as a cloud customer, choose to host a web project with a provider, you are actually renting computer power from one of those virtual machines. This means that your data may actually be living side by side to other information owned by individuals or companies.
By forcing customers to share these cloud resources, a provider can save money for themselves while risking decreased performance and reliability for their customers. But in the case of A2 Hosting, they don’t cut corners when it comes to Shared Hosting Resources.
Instead of merging data together as much as possible onto the same hardware, they maintain a low ratio of servers to customers. This means that your virtual machine is shared among fewer people and keeps more computing and network power for itself. Hence the company’s claim about being 20 times faster than other hosting options.
In addition, A2 Hosting makes use of the latest Content Distribution Networks (CDN) technology and the power of caching. What this means is that A2 Hosting can leverage the network between their three data centers in the United States, Europe, and Asia in order to serve their customers as quickly as possible.
When we run our own tests from within the Canadian border, we logically connect to A2 Hosting’s servers in Michigan, since they are the closest to us in terms of physical proximity.
But, since you want your website to be fast from anywhere around the world, A2 Hosting will track where your visitors are located and connect them to the closest data center, ensuring the webpage loads as quickly as possible.
Caching also saves time when working on cloud environments. If data on your website is not constantly changing or updating, then A2 Hosting can make use of caching and routinely send visitors to a stored copy of your content. On a regular basis, they will check with the virtual machine to see if new data needs to be displayed or changed.
Our historical data on A2 Hosting’s performance goes back several months, and you can find the average pageload times from 2018 below:
- May average speed: 209ms
- April average speed: 218ms
- March average speed: 199ms
- February average speed: 211ms
- January average speed: 224ms
- December average speed: 276ms
Overall, really strong performance.
Speed is critical for a web hosting company, but it loses its value as a selling feature if the platform isn’t consistently stable. What we’re talking about here is the idea of uptime.
Uptime is used to describe the percentage of time that a website is available and working for external visitors. The opposite is called downtime, which measures the amount of time the site is down and unavailable.
If your website is tied to your business or another professional endeavor, uptime should matter a lot to you. Even minutes of downtime can be extremely costly and hurt your reputation among users and visitors. With the speeds of today’s modern internet, people have little patience for slow or unresponsive sites.
So can you count on A2 Hosting when it comes to stability and reliability? Hosting Canada says yes, based on our months of testing within their US data center. Uptime is calculated as a percentage of hours available divided by total hours. No server can realistically obtain 100% uptime, but rates over 99% indicate strong performance.
Our A2 Hosting tests averaged uptime of 99.8%, meaning their servers were down or unavailable for only .2% of the time. That amounts to a mere 17.5 hours over the course of an entire year. That means in terms of uptime, A2 Hosting’s only real competition is our other favorite host, SiteGround.
Here is the historical data on A2 Hosting’s uptime performance:
- May uptime: 99.9%
- April uptime: 99.9%
- March uptime: 99.98%
- February uptime: 99.96%
- January uptime: 99.99%
- December uptime: 98.92%
As you can see, A2 Hosting’s servers are reliable year-round, even through the brutal Canadian winter.
A2 Hosting Support Review
Most cloud hosting companies offer some level of technical support to paying customers, but that can vary greatly and often be rather lackluster. More and more providers are relying on knowledge bases and text bots to answer questions rather than actual humans.
A2 Hosting is different though, as they offer live help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can get in touch with representatives directly over the phone or in online chat. They also accept questions over email, which feed directly into their support ticketing system. Here’s a screenshot of what their chat system looks like:
A2 Hosting also provides their customers with a number of extra features to help make your website even better and more secure. These are all free and come with any of A2 Hosting’s plan options. Consider them to be another incentive for ditching your current web host and switching.
For starters, they give their customers free security and hack prevention, and that’s especially important if you are running a lot of web plugins or want to host a WordPress site. They use a system called “HackScan Protection” to constantly monitor the security of your account and keep intruders out.
Along with that comes a free SSL certificate, which will make all of the connections between A2 Hosting’s servers and your users fully encrypted. SSL certificates can cost companies a lot on a yearly basis, but A2 Hosting uses the Let’s Encrypt system and makes it all free to you. Having an SSL certificate is crucial for any small business that plans to makes sales over the internet or store user’s private information.
Chances are, you may have a website already hosted elsewhere but are interested in moving it to a better platform like what A2 Hosting can offer. No problem, because A2 Hosting offers free migration help to get all of your files and web configuration moved over to their cloud servers. In addition, they’ll turn on automatic backups to reduce your risk and help you recover from data loss.
A2 Hosting Packages – Which is the Right One for You?
On average, A2 Hosting’s prices are slightly higher than what you’ll find from other companies.
But we believe it’s worth it – they offer good value for money, especially since you can pick between packages and choose the plan that works best for your budget.
Here’s an overview of their package pricing:
A2 Hosting offers three plan types: Lite, Swift, and Turbo. The Lite plan is good for small projects or hobby websites, as it works with a single domain and includes limited database and email usage.
By upgrading to the Swift option, you get unlimited databases and can manage however many email accounts you want with your domains. The Turbo plan is aimed at small businesses, as it includes a site accelerator to help make your domains up to 20 times faster.
A2 Hosting has options for virtual private server (VPS) hosting. With a VPS subscription, you will gain full access to an entire computing environment on a virtualized platform. This can be critical for larger businesses who need to run their own software and make complex configuration changes for their web projects.
Keep in mind that A2 Hosting offers a 30-day, no-hassle, full refund policy:
“If a request is submitted online for immediate cancellation within the first 30 days, a full refund will be issued.”
This, to be honest, is unheard of in the hosting space, which is known for sneaky re-bills and trying to keep customers “on the hook”.
How to Sign Up for A2 Hosting
Canadian customers can launch an A2 Hosting account right from their website.
The signup process is fairly easy with no hidden fees or other tricks. They also support a range of monthly payment options, including credit card, PayPal, money order, or bank transfer.
A2 Hosting also often runs special deals or sales, which you can lock in at a monthly rate for a full year.
Once your A2 Hosting account has been opened, you can launch your new project with a single click. If you want to bring over data from another platform, they’ll help with that, or you can start from scratch and use their web design tools.
A2 Hosting guarantees that your site will be available with over 99% uptime, and if you are unsatisfied or they don’t hit that uptime number, you get your money back.
To sum things up, we’ve found A2 Hosting to be a quality company that offers reliable, strong performance and support.
When it comes to picking a web host, we’ve found them to be a great choice for Canadian users, no matter where you are located in the country.
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