Tsohost

Tsohost is an interesting UK-based web hosting company which is now owned by Paragon Internet Group, the power behind brands including MrSite, Vidahost and WebFaction.

We browsed Tsohost's plans and quickly noticed something very unusual: even the most expensive have limits on web space, bandwidth and the number of sites you can host.

Is this a problem? Well, the Lite plan only offers 500MB web space and 5GB bandwidth per month. That sounds poor, but it could be enough for, say, 200 x 2MB web pages. 1,000 visitors a month viewing two pages each would use only 4GB, giving you some spare capacity for email. That could easily be enough for a simple personal or business site, and it's fairly priced at £12.49 ($15.60) a year plus tax (that's not a ‘special’ deal – it's the regular cost).

What's interesting about Tsohost is that it doesn't cripple the plan in other ways. You get 10 mailboxes, three databases, plus it's even possible to host two sites on the same account. Professional features include one-click installs, optional cPanel access, free daily backup and free Let's Encrypt SSL certificates. The company offers a free service to migrate your site from an existing provider, too.

The £2.49 ($3.10) a month Standard plan bumps up all these limits, in particular giving you 2.5GB web space, 20GB bandwidth and 25 mailboxes.

The £4.16 ($5.20) a month Professional plan gets you 10GB web space and 150GB bandwidth. The Ultimate account jumps up to 100GB web space, 1TB bandwidth and support for 100 websites, but the price is also much higher at £16.66 ($21) a month.

Tsohost offers managed VPS from £33 ($41) a month and managed dedicated servers from £249 ($310) a month. The hardware is well-specified, and if you need the reliability of a managed product it could be a smart choice.

The company offers a 60-day money-back guarantee on all its shared hosting packages. That's better than most, but it's not entirely unconditional. The small print says: "If you are dissatisfied for any reason at all then just let us know why and if we can't help, we'll issue a full hosting refund." What if the issue isn't with the service, and for instance you don't need the account anymore? Strictly speaking, that's not covered. Tsohost might refund you anyway – but it would be up to the firm to make that call.

Account setup

Tsohost has four major shared hosting plans and plenty of features to describe, but the website presents them well. A comparison table opens with the key features only, so there’s no need for scrolling at all. If you need to know more, the page displays a number of categories – Email, Domain, 1-Click Apps, Support – and clicking any of these displays related features.

There's another option to consider. Tsohost offers ‘cloud web hosting’ using its own cloud architecture and custom web management console, or you can choose a regular cPanel account for the same price. The company says the cloud solution is technically superior, but if you're familiar with cPanel that may tip the balance the other way. It's your call.

Pricing is unusually straightforward. The headline price for the Standard cloud hosting account is displayed as £2.99 ($3.80) a month, for instance. With some hosts you'll only get that deal if you pay for three years upfront, and you might have to add tax and a setup fee. With Tsohost, it's the actual price you pay, including tax. To be clear: you really can get a month's hosting for £2.99, including VAT.

The company doesn't even set up your account to auto-renew. Choose the £2.99 account, you'll pay that initially, and Tshost then issues you another £2.99 invoice with a ‘due date’ of one month later. You only pay when you're happy to do so, and there's even a seven-day grace period if you forget. (You can set this up later to auto-renew if you prefer.)

Select a plan and the rest of the signup process is fairly routine. Enter your contact details, choose your payment method (card, PayPal, BACS) and enter your details as usual. The Tsohost site gives you an order number when you're done, sends a flurry of emails acknowledging the new account and payment, and provides a link to the client area.

Creating a site

Tsohost's customer portal seems to be based around WHCMS, and that's just fine with us. It's a polished and professional system which makes it easy to find all the areas of the service you need, while also minimising the usual clutter.

If you've purchased cPanel hosting then you'll be able to access a standard console in a click or two. This has all the email, FTP, database, user and other modules you might require to set up your domain and upload the site.

Buy Tsohost's cloud hosting and you're taken to the Cloud Dashboard, a simple starter panel where you're able to add and manage websites, parked domains and domain aliases. 

Try adding a domain and you're given an exceptional level of control over the hosting platform. We were offered Linux, Windows 2003 (Legacy), Windows 2012/.NET 4.5, Hybrid Hosting (Linux Bias) and Hybrid Hosting (Windows Bias), or you can temporarily point the domain at a parking page. (Hybrid Hosting enables using both Linux and Windows on your account, so for instance you're able to manage PHP and ASP websites from the same control panel.)

Tsohost's cloud hosting sites are managed from the company's own control panel. This looks a little like cPanel, with similar small icons and module names. There aren't as many functions, but they're better organised and cover everything most people will need: email, FTP, subdomains, redirects, stats, MySQL, PHP, SSH, SSL, Cron jobs, DNS and more.

The individual functions score highly on functionality and ease of use. We clicked Email Accounts and found options to create mailboxes, aliases and forwarders, as well as all the details needed to set up clicks (host names, ports, security settings and more).

The File Manager also looks great, more like a client application than the usual browser-based view. It opens at public_html by default, displays your files as icons, and supports copy and paste operations. The last 30 days of backups are conveniently available from the same view, so if you need to recover one or two files, you may be able to paste them back into place in a few seconds.

The system doesn't quite work everywhere. Try setting file permissions in cPanel and you're able to check individual Read/Write/Execute boxes; Tsohost just asks for the value (644, 600, whatever), and you'll need to calculate it yourself. But the console works well in most situations, and if it doesn't suit your needs, bear in mind that Tsohost supports cPanel, too.

Tsohost's major site building feature is an Install Applications module for the easy setup of some popular apps. This doesn't support as many applications as Softaculous – just 28 rather than hundreds – but it covers most of the big names: WordPress, Coppermine, CubeCart, Dokuwiki, Drupal, Joomla, Magento, MediaWiki, MyBB, OpenCart, osCommerce, phpBB, PrestaShop, SugarCRM, Zen Cart and more.

Tsohost's installer is easier to use than the competition, too. For example, select WordPress, optionally enter a path, tap Install and the system installs WordPress for you.

The company also provides access to a template-based SiteBuilder. This is easy enough to use, but you can only create a single page site for free, and the commercial versions are relatively expensive: a Personal Plan is £5 ($6.25) a month, with the Business Plan giving you e-commerce features and more templates for £12 ($15) a month.

Performance

Checking out a web host's support system can tell you a lot about the rest of the company and the level of service you'll get. That's why we take time in every review to test the various support methods, in order to find out how they perform.

Tsohost's web knowledgebase looks good, organising a wide range of articles into categories like Getting Started, cPanel Hosting and SSL Certificates. Unfortunately, the top-level articles aren't necessarily the ones you'll need, and although you can expand folders to look at subcategories, this quickly gets confusing.

The knowledgebase also offers a regular search box, and that is vastly more effective. We ran a search on ‘import WordPress’ and got multiple relevant results. These weren't always as smartly ordered as we'd like, mostly because the system supports fuzzy searching, so for instance the first hit was: "Why was it important to keep WordPress up to date?" But this can work in your favour, too – we searched for ‘transfer wordpresd’ and despite the intentional typo, the service still gave us WordPress-related articles.

The content isn't always as comprehensive as we'd like. We've searched for ‘permissions’ on some hosts and top of the results list is an explanation of file and folder permissions. Here the top article is ‘Can anyone else access my account?’, and the only references are very peripheral (searching for ‘CHMOD’ also returns just the one article).

We further noticed that some searches gave us hits for Tsohost's cloud platform, but not cPanel (‘PHP version’). Others had video tutorials only, which may not appeal to everyone. It's still a better support system than most, especially with the search engine and the overall presentation, but we have seen more detailed content available elsewhere.

Tsohost offers support by tickets, too. This is easily accessed from the customer portal, with an Open Ticket option on the menu and a My Tickets area to list all your current issues, including live chat history (you can also send an email to [email protected] from anywhere). 

We raised a ticket posing a technical question about the cloud hosting File Manager. We waited approaching six hours for a response, but that might partly have been because it was a general query rather than anything urgent, and the reply we received was clear and to the point.

The company provides UK-based phone support from 7:00 in the morning to midnight, not quite 24/7 but probably good enough for most customers. We called and spent six minutes on hold, but it was early afternoon, possibly a peak time, and when we reached an agent they answered our product questions without difficulty.

Live chat is available from 9:00 to 20:00, so we tried a couple of queries. Asking ‘do you have a SiteBuilder’ product resulted in the answer ‘not any more’, which is odd, as there was one in our console. But there could be an innocuous explanation – maybe they're not marketing it anymore – and a second more technical question received a speedy and accurate answer.

As ever, we rounded off our tests by using Bitcatcha and some other tools to benchmark our server. Its performance turned out to be unremarkable in every way – decent speeds from the UK, acceptable from the US, average everywhere else – but it's what we'd expect from a budget shared hosting plan, and just fine for most purposes.

Final verdict

This is a capable web host with some feature-packed, versatile and honestly priced plans. Worth a look for beginners and experts alike, especially if you need a UK provider.

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