TMDHosting may not have the highest of hosting profiles, but spend a few moments scanning the website and there seems to be a lot to like.
The company has more than ten years of hosting experience, for instance.
An extensive product range covers shared and cloud hosting, managed WordPress, VPS, dedicated servers, WHM reseller hosting, and more.
TMDHosting has an impressive set of hosting locations spread across six countries, including America, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Singapore. Japan and Australia. (Beware, these aren't all available for every product. You can choose from the full set with shared hosting, for instance, but when we choose a dedicated server we were offered hosting in Chicago or Amsterdam only.)
Wherever your website is located, support features include free installation of WordPress and other apps, their components and templates, and free updates to ensure patches are applied quickly and correctly. And if something goes wrong anyway, the support team quotes a ticket response time of less than 15 minutes (live chat and toll-free US and UK phone numbers are also available, but only for the sales team).
TMDHosting products are well specified. The baseline shared hosting Starter plan 'only' supports hosting one website, for instance, but you get unlimited SSD space and bandwidth, unlimited email addresses, a free domain, one-click installs of WordPress and 430+ other open-source apps, a bundled website builder (Weebly), Let's Encrypt SSL, and a 99.99% uptime guarantee.
This doesn't come for free. The headline price of $2.95 (£2.11) is good, but that only applies if you sign up for three years, and the renewal price is $8.95 (£6.39). Something like InMotion Hosting's Launch plan also gives you unlimited storage and bandwidth, a free website and domain, and supports hosting two websites, and although it's more expensive for the first two years ($5.99/ £4.28 a month), the renewal price is only $7.99 (£5.71).
TMDHosting does offer a more performance-oriented architecture, though, with even the Starter plan getting you the use of Nginx server and basic caching.
Ramping up to the Business plan gets you a 128MB Memcached instance for extra speed, as well as support for hosting unlimited websites. It's yours for $5.95 (£4.25) for the initial term, $9.95 (£7.11) on renewal.
TMDHosting also has some Windows hosting support, although it's a little inconsistent.
Windows shared hosting plans are available at a fractionally higher price than their Linux cousins, but they're also better specified. For example, the Windows Starter plan costs $3.99 (£2.85) a month for the initial term, $8.99 (£6.42) on renewal, but hosts up to six websites.
Dedicated hosting doesn't appear to give you any Windows options, though, at least as standard.
Elsewhere, TMDHosting's other products are priced fairly, with managed WordPress starting at $2.95(£2.11), cloud hosting from $5.95 (£4.25) a month, and VPS starting at $19.95 (£14.25) (all prices including a first term discount.)
A 60-day money-back guarantee is on hand to protect you for shared and cloud hosting plans, but VPS, reseller and dedicated server plans see the period drop to 30 days. That's still better than average, although Inmotion Hosting offers 90 days, and Dreamhost opts for 97.
The only potential issue we noticed is that VPS and dedicated hosting prices can vary between data centres. US VPS hosting starts at $19.95 (£14.25) initially, for instance, $39.95 (£28.54) on renewal, but if you choose the UK, there's no starter discount and the regular monthly price is $49.95 (£35.68). If you're browsing the website, read the small print carefully before you buy.
The TMDHosting website has plenty of information about each of its hosting plans, and detailed comparison tables are available to help you find the right product for you.
Pricing isn't handled as well. The website highlights its shared hosting starter price of $2.95 (£2.11) a month, but it doesn't always display the renewal price, and the fact that you must sign up for three years to get the headline deal is hidden away on the Buy page.
There's another hidden cost with the monthly payment option. Not only does the price jump to $8.95 (£6.39) a month, but there's also a one-off non-refundable $9.95 (£7.11) setup fee.
One or two prices made no sense to us at all. Starter dedicated servers were advertised as $159.95 (£118.77) a month with a 50% initial discount to $79.97 (£59.38), but when we went to buy, the website wanted to charge us $113.29 (£84.10). It really shouldn't be so difficult to see what you're going to pay up-front, and get that figure when you sign up.
The purchase process works much like any other web host. Tell TMDHosting your domain, hand over your contact details (name, physical and email address, phone number) and pay via credit card or PayPal.
A Data Centre Location box allows choosing exactly where you'd like your website to be hosted (Chicago, Amsterdam, Singapore, Sydney, London.) Conveniently, the website automatically sets its default location to the nearest to you.
We filled in the forms, handed over our money and the website thanked us for our order and pointed us our web account console.
Moments later, a Welcome email arrived with all the key details any customer might need to get started: links to our client area, web space and cPanel, login credentials and nameservers to update the DNS records for your domain (if necessary.) Even if you don't need all that data right now, it's handy to keep around as a reference for later.
Creating a site
We logged into our TMDHosting client area and were offered a chance to join the beta of the new portal. This seemed to be very delayed - the message said it should be completed Q3 2017, we were reviewing in May 2018 - but we decided to try it anyway.
Beta or not, the portal looked clean and modern, with colourful panels giving us quick access to useful status information and controls: bandwidth usage for your website, ticket responses, unpaid invoice alerts, expiring domains and general service messages, as well as a one-click cPanel login button for any of your hosted domains.
A 'TMD Social and Blog' panel wasn't as useful, with stories dating back almost two years. It seems that TMDHosting's blog hasn't been updated in a very long time. The company's Facebook and Twitter accounts were also effectively dead, with no posts for more than a year. That doesn't necessarily prove anything, but it doesn't give the impression of a busy and improving service, either.
Logging in to our cPanel gave us access to all the standard tools for setting up email accounts, uploading files to our web space, managing subdomains, and more.
If you just need a simple holding page, cPanel's own Site Publisher offers a handful of basic templates to help you quickly get something online.
More demanding users might turn to the bundled Softaculous, a well-designed framework which makes it supremely easy to run one-click installs of WordPress, Joomla, PrestaShop, OpenCart and other big-name web apps.
The TMDHosting website promises access to Weebly's website builder, and sure enough there was a Weebly button in our cPanel installation. But clicking it took us to a page with nothing but an embedded 59 second YouTube clip which would have given us a basic overview of Weebly's abilities, if it had ever played (it didn't.)
We headed off to TMDHosting's web knowledgebase to find out more, but the results were, well, disappointing. Running a search with the keyword Weebly didn't return a single hit.
After exploring the menus for a while, we found that despite its button appearing in cPanel, Weebly isn't enabled by default. You must order it from the client area as a separate product, even though it's free.
Once you've figured out the details, Weebly finally becomes available. It's an easy-to-use and versatile website builder, but TMDHosting only gives you a regular free account which you could sign up for separately, anyway. If you plan to use a website builder, it might be better to go directly to Weebly, Wix or whoever else you choose. Prices may not be very different - commercial Weebly accounts start at $8 a month - and you're likely to get far better support by dealing with the company directly.
Support is a key element of any good web host, and checking out what's available can tell you a lot about a service.
Tapping Support in the TMDHosting client area takes you to a My Tickets area where you can create new tickets and browse anything you've opened recently.
A Tutorials section contains around 40 text-based tutorials. There's nothing on using TMDHosting or general hosting issues, unfortunately - these are more about web apps, and cover topics such as installing, using and configuring WordPress, Joomla, PrestaShop, WooCommerce, Magento and more. There's a lot of detail for those who need it (check out the WordPress tutorials for a good example.)
We expected the Knowledgebase link to take us to a similar collection of professionally-written support documents, but instead we were presented with a list of user questions, something like a very basic web forum.
This system has a very obvious problem, in that it no longer seems to be used. Browsing the last 100 questions, we found 78 were from July - December 2016, there were only 21 in all of 2017, and just one question in the first four months of 2018. Much like TMDHosting's blog and social media accounts, the knowledgebase feels dusty and forgotten.
We weren't impressed by the range of topics, either. Searching for Apache returned just seven questions, for instance, and three of those were duplicates on how to find your Apache version, logs and timeout.
The questions had at least been answered, and mostly very well, but understandably, some responses are now out of date. For example, we found one answer where a TMDHosting staff member referred the questioner to a link which no longer existed.
Worse, some of the threads seem to contain comment spam (generic 'thanks for that informative post!' messages, followed by a dubious-looking link.) Users really shouldn't have to worry about accidentally clicking a link while they're browsing their web host's support site.
TMDHosting's website boasts about the quality of its tech support teams, so we put them to the test by raising a ticket about our problems launching Weebly. We got a response within 15 minutes, as the company promises, but it was a generic 'holding' message with no useful content at all:
"Thank you for contacting TMDHosting Technical Support. Please allow us some time to take a look at your report and you will be shortly updated here with any further details. Thank you for your patience and understanding in the meantime."
More than 12 hours later we finally received a useful response which clearly identified the problem (a Weebly account issue, not primarily a TMDHosting problem). That's a long way from the '15 minutes' implied on the website, but TMDHosting did eventually deliver the information we needed, and that's better than you'll get with some services.
To complete our review, we used Bitcatcha and other speed test services to assess the performance of our server. It was hosted in the UK, as promised, apparently by Think Systems, and although initial connection times from the UK were only average, US connections were relatively speedy and the server performed well overall.
TMDHosting has a decent range of products, but issues like the lack of pricing transparency, misleading support response time and near year-long absence of website updates make the company difficult to recommend.
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