Moving one digital life, part II:
Why I chose MediaTemple


Once I decided to leave my old host (see part I), I needed to find a new host. Unfortunately, the market is so saturated with web hosts that it is no longer really an option to just look at a company’s website to compare features and costs. On paper (or a web page) there is often very little to distinguish one host from another. I think the only way to really determine how good a host is, is to talk with people who have used them.

The two hosts I see mentioned most often are DreamHost and MediaTemple. I did a fair amount of looking around online to see what people were saying about each of them. I also put out my own little poll. Although people also suggested other hosts to me as well, I decided to limit my research to these two. I wasn’t really in the mood to turn this into a bigger research project than it needed to be.

In the end, I chose MediaTemple. Like all things, I found both good and bad stories about both hosts. Although MediaTemple only had a slightly higher number of good reviews, Dreamhost definitely had a substantially higher number of bad reviews.

MediaTemple is currently beta testing their next upgrade (6.0) which will fix many issues I have with them, but since it isn’t live yet, the information presented below is based on their current package.

One of the few complaints I see about MediaTemple is price. I actually think this is a little misleading though, as it depends on how you look at it. From a monthly costs standpoint, MediaTemple is fairly competitive. Their shared server package runs $7.95 – $12.95 a month, depending on how far in advance you pre-pay. In comparison, DreamHost’s equivalent package is $7.95 – $9.95 a month, with a $49.95 startup fee if you want to go month-to-month. So they aren’t that different.

On the other hand, if you look at it from a feature standpoint, MediaTemple does fall a little short. Feature-for-feature, MediaTemple is more expensive because they charge about the same monthly rate, but offer less. For instance, the MediaTemple control panel is adequate, but there are definitely a few things missing… like hotlink protection, index manager, redirects, etc… You can still do those things with your account, but you need to manually write them into an .htaccess file. I would much rather have them in the control panel.

There are two big areas that MediaTemple does actually fall short for me. The first is php. Unfortunately, php runs in ‘safe mode’ on their shared servers. I knew this going in, but I wasn’t sure if it was going to affect my blog or not. As it turns out, it did. I can no longer run two of my favorite (and useful) wordpress plugins… Super Archives, and WP-Cache 2. I’m really missing both of these plugins.

The second is in multi-domain hosting. The domains you add on to your primary account don’t get a full set of features all to themselves. They either can’t have certain features, or they share features with your primary domain. I’m not going to go into too much detail on this, but I will say it’s a little wonky when trying to have more than one domain on your account. Simple things like webmail get all screwy. If you’re only hosting one site, then this won’t be a consideration.

Fortunately, both of these drawbacks will be fixed with the 6.0 upgrade mentioned above. Unfortunately, they haven’t announced a date when these upgrades will be rolled out.

Even with these shortcomings, I still feel this was a good move. My main concern right now was stability, and speed. Even though I’ve just moved, I think they’ll fulfill that need. But, I will add that I’m looking forward to the 6.0 upgrades. In the meantime, I’ve left myself an out, I’ve only paid for 3 months. If at that time they’ve proven to be not as good as I hoped, or there is still no sign of 6.0, I’ll be out looking once again.

In part III, I’ll be outlining the process I went through to actually move my installation of wordpress, and my database from my old host to MediaTemple.

UPDATE: Wouldn’t you know it, the moment you say you think you made a good choice, you have problems. This morning I’ve had a couple of problems with my new account. The first is with ftp access. My access today has been very sketchy… One minute I can get in, the next I can’t. I called them about this issue, and they told me that due to limitations of their current software, they have to restart ftp access whenever they add an account, or make certain changes to a given server. ftp access will take 5-30 minutes to come back up after they restart it. They must be doing a lot of restarting this morning. That’s just annoying. The second problem is with database connection. My site had an intermittent connection problem to my WordPress database. Their tech support said that this happens when there are too many simultaneous connections happening. He also said this usually only happens with high volume sites (higher than mine). The only way to add more connections is to upgrade to a dedicated server. Interestingly, the problem started right after I activated the Fresh View Pepper, for Mint. I uninstalled the pepper, and the problem seems to have stopped. I actually have a lot more to say about using Mint with WordPress, but I’ll save that for it’s own post.

13 thoughts on “Moving one digital life, part II:<br />Why I chose MediaTemple”

  1. Eek, I had no idea that Media Temple used PHP in safe mode. That’s an instant deal breaker, for me. Without WP-Cache2, your just asking for another “Digging” to take your site down, especially since Media Temple is giving you flak about too many database connections just with normal usage!

    Let me know if you’re thinking of switching and want a recommendation.

  2. Ya, it threw up a red flag for me too, but I figured I would wait it out for now, and hope that the upgrades come soon… and hope I don’t get dugg while I wait.

    Recommendations are always welcome. Who do you like?

  3. I was just thinking about moving from Lunarpages to Media Temple (especially after reading your previous posts). Now I read this, and start to question whether it will be a good move.

    I run Textpattern for the blog portion of my site, and realize that there may be some potential issues in moving this over to a new server. Thanks for the heads up on the PHP safe mode. This is something that is definitely a red flag, but might be able to be worked around. I also use Mint, so it’s also very discouraging to read about the issue with the Fresh View pepper.

    Regardless of the shortcomings, I think (mt) might fit the bill for me, but I think I will hold off until they get their updates all in place before I make the move.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences moving from Lunarpages.

  4. No problem, Christopher. Glad to be of help. Soon I’ll be writing a whole post about using Mint on a shared-server. My post will be specific to using it with WordPress, but it may apply to Textpattern also.

  5. The only shared hosting provider that I recommend is A Small Orange. They’re expensive, but their features are good, their support is fantastic when I’ve had to use it, and they don’t oversell their services (they’ll stop taking new orders if they reach a certain quota.) I’m currently using them for e-mail/cPanel hosting, but I’ve used them in the past for shared and VPS hosting, and they were great (I just outgrew shared/VPS hosting and had to get a dedicated server).

  6. To use your (mt) account with PHP enabled in power-mode (as apposed to safe-mode), simply contact support. They always seem to reply within about 30 minutes. Good luck :)

  7. Mark, thanks for the tip about ‘A Small Orange’. I think they may be a bit too expensive for me right now though. I tend to use a lot of bandwidth, because I often post large media files, so I would have to go with their super account. I’m still hoping that mt upgrades soon, and this problem will be solved.

    Richard, ya, I actually contacted them about ‘power mode’, but they told me that all php would run as cgi under power mode. I didn’t really know what the ramifications of that would be, so it kind of scared me off. Thanks though.

  8. Mark, do you think I would be better off running in ‘power mode’? Will WordPress run in power mode out of the box, or would I need to make changes to some / all files?

    Here’s part of the email I recived from MediaTemple that scared me:

    “- PHP will run as CGI which will result in slightly slower execution. This has the same effect as if you had used the .htaccess safe_mode workaround listed in the knowlegebase.

    – Permissions. 777 permissions on files or folders is not needed and will not work under Power Mode. To make files executable and writable use 755 permissions instead.

    – Modifying php environment values through .htaccess files will no longer work. Alternatively you’ll have to edit the file /etc/php.ini to change values like upload_max_filesize and memory_limit.”

  9. Hola :)
    I’m a MediaTemple user. My experience there is Good and Bad. I have 2 domains (sites) pointed there.

    – excellent control panel, easy and with good options, friendly and customizable, I’ve tested the ipowerweb VDECK, and Media Temple is easier.
    – use Sub-domains and alternated domains is very easy.
    – e-mail accounts mannager easy
    – file manager trhoug control panel works so good.
    – I use 1 single database for wordpress, phpbb, punbb, fotoblog, easy, no problems found installing that feaures , all is working.
    – I’m working good using the FTP .

    – Recently (from July to September at least) there was a row of problems began since: Electric Energy in Los Angeles, servers maintainance, new software installed and some bugs found, sites not responding and sites “down” (even the main site )
    – Poor and annoying tech support. 5 different “agents” to help , 5 different answers. Even when you talk about the same issue and help, a different agent replies your requests.

    Personal opinion:

    To me is too expensive, but I like it. I use easy and I like the control panel, I work so good and I have no problems. Some issues with the POP -mail authentication, but I tested options and settings and no more problems. Easy to mannage bills, domains, account.

    media temple, a good choice but expensive. too expensive (to my wallet). and I hope (and I wish) the service in media temple could be as good as before july it was. I imagine iF they stablish and make stable their servers and software everything could be good or better, but I don’t think the tech support will be better.

  10. Our experience with Media Temple was nothing short of horrible. In lost good will with clients and my own sysadmin and bug tracking time, we’ve spent 10 to 100 times what they’ve billed us. It’s cheap, but not worth the price. The Grid Server is not ready for prime time, and MT support was anemic at best. We’re still having problems, and pulling client sites from MT hosting. Slow response to support questions, slow servers, they don’t take serious client issues seriously, and things they fix don’t always stay fixed. They don’t seem to want to admit that the Grid server is badly overloaded and not ready/appropriate for production use, but it is. And their DV account, at $150 per month with no support, is just a lousy deal.

    I have found an amazing hosting site that doesn’t show up in the top few, with superlative service. My impulse would be to avoid telling people about it, because I’m worried they may grow too fast. But I’ll post it here for the diligent: I hope I’m not going to end up being sorry for letting the word out, but they deserve all success. The difference is night and day, and I’m plannning to move all my Rails sites as I have time to.

  11. agree with that user that a year ago the service was much better with MT.

    A month ago we discover something horrible. User quota email limit does not work. It has never work. You try to limit the size of email accounts, etc etc, but it doesn’t matter.
    I asked them to take that funcionality out then from the control panel but they’re looking at “the clouds” or something really disgusting.
    We host many sites inside our grid account and if somebody starts uploading millions of Mb, we are dead !!!!

    what’s going on with MT???

  12. So you selected Media Temple solely based on reviews, right? How do you feel now after so many years of experience with Media temple?

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