Media Temple Grid Server Problems

Grid ServerMedia Temple is known to be a great host. Blogs like TechCruch, community networks like 9rules, and companies like Starbucks all use Media Temple and rave about them. But, these guys are using their high end products or at least their mid grade dedicated hosting. Since the Grid Server, Media Temples low end hosting service, launched I've been using it to host my blog, the Geeks and God podcast, and a number of other sites. What I've learned is that if you have a site that needs to be accessible and load fast the grid is not for you.

The grid works by literally having hundreds of computers and when someone goes to your site they could end up at any of them. When they get to that server your site is loaded to that server and becomes viewable. This really is great for redundancy. If any of the machines goes down no one notices because it's immediately replaced by another server. If they want to expand the grid it's as simple as adding more resources.

The grid is great for development. They have the latest version of PHP, they have python, there is Ruby on Rails, and so much more. The processing power per grid is pretty substantial. It's more than any low end hosting I've ever dealt with. But, at $20 a month it costs more than any other low end hosting.

But, having the redundancy of many servers causes the problems we've run into. When someone goes to one of the site, like this one or Geeks and God, the server needs to go out, get the files, compile the code, and display the page. When the server hasn't loaded the files in awhile it has to go out and get them. This causes a lag. Especially if you have scripts like drupal, joomla, or wordpress that all use multiple files and each needs to be loaded. There are times this has caused browser timeouts and other slowness.

This problem has gotten worse over time. With more people using the grid the servers cache the pages for a shorter length of time causing them to go out and get the needed files more often. With more users bottlenecks in that process cause the problem to get worse.

The moral of the story isn't to not go with the grid and go with another low end host. The really low end hosts provide worse service than the grid. If you have a community site with any real use, a site you want to really preform, or a site that's getting a decent amount of traffic than dedicated hosting is the way to go. The grid is the best I've seen at it's level but we have to be honest with the limitations of this level of a host. So, look for this site and Geeks and God to be switching to dedicated hosting in the near future. Especially with some of the new projects being cooked up right now.

limits of hosting

When you say dedicated, do you mean a dedicated unit or VPS hosting?

There are wide range of service and quality levels in the VPS market too. The low end of that overlaps the upper end of shared hosting.

I ended up deciding between two shared hosts having above average prices but which were running setups that seemed more oreinted toward PHP, and database applications and provided tighter bandwidth and storage allocations.

While it was clear to me that the MT GridServer would be better than my bargain host, in the end I discoverd enough reports of problems like those you've mentioned to keep me away.

I briefly considered a SliceHost entry level VPS. I also considered shared hosting plans from MediaLayer, but ended up going with the Precision Effect Pro setup. So far that has been "OK." I'll never know if I wouldn't have been as well or better off with MediaTemple. In the end, I made the decision based on pre-sales repsonsiveness and having a datacenter near me and my mainly local visitors. MediaLayer looked better on paper, but then so did MediaTemple. Both MediaLayer and PrecisionHost seemed to have plenty of customers who thought they were treated great, and few or none of the nasty stories generated by the customers of other hosting services.

Dedicated = VPS

When I was talking about dedicated services I meant VPS as well. It's going from a pool of shared resources to a setup with dedicated resources. Those could be a small amount of dedicated resources on an entry level VPS or a group of dedicated servers working together. In both cases it's about dedicated resources.

Thanks for pointing out Precision Effect. I took a look at them. But, their pro setup doesn't provide enough storage or bandwidth for the sites I run. Though, for sites that aren't media intensive it may be a good deal.

mt vs. dreamhost

I currently use Dreamhost of my hosting and the work most of the time. There are stretches of time when they have unexpected outages and once they accidentally bill me for a year in advance but other than that they are ok. The one thing I like about them is they are very transparent. The have a great status blog that tells me all the stuff they are messing up and when to expect if fixed.

Do you know if mediatemple has any blog or listing of how their service is doing? I will probably use them as the host for my next big project but am just wondering how their customer support is.


Blog and Outage Page

Media Temple has both a blog and an outage page. You can check them out at:


I'm a fan of the idea of the Grid Server but in practice it has turned out to have some file system speed issues which are quite annoying. One thing I give Media Temple props for is admitting it both in their blog and when I spoke with them as well as already have a strategy on how they are going to build a product that solves this problem. Though, I'd expect that to take a good year to happen.

If you site is mission critical I'd suggest a VPS or better. It may cost a little more but you get what you pay for.

Pondering the same question


I too am a happy Dreamhost customer. For the price their service has been great. I didn't notice the extra year billing fiasco, but had a chuckle reading about it in the dreamhost blog.

Their transparency is great in knowing what is going on and how they plan to fix it. But it can be discouraging to a new comer seeing all the issues on the status blog. Maintaining a hosting environment is not a cake walk; that's why we outsource it.

The occasional outage can be annoying, but again it's thrifty shared hosting.

Did you end up trying Media Temple? If so, how would you compare it to Dreamhost? How is the customer service?


Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2)

Any thoughts on Amazon EC2? It looks to be another VPS solution, but they only bill you for the resources you actually used rather than making you pay for extra resources just in case you need them. You can use one of their server images or create your own.

I'm not expecting to be slashdotted (nobody ever is), but I like the idea of being billed in sub-$1 increments rather than paying a lot more if I only need a little more disk space, bandwidth, or speed. On the other hand, it's hard for me to know how these dimes and quarters will add up for a given website as I have no idea how much memory or CPU power is involved.

Wait and see

I'm not sure about the Amazon EC2 service yet. I'm taking a wait and see attitude. Over the past year I had the chance to use the Media Temple Grid Server. When you are working in a grid or cluster based environment you run into bottlenecks that are different than when you have a single computer or even a small cluster.

For instance, your storage (hard drives) are not directly connected to the computer or computers doing the serving. So, what is the bottleneck between the server you connect to and the storage system? You will find there will be a number of things like that. So, I am wondering how the system will perform.

There is, also, a matter of cost. I host a number of podcasts so I use a lot of bandwidth. I measure it in hundreds of gigs. I took the the bandwidth numbers from the last month on the Geeks and God podcast and calculated the cost based on the rates that go along with the EC2 service. It's cheaper to go with my current host.

So, I think you have to take a look at your case and figure what is best for you. This is definitely on a case by case situation. But, until I know more about the limitations I'm going to reserve any kind assessment.