Initially, I had mixed reactions about winning the Media Temple hosting plan.
- I’d hosted with MT’s new Grid service years ago, long before they were bought out by Godaddy. I wasn’t impressed with their Grid service then, and the thought of hosting with anything Godaddy-related made me cringe. So, my initial reaction was one of a lot of doubt about the viability of hosting with them.
- On the other hand, the plan sounded amazing. I mean, just the fact that it is $60/month made me think, wow, this must be great hosting! And the features sound just as wonderful. Below is the feature list. So while doubtful, I was also pretty excited to at least try it out. Who knows, it might be fantastic, right?
Managed Services and Developer Tools
So, this was the first reason I was excited to try out my new hosting plan. Well, not so much the managed services part. I was on the fence about that, but hey, backups and security, ok, great. But the fact that it came with one-click staging, SSH access, and GIT integration shouted “This is great for developers” at me. I was drooling and saying, Yeah baby!
Lots of Resources and Blazing Fast Servers
This was drool-worthy as well. I won the Studio plan, which they say is good for 2 million monthly visitors. All right, then! We’ve got some horsepower under the hood!
24/7 Support and Unique Themes
Ok, I didn’t really care about the unique themes, but I’ll always be happy to have 24/7 support. One thing to note. Along with this hosting plan for a year, I also won one month of their CloudTech support (which is different than the support that comes with the hosting). So I did utilize the premium support for 3 weeks, to put them to the test.
From Beginning To End
I began where we all begin. I decided the best way to test this was to start a brand new site on a brand new domain. I wanted to create a niche site that had a shot at being able to attract enough traffic to utilize all that horsepower. I knew I only had a year to make it work, so I planned to go full throttle, make it a kickin’ site, drive tons of traffic to it, and see how it all went. At the end of the year, I could decide if having to pony up $60/month would be feasible or not.
So I did some research, decided on a niche, and began developing my site.
A Minor Glitch
Since I had the awesome CloudTech support, and Media Temple has a proprietary control panel, I decided to make use of the support team, and have them guide me through it to begin with. As it turned out, MT had somehow messed up the initial account installation, so they had to do something on the backend to fix that. They did that while on the phone with me.
I’ll tell you right up front – Every single time I spoke with a Media Temple CloudTech support person, I was highly impressed.
Each of them was not only intelligent, they were also very nice, and never had any hint of an attitude. They treated me as though we were friends, and were simply discussing hosting with a colleague. So, my first encounter with them went great, and continued throughout the few weeks I used them. Good job, CloudTech people!
Beginning Stages of Development
I began development, making use of several other prizes I won (more on those at a later date). But basically, I used a theme I won, an LMS I won, several plugins I won, and a “plan a website” blueprint I won. I figured I might as well throw all the goodness together, and review everything at the same time. I really did start out with the “website blueprint”. I did my research, knew my target audience, crafted a mission statement, planned my content, etc.
So I put the basic shell of the site together. I had the look down pat. I had the content categories in place. I wrote a handful of pages and posts to get a feel for how it would all come together. It was at the point where it looked like a real site. There was still MUCH content to be written, but it was a good stopping point for evaluation.
Time For Tests
Once I had enough of the site put together, I wanted to run some tests. If there were any major problems, I wanted to know about them before I invested more time into making content. I didn’t want to have to undo anything later on.
So I ran some tests. (This was yesterday, by the way). I looked carefully at the source code being output, and made a few minor changes here and there. Then I started running speed tests, and saw the BIG FAT Fs all over the place. Yikes! Granted, I hadn’t done any optimizing yet, but usually, I’ll start with C’s and D’s and work my way up from there.
At about the same time that I was testing for speed, I noticed a different kind of speed problem. The backend had slowed to a crawl. Every action I took in the admin, any click, caused me to wait about 2 minutes for page loads to take place. It was excruciating. I ran through a few of the recommended tests after Googling, thinking it had something to do with admin-ajax, but that ended up not being the problem. The issue turned out to be one of the plugins I won, which has an associated plugin that allows it to be updated. That update plugin would immediately bring the admin to a crawl, and deactivating it would bring everything back to normal. Ok, so that was deactivated, and I sent in a support request to the plugin developers. Have not resolved this yet, but I’ll be doing a review of it in the future, so I’ll be sure to let you know how that turns out.
One thing I found while digging into this, though, was the server was running PHP 5.4.42. Ugh.
Back To Speed Tests
With the admin slowdown distraction dealt with, I went back to figure out how to deal with the horrid speed tests I’d received. My first thought was to install one of my favorite caching plugins.
Oh No You Don’t
Nope, no cache plugins could be installed. Since this is a “managed” plan, MT has its own caching in place, and doesn’t allow other cache plugins on their server. Attempting to do so gives a little message to contact support with questions. So I did.
This Plan Isn’t Really For You, Donna
I spoke with a really nice woman who was intelligent and friendly, just like the other support reps I’d spoken with. I was ready to ask multiple questions.
- How could I move from PHP 5.4.42 to something that isn’t in End of Life? I wanted either 5.6 or 7. She told me that since I’m just on a basic shared server that changing PHP versions would not be possible. I’m just on a basic shared server? And they charge $60/month? Wow!
- I mentioned that I’d noticed they wouldn’t let me install any of my favorite cache plugins, so I asked which ones they allow. She said none, because they have their own. I said, well, ok, but your’s isn’t good enough. I need a better one. She reminded me that I’m just on a basic shared server and that option is not available to me.
In the end, she made it clear that the Studio plan is for people who don’t know what they are doing. That it isn’t for people who know what they want, and it isn’t for people who want to have some control over things. In other words, it’s not for developers.
Despite the fact that the sales pitch crows about its developer features, such as one-click staging and GIT integration, this hosting is definitely not a good fit for developers.
The Moving Process
I decided to move my site to my own host, and maybe use MT hosting for something else. I migrated it over to my normal server last night, and that process went as well as it usually does. About half an hour later, it was all moved and all good.
Except For One Thing
Oops. There was this one thing I forgot about. This plan also came with the ability to make use of Google Apps For Work for free. All righty then! When I first set up the account, I went ahead set up Google Apps For Work for just one email address for the domain. I’d never used Google Apps For Work before, so it was a bit of a stumbling process to follow the directions, but all in all, it went ok. But now, that I was moving the domain to another host, I needed to delete the Google Apps For Work for the domain, since it was being paid for by MT, not me. How to do that?? Well, Google has this really long list of to-do items to remove it, some of which may or may not apply to everyone’s situation. I made it up through step 8, and then realized that MT had to take care of cancelling the subscription, instead of me.
By this time, it was early evening last night, and I just didn’t feel like speaking to a rep on the phone, so I thought I’d just put in a normal support ticket. This was the first time I’d used the normal support process instead of talking to the great CloudTech reps.
I created the ticked at 7:40 pm last night. Initially, it said I would get a reply in about an hour. Ok, fine. I was still dealing with other little things, so that was no big deal.
Before you read any further, you should know that much of what I say about this in the next few lines are things I truly believed until right now. I was wrong about the rest, but I’ll include it here, because the messaging made me think it to be true. Read on…
- Then I checked back about an hour later, and it said I could expect a reply in 3 hours and 5 minutes.
- An hour or so later, it said I could expect a reply in 4 hours and 5 minutes.
- An hour or so later, it said I could expect a reply in 8 hours and 5 minutes.
- I eventually went to bed. This morning, about an hour and a half ago, it showed my estimated response time to be 9 hours and 11 minutes, as shown below.
Right now, as I’m typing this about an hour after that screenshot, it says my estimated response time is 10 hours and 41 minutes.
So, every minute that goes by, makes my estimated response time get longer, instead of shorter!
At this point, it’s been about 15 hours, and it’s not looking like I’ll hear from them any time soon.
Oh! I forgot one thing. Right before I went to bed last night, I called the CloudTech support. I listened to the hold music for about half an hour, while the robotic voice kept telling me I was first in line, but finally gave up.
So, the whole 24/7/365 thing – which the plan states you get with both standard support and CloudTech support is…not exactly happening.
The Real Story? I actually received a reply about 3 hours after I submitted the ticket last night. But I didn’t know it! That screenshot above made me believe I was still waiting. I had no idea that an answer was below the scroll. Just found that a few minutes ago! So, the response was ok, but the notification/messaging is very misleading.
Is There Anything Good About The Media Temple Studio Managed WordPress Plan?
Well, yes. It’s definitely not for me, but it’s not terrible either. I can see this being a decent option for a business who doesn’t have a developer they can trust, and they just need a solid host who handles most things.
Major plus: Their CloudTech support people are great.
My guess is that this hosting plan would probably compare well to other competing managed WordPress hosting plans, but that’s a comparison for another day.
Still, I’m not fond of these two things, even for the right type of customer who needs managed hosting:
- In my opinion, no host charging $60/month should be running shared servers using an old PHP version that can’t be upgraded. $5/month, ok. $60/month, no way. Maybe that’s the fault of Godaddy owning them, maybe not. But it bothers me.
- Don’t market this as a good choice for developers (“It’s got staging and GIT integration, yay!”) and then tie developers hands with restrictions. I know, I get that this is managed hosting, but I just don’t think these two concepts work well together. Maybe it’s just me.
Note: I did make use of the one-click staging service, a couple of times, during this process, and it worked well. So thumbs up for that!
We’ll never know if my site would have stressed the servers with its high traffic (which hopefully will happen in the future), so I can’t comment on the server’s resources or ability to handle high load or if it would scale.
<tl;dr>In the end, Media Temple was better than I initially expected, and has some nice features, but ultimately was not as super-awesome/fantastic as I’d hoped. I’m sure I’ll end up using the hosting for something, since I don’t want it to go to waste, but it’s not right for the site I’m working on right now.</tl;dr>
Currently, my site is running great, speed issues have all been resolved, and I’m happy that the move to my own hosting went well.
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