Media Temple. A web host that promised us (my day-job company) so much, yet failed us big-time in an area they’re supposed to be the experts at.

We have 2 VPSs, a production VPS and a test/staging server. The production server is fully managed — which really means it has Media Temple’s CloudTech Priority Care, where they fully manage the server and take care of it. In other words, we’re paying a premium for their service to fully care for and manage our servers and we expect them to be able to deliver.

This blog post outlines how they failed us and is meant to inform the web audience at-large of our experience. Media Temple (mt) is a good host. Mostly.

It all started when I first noticed that their new VPS plans come with SSD drives and double the RAM. I contacted tech support if we would automatically be rolled over to their new offering. They said we could and we would need our VPSs to be migrated to new servers, which would incur about 3-4 hours of downtime.

Note: I don’t control all the DNS records for all our domain names. I have to schedule DNS changes with another person. Also, all times stated here are PT, where (mt) is based and is the timestamp they use everywhere.

And here is failure #1: Migration scheduling fail.

At 11am I asked them to schedule the migration for 1am, an hour with a minimal amount of traffic. They don’t respond to me at all leading me to not coordinate DNS changes with our DNS person. I call (mt) late at night to verify if the migration is happening. It isn’t.

Failure #2: Migration fail.

2 days later, I schedule the migration again. This time they do respond. At 1am they start the migration and we update DNS records to go to the new IP address. After getting some sleep, I check on the migration at around 5:30 and notice the site isn’t up. I call (mt) and they note in my migration support ticket that I called about the site being down. At 6:08am they rollback the migration because their automated migration failed. We restore the DNS and our site is back up. (mt) says their engineers are looking into what caused the migration failure and will get back to me when they figure it out and the migration can proceed.

Failure #3: They don’t get back to me.

Failure #4: Successful migration, but with licensing problem.

12 days later I ask them if migration can proceed. They said yes, and since now am hesitant, I only have them migrate our test server. Migration is set for 12MN. At 12:14 they start the migration and less than 30 minutes later at 12:42 they say that migration is complete. After getting some sleep, I wake up and check the migration. Test server is up and running. Hurrah, web pages work!! I try to login to the server’s WHM and cPanel and I get a license issue notice and can’t login. I call (mt) right away at 5:38am about it. At 12:24pm, nearly 7 hours later, they say that the ticket was re-assigned to someone else and that it will take some time. Over an hour later at 1:42pm, they close the ticket saying everything is fixed, and it is.

Failure #5: Communication fail.

With confidence the day after that (mt) can migrate a server and at least have it running, I schedule the live server to be migrated in 5 days. I also forget that am going to be off-site in a conference that day. I noticed that they were scheduling everything with Pacific time where they are, not Eastern time where I am. That’s a failure, but maybe it was my fault for not noticing. Anyway, I schedule the migration for 9pm PT. Migration starts and we update our DNS records. 7 hours later at 4:01am I call them on the phone as there is no update on the ticket, the website on the server was not displaying correctly, and cPanel was giving me a licensing issue (notice how I always have to call them?).

Failure #6: Automatic messaging fail.

With their automation at 4:36am, (mt) says the migration is complete, but our site is still not up. I inform them at 4:52am that it’s not and they apologize 6 minutes later and say that they are working on it.

Failure #7: Licensing issue again + Really long downtime, major major FAIL.

At 6:08am (mt) finally says it’s a licensing issue (duh!) and they say that we will be updated when the engineering team resolves the problem.

At 7:17am I ask for an update as total downtime is now 10 hours.

At 7:43 (mt) says that there are no updates and to expect one in the next 6 hours. I think (insert response of choice words here).

At 8:57 I tell (mt) that waiting for the license issue is ok, just get my site up (don’t they remember they had my test server up tho its cPanel had a licensing issue?). At 9:14 they say they can’t as they need it fixed before they can troubleshoot.

At 9:30am we wisen up and point the domain name to another URL with an out of service message.

At 10:26 we asked what they can do about the huge disappointment of 13 hours of downtime. At 10:41am, they say we’ll get a $149 credit. Really, that’s it?

At 11:53am, with 15 hours of downtime, they say everything is resolved. I decide not to update DNS until I can go home from the conference and give it my full attention.

Home at 5:55pm and the DNS is pointed to the new (mt) server. WHM and cPanel work like they should and configuration shows like it should.

Failure #8: Migration configuration fail

So although WHM/cPanel now work, the site still isn’t up. At 6:02pm, I call (mt) again, this time I’m on the phone for 48 minutes with them. It’s discovered that the settings for IP address had the previous server’s address on them, not the new one. Fail, fail, fail!

At 8:30pm (mt) confirms fixing the IP address problem. A problem is found in my code, also regarding IP addresses. I fix the address and the site if finally fully up and running at 8:36pm, for a total downtime of 23.5 hours.

Notice how long it takes (mt) to respond? It takes them at least 15 minutes each time.

Anyway, to (mt)’s credit, their customer support people are well-trained on the phone, were always apologetic, and pleasant on the phone. And they did give us our $150 credit for 23.5 hours of downtime (not that it helps).

(mt) has been a good host in other areas of hosting, but in our case they failed because they clearly demonstrated that they:
1. can’t manage migrating a server properly (from within their servers!!)
2. can’t manage WHM/cPanel licensing properly
3. can’t manage a server without WHM/cPanel
4. don’t communicate when they say they would or should

Our experience with them, as outlined above, has left a very bitter taste. They failed us and our confidence in them is gone. At the time of this writing, we are still in process of moving our assets out of (mt).

Lastly, in case you want to know, the major down-time happened in December 2014.

UPDATE #1 / Failure 9: Billing fail

When we signed up with Media Temple we signed up for 1-year and received the annual discount (2 months free) and, because we are a non-profit, an ongoing additional 15% discount on everything.

So to my surprise, weeks after the whole migration nightmare, I discovered some pretty terrible billing practices that (mt) does.

1. For every server migration, they terminated the previous billing item (VPS), gave a credit for the remaining unused portion and opened a new one. This is totally understandable.

But, this is a fail tho because what they did was:
a. Give a credit on the previously discounted amount and then, with the new VPS, charge to the end of the month without our ongoing discount (charged us full price).
b. Gave no communication / email that they were going to do this. Surprise to your budget, here’s a receipt!!
c. Pro-rated to the end of the month. We signed up for a year…
d. They did this even with the first failed migration attempt – that they had to cancel and return our VPSs to where it was – The VPSs didn’t move.

2. For every month until the end of the year, each VPS was billed at the full monthly price. No discount, no communication, never mind that we had signed up for a year.

3. At the start of the year, they charged us for a whole year. Never mind that we didn’t sign-up at the start of the year, they effectively extended our term with them. Again, this was done without any communication. This time tho, they didn’t charge us full-price for both VPSs. 1 VPS was given both discounts (annual and [so-called] on-going non-profit discount), while the other was given only the annual discount. Again, surprise to your budget, here’s a receipt!!!


I renamed this post from “Why we’re moving away from Media Temple” to “Why we moved away from Media Temple”.

UPDATE #3: (mt) did something right

(mt) makes cancelling your account very easy. They did something right!!


Photo by sixthlie (cc), cropped & resized.