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.