Product Reviews

Media Temple

If you’re looking for a web host which offers unlimited everything for the lowest price, Media Temple is going to be a disappointment. The company sells itself on quality, not price, and its shared hosting package looks very different to most of the competition.

A chunky $20 (£16) gets you only 20GB of storage space, for instance. And 1TB monthly bandwidth, with up to 1,000 email addresses spread across a maximum of 100 websites. This doesn’t look good initially, but – do you really need more? We’ll bet that most personal and small business users won’t get close. 

Keep in mind also that although other plans call themselves ‘unlimited’, that’s a fiction. Check the small print and they’ll all tell you they reserve the right to stop you using ‘too many’ resources, they just won’t tell you what those limits are. It’s entirely possible that Media Temple’s 1TB per month bandwidth will be higher than you’ll be allowed at a supposedly unlimited host.

Media Temple is still more expensive than the competition, but the company argues that you’re getting more, too. The plan includes features which are sometimes chargeable extras elsewhere (daily backups held for 30 days, automatic updating of WordPress and other managed apps). Media Temple’s clustered server architecture aims to give you faster, more scalable and reliable shared hosting, and the company gives you 24/7 support from its US-based agents.

It’s a similar story with the managed WordPress plan. This is also $20 (£16) a month, but gives you 50GB storage space, support for two sites and up to 250,000 visitors a month. It may not be a budget deal, but it’s industrial-strength, and should have the power to handle some very big projects.

Other plans include a WYSIWYG site builder – which is $10 (£8) as an add-on – along with self-managed VPS from $30 (£24), and some highly configurable dedicated servers. These are also more expensive than usual, but you get some extra features and they could appeal to power users.

If you’re not quite convinced, Media Temple offers a 30-day money-back guarantee. This is for hosting fees only – domain registrations, setup charges and premium services aren’t covered – but it does let you check out the service without any significant risk.

Account setup

Media Temple’s headline prices may seem high, but that’s partly because the company isn’t trying to fool you. Choose the $20 (£16) a month plan and you’re not expected to pay for three years upfront, or fork out even more on renewal. You really can choose to just pay $20 a month, exactly as it says on the site (if only other hosts were this honest).

You’re prompted to enter a domain during signup, but this isn’t compulsory. As with similar more professional hosts, Media Temple gives you the option to postpone any domain decisions until later.

The company offered us three add-ons, and these all seemed a little expensive. ‘G Suite’ is ‘ad-free professional Gmail with 30GB of cloud storage’ for $5 (£3.90) a month, plus a security pack offered security monitoring, instant alerts and automatic clean-up for $49 (£38) a month. Finally, a one-time $150 (£117) will cover a ‘migration specialist’ seamlessly moving your website from the last host to Media Temple.

We said no thanks to the extras and were prompted to enter our contact data: name, address, email address and phone number.

Payment options are simple; it’s strictly card-only. We passed on our details, the payment was processed as usual and the website provided a link which took us directly to the Media Temple customer portal – no further login required.

Creating a site

Media Temple’s customer portal is clean, straightforward and professional, a world away from the cluttered mess you’ll often see elsewhere. There are no massive banner ads, and you don’t have to fight your way through ‘buy more stuff’ marketing to find your management options. Instead, whatever product you’ve purchased is clearly displayed, any account or invoice details are visible at a glance, and you can head off to the console with a click of the Admin button.

Media Temple doesn’t use cPanel for hosting management, and instead provides a custom console of its own. This is optimised much more for experienced users than the hosting novice, but in relative terms it’s not particularly difficult to use. The opening page provides very obvious links to all the key areas – Add/Edit Users, File Manager, Manage Databases, Email – and a helpful Server Guide is on hand to explain how every area works.

All Media Temple shared hosting plans include an Installatron-powered Managed Apps feature to quickly install more than 20 popular applications: WordPress, Joomla, ownCloud, Zen Cart, Drupal, PmWiki, phpBB and more. We’d prefer something like Softaculous as it supports more applications and gives you additional help to find whatever you need, but otherwise Managed Apps performs very well. The module exposes security settings not always addressed by similar tools, in particular to ‘limit failed logins’, and it’ll install WordPress and the other supported apps just as reliably as anyone else.

All this was implemented very professionally, almost like a desktop application. Clicking WordPress in Managed Apps doesn’t open a new tab, for instance – instead a panel slides across with your settings, so you can close it if necessary and try something else. And the settings panel has integrated support links, which in turn display popups with more information. The site doesn’t change pages or open new tabs unnecessarily as other sites often do, taking you away from the context of your current task.

Paying $10 (£8) a month extra gets you access to Virb, Media Temple’s website builder. It’s easy to use and has some interesting features, including optional connection to a huge number of services: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Etsy, Dropbox, SoundCloud, Google+, Pinterest and more. 

If you’re managing your site manually there’s a file manager, FTP and SSH support. These are all nicely implemented with the features experienced users need, but presented in a way which makes them less intimidating to hosting beginners.

Performance

Our Media Temple tests got off to a great start with its one-stop web support centre. Along with the standard link to a knowledgebase, this stores your current and previous support tickets, service diagnostics and a system page to check the current network status. There’s even a complete history of your current and past chat transcripts, which could be invaluable if you’re diagnosing tricky problems, or want to make a complaint about what seems to be poor service.

The web knowledgebase is another highlight. We tried our ‘import WordPress’ test query and received very relevant results which were well-ordered. Entering ‘transfer WordPress’ also gave us the best article at the top, and the content was thorough, well-written, and provided plenty of valuable tips and guidance throughout the process (check it out here). 

We tried some single keyword searches (MySQL, PHP, Apache) to check the number of articles and how well they’re prioritised. The most relevant articles didn’t always appear at, or even near the top of the list, but there are compensations. The site does offer a huge amount of excellent content, and if you search on two or more keywords there’s a good chance of locating whatever you need.

There are plenty of other support options, including 24/7 live chat, Twitter, tickets (the best route for anything technical) and telephone. US customers do best with a toll-free number and an option to book a support call online, and response times elsewhere are more acceptable than lightning-fast (when we checked the company was saying tickets should get a response within two hours). But in our experience the quality of the support agents is much higher than you’ll usually see elsewhere, and that’s what really matters.

We finished our checks by running Bitcatcha and a few other speed tests on our server. The response times suggested it was located in the Western USA, and that made for slower than usual response times from the UK. US connections were exceptionally fast, though – amongst the best we’ve seen – and overall performance was well above average.

Final verdict

Media Temple offers a professional service with solid performance and excellent support, but for a very high price. This host might still be a good choice for demanding users who put quality first, but everyone else will find better deals elsewhere.


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