UPDATE:  April 23, 2008.  We wanted you to know this Urban Semiotic blog — and all of David W. Boles’ domains and blogs
are now solely hosted by Pair Networks!  We will update this article as circumstances demand and we’ll leave this article online to protect the
chain of understanding.

One of the signs of insanity is doing the same habit of action over and over and over again while expecting a different result each time. This time, however, I think I have broken free of expectation by beating my head against the Grid Sharing Theory of Website Hosting wall one too many times.
After three months of struggling to overcome the limits of Mosso hosting, I decided last night to move back to our old favorite — Media Temple — and my previous Dedicated-Virtual (dv) hosting setup:


I
moved back to Media Temple after trying Media Temple’s Grid System for
$20.00 USD a month and hating it and then Mosso’s “Grid” system of
hybrid hosting for $100.00 USD a month and hating it even more.
I now have — for $50.00 USD a month
— my own Dedicated-Virtual server again. That means I don’t have to
share resources with others users. What is mine is mine.

I alone
control my destiny and my destruction. Plesk 8.1 isn’t all that bad. I
like having total control again over my websites. I’m also now paying
half the price for double the performance!
Through this experience of webhost hopping, I am totally unconvinced
any sort of shared Grid System is a good idea for webhosting. You are
forced to live with bad neighbors who adversely affect your little
world.

The speed is lackluster.
I also find the page load response time for any sort of shared site —
even static HTML pages — is atrocious. You also have to make sure you
“wake up” your site before getting anything to load with a semblance of
quickness.
Load times for pages on my new (dv) 3 Media Temple system have dropped
from 10-15 seconds on Mosso to less than a half second to 4 seconds on
Media Temple.

All my sites have been moved to Media Temple again and — if DNS
propagation has happened where you are — you can test the speed by
clicking on some of the links below:

Big Boom
Book Graphics
Awards
Fingerspelling
Prices
Faculty
Christ Hospital
Branding
Research
Janna
Plays

Sometimes
you have to give up something to realize the value you held in your
hands and found in your fingers.
I didn’t realize what a golden setup I had with Media Temple’s (dv) 2
hosting and if Media Temple had an invisible upgrade path to their (dv)
3 server setup — which I understand they now have in place for easy
migration — I never would have left in the first place.
Oh, Media Temple, how we have missed you so!

Our DNS is probably still propagating today in some areas of the world
so some of the images on this site might come and go — don’t fear what
you cannot see!
Feel free to ask questions, chat, change the subject and be provocative
today.
We’re celebrating our newfound speed and freedom again!

50 Comments

  1. Thanks for confirming the fast load times on your end, arin, that is vitally important for me to know. It’s good to be able to fix whatever is wrong with my own hands again. I get it now. Shared servers are not what I want or need.

  2. Think of a shared server as living in an apartment building. Everyone in the building uses the same water pipes and electrical lines and other vital resources.
    Dedicated-Virtual is more like a townhouse. You have neighbors, but you don’t have to speak or interact or share. You have your resources allocation and they belong only to you.
    A standalone server is like a house. You own it all.

  3. Right now I’m paying $50 a month for a year contract with Media temple and their grid system is $20 a month. If I add more RAM or a backup system, that will add to the monthly nut. It’s all better than Mosso at $100 a month, though. That’s way too much for much too little.

  4. I knew there was something good about us living in a townhouse.
    Glad you got everything sorted and working how you’d like. I am toying with getting a domain name and maybe running WordPress rather than Blogger.

  5. Hi Michael!
    Heh! I love the idea of a townhouse. There’s just the right mix of independence and “you do this, not me” sort of feel when it comes to mundane stuff. 😀
    Media Temple is a fabulous host. Their Grid System is emerging, and it might be a good fit for you if you don’t want to head into Dedicated-Virtual on your own.
    If you decide to go to WordPress, host it on WordPress.com and point your domain there — believe me, that’s much easier than hosting the software yourself. You can then import your Blogger posts via WP.com right into your new blog. It’s slick!

  6. Hi Joe!
    I’m with your on going the budget route. For 90% of web users those “all you can eat” package deals are an appealing good value. I was with LunarPages for three years. I had to move because they didn’t allow direct editing of Zone files on their shared systems.
    I wager 99.99% of those sites with the (mt) badges are being hosted for free by Media Temple. You should ask them and find out. :mrgreen:

  7. David,
    Glad to see you saw the value in (mt). I’ve been on the Grid system for three months now, and I have to say that I’m impressed by (mt)’s offerings overall. The Grid was also recently upgraded, and they’re due to roll out container-based MySQL servers for Grid customers as well.
    I think (mt) has done a great job recovering from the unplanned growing pains they experienced after launching the Grid. Before long, I’m sure we’ll see case studies on (mt)’s implementation of Grid computing for web hosting, because they’ve encountered almost everything you could imagine in a production environment.
    However, I believe I will eventually migrate to (mt)’s (dv) offering, not because I’m unhappy with the Grid, but for the additional flexibility and ability to install almost any application, etc.

  8. David,
    Glad to see you saw the value in (mt). I’ve been on the Grid system for three months now, and I have to say that I’m impressed by (mt)’s offerings overall. The Grid was also recently upgraded, and they’re due to roll out container-based MySQL servers for Grid customers as well.
    I think (mt) has done a great job recovering from the unplanned growing pains they experienced after launching the Grid. Before long, I’m sure we’ll see case studies on (mt)’s implementation of Grid computing for web hosting, because they’ve encountered almost everything you could imagine in a production environment.
    However, I believe I will eventually migrate to (mt)’s (dv) offering, not because I’m unhappy with the Grid, but for the additional flexibility and ability to install almost any application, etc.

  9. Welcome to Urban Semiotic, Ronald!
    I thank you for your fine technical comment.
    Now, I just clicked on your website. I know you are hosted on the Media Temple Grid and your Mail is with GAYD. Fine work with the Google! 😀
    Your site took 41.491 seconds to load and I’m on a very fast Verizon DSL line in Jersey.
    Is that an acceptable load time for you on the (mt) Grid?
    How many people do you think will wait that long for your site to be found and load? If I didn’t know you I would not have waited longer than 10 seconds before moving on to another site.
    If you move to your own (dv) setup, I can tell you from personal experience your load time will shatter down to below 5 seconds. The (dv) setup at (mt) is well done and is an excellent value for the performance. You can reboot your server at will with no additional charge. You can turn Spam Assassin on and off. You can turn your mail server on and off and on and on..

  10. Welcome to Urban Semiotic, Ronald!
    I thank you for your fine technical comment.
    Now, I just clicked on your website. I know you are hosted on the Media Temple Grid and your Mail is with GAYD. Fine work with the Google! 😀
    Your site took 41.491 seconds to load and I’m on a very fast Verizon DSL line in Jersey.
    Is that an acceptable load time for you on the (mt) Grid?
    How many people do you think will wait that long for your site to be found and load? If I didn’t know you I would not have waited longer than 10 seconds before moving on to another site.
    If you move to your own (dv) setup, I can tell you from personal experience your load time will shatter down to below 5 seconds. The (dv) setup at (mt) is well done and is an excellent value for the performance. You can reboot your server at will with no additional charge. You can turn Spam Assassin on and off. You can turn your mail server on and off and on and on..

  11. David,
    Thanks for the welcome, sir. I am aware of there being some inconsistencies with regard to load times, and I suspect they are MySQL related — which (mt) is aware of and has solved with their upcoming MySQL container solution. Once the container is implemented, load times should be pretty consistent.
    I’m a pretty patient guy, and while I know I’ve probably lost some visitors due to the occasional greater-than-usual load time, in the end, everything work themselves out. In all eight years of my managing my web site and others, (mt) has convinced me that I made the right choice in a web host provider.
    Thanks for sharing your experience on the (dv) offering. I’m not sure if I’m ready for the (dv) offering just yet — I don’t want to overdose on technology due to all of the features Plesk and (dv) offers. I probably wouldn’t sleep for days playing with all of the new toys (just as I did when I migrated to (mt) three months ago — I still feel like a kid in a candy store).

  12. David,
    Thanks for the welcome, sir. I am aware of there being some inconsistencies with regard to load times, and I suspect they are MySQL related — which (mt) is aware of and has solved with their upcoming MySQL container solution. Once the container is implemented, load times should be pretty consistent.
    I’m a pretty patient guy, and while I know I’ve probably lost some visitors due to the occasional greater-than-usual load time, in the end, everything work themselves out. In all eight years of my managing my web site and others, (mt) has convinced me that I made the right choice in a web host provider.
    Thanks for sharing your experience on the (dv) offering. I’m not sure if I’m ready for the (dv) offering just yet — I don’t want to overdose on technology due to all of the features Plesk and (dv) offers. I probably wouldn’t sleep for days playing with all of the new toys (just as I did when I migrated to (mt) three months ago — I still feel like a kid in a candy store).

  13. I think you’re right about the MySQL problem, Ronald. I just tried to hit your site again and it took 46.284s to load and once it loaded it took 8.252s to load your About page when I clicked on the link.
    I understand and appreciate your patience. You have much more than I would have in your condition! 😀
    You’re on target about playing with Plesk and the other (dv) features. They are tempting and extremely powerful!

  14. I think you’re right about the MySQL problem, Ronald. I just tried to hit your site again and it took 46.284s to load and once it loaded it took 8.252s to load your About page when I clicked on the link.
    I understand and appreciate your patience. You have much more than I would have in your condition! 😀
    You’re on target about playing with Plesk and the other (dv) features. They are tempting and extremely powerful!

  15. Welcome back David!
    We missed you too. One comment regarding neighbors on a Grid system. Your “bad neighbor” probability is substantially reduced on a grid as the hardware cluster absorbs bad neighbor activity. As you know, we’ve gone through the fire in terms of developing a solution to scale MySql in order to unleash the potential of the grid and surpass the MySql issues that have caused us some issues. Grid technology is an amazing system, but is a brand new technology that does require constant innovation.
    Jason McVearry
    Media Temple

  16. Welcome to Urban Semiotic, Jason!
    I thank you for the clarification on the Media Temple grid system. I know you all have invested a lot of money and bunches of people hours in getting the whole thing to work as well as you know it can run.
    Your plan to implement localized MySQL containers for each Grid customer should really help with the current database drag.
    I appreciate your welcome back to Media Temple. I have a big book project — and other keen stuff — on the line and in the oven and so I need to have reliable, drop-dead good hosting, and your (dv) system is just the technical ticket I need to make all my dreams come true.

  17. : (
    I am in the process of trying to figure out my hosting situation. I really liked the everything I read about MOSSO. I used to have a dedicated server at Rackspace and it was the best hosting I’ve ever experienced and was hoping MOSSO might match that. But now the seed of doubt has been planted.
    After your experiences do you believe there are appropriate niches for MT’s Grid Server and MOSSO’s clustered server?

  18. Welcome to Urban Semiotic, brian!
    I understand your concern. I am not beholden to Media Temple or Mosso or any other website host. I used to have — a long time ago — a sponsored hosting relationship with Earthlink and SimpleNet and a few others.
    Today, I owe no one anything and I pay my own way. I get no kickbacks or favors or credits or anything from anything I say about web hosting companies.
    Mosso is not what you want and they ARE NOT Rackspace. They may be inspired by, and have their roots in, Rackspace but I’ve read so many stores about those who used to have dedicated servers with Rackspace and then moved to Mosso and were not happy with the speed or reliability.
    MT’s Grid is for people who want a lot of control over Zone Files and easy, iconic, admin interfaces — but who don’t care about speed or reliability because they want a cheap price.
    Mosso gives you even less direct control over your world than MT’s grid –- and “grid” and “cluster” really are the same thing between the two of them — but Mosso charges five times as much for a lesser solution.
    One thing I really did not like about Mosso is that if things went wrong, they blamed you first. It was rare to find someone at Mosso who would just take you at your word that something was broken and then fix it. They had to hassle you around a bit first before looking into it. That was a real time waster for me.
    If you can afford Mosso at $100 a month, you’ll be thrilled with a dedicated-virtual server from MT for half the price. You are totally in control of your space and there’s just enough handholding if things blow up in your face. You are not totally alone as if you are just renting a standalone server.
    If you have any other questions, ask away!

  19. One thing that I do think is pretty cool about Mosso is that you can have them bill and support your customers for less than setting up your own merchant account, etc. I don’t know if other hosts offer that, but at least in theory it eliminates alot of non-technical headaches.

  20. I’m on the grid right now and the performance has been terrible and inconsistent. I’m holding out for the next mysql update and if the performance issues aren’t fixed by then unfortunately I’ll have to move on.
    How much do you have to know about managing a server to able to use the the (dv) system? If something goes wrong do you have to fix it?

  21. Welcome to Urban Semiotic, brian!
    I just moved up to the (dv) 3 Rage at Media Temple for $100.00 a month. I need the added capacity for a multi-media project I’m working on and the server upgrade was smooth and seamless.
    You don’t need to know much of anything. I sure don’t know anything about servers. Plesk is intuitive. You can learn it just by poking around. If there are critical updates to your server software, the upgrade will be done for you by Media Temple.
    Plesk is easy to understand and graphical. However, if you install something or update the server software yourself and it breaks — you fix it. If something goes wrong with the basic setup, Media Temple will fix it.
    That said, you can always beg Tech Support. I had a WordPress problem and they helped me fix it — so they’ll help you if you’re super stuck or if your server is offline or if you make a big mistake that munges up everything… but they don’t advertise that fact and if you ask them about it officially they’ll deny you they will help you at all. 😀
    They will help you in the end, though, at least that was my ordinary experience. They’re good people.
    I’ve advocated a program where you’d pay Media Temple $100 per incident to get some expert help on setup or installing something — no go on that idea yet. I still think that’s a smart way for (mt) to head into the future. Holding your hand for a price is just smart business.

  22. So (mt) have just released their new 3-teir mysql container system. I have no idea who will be willing to add $20, $75 or $150 / month to their $20 shared hosting plan for a mysql container. Especially when an entry level (dv) is $50. Am I missing something?
    (mt) is also putting caveats on its website about the performance of regular mysql on the grid (mysql “SmartPool v2”). Apparently they’ve worked to enahnce the performance but in the end it’s essentially no different from mysql in a shared hosting environment. The bad neighbour effect exists on the grid as well. Ironic, since (mt) have been pitching the (gs) as a monumental step beyond shared hosting that eliminates the “bad neighbour effect”.

  23. Hi brian!
    I wanted everything the (dv) 3 Rage offers. I was on the version 2 version of Rage and it just seemed a more natural fit for me to stay in that range again. I have huge multimedia files that will stream — so bandwidth and extra server space is necessary — and you can never have too much memory. 😀

  24. Well, brian, I just read about all the (mt) changes to the grid cluster. I’m not a tech guy, but I don’t see the value of being on the cluster and then purchasing these extra containers when the (dv) option is available and is, in my experience, a much more superior option.
    I suppose it’s easier to reboot your MySQL “server” and repair your tables and find out where the slowness is happening with the new containers — but my experience is if you’re on the (dv) and MySQL is set up right everything works pretty well because you’re in your own space anyway and table repair is a simple process, but it is a little more involved than clicking on a single button.
    I have yet to see any grid/cluster implementation anywhere that is as fast or as responsive as a (dv) setup or even just the regular shared hosting we all grew up with on the web.
    The thing that bothered me about grid/cluster hosting was the delay in loading pages as the server had to “wake up” to find where your files were located in the system to feed them to your visitors. That getting up to speed was too painful for me to abide.

  25. Welcome to Urban Semiotic, Leandro!
    You ask a fine question. I do not know the answer. I haven’t had any complaints while on Media Temple where people complained they could not hit my sites from anywhere in the world. You might try asking them for the details you need.
    Here’s the lowdown on their new datacenter.

  26. @David: I was wondering what was causing that ‘waking up’ delay. I didn’t realize that it was caused by the (gs) trying to find your files. How often does it need to wake up?

  27. Heya brian!
    This thread explains the problem with grid/cluster hosting right now:
    http://www.webhostingtalk.com/showthread.php?t=594927
    As I understand grid/cluster hosting, your files are served from temporary directories and the server has to “find” where your files are stored across the cluster/grid farm and then “store” the most popular and recently requested files in that temp directory for a period of time. If there’s a server glitch or a power spike or a server failure your temp directory is trashed and your site has to be refreshed from the original server files and that can take awhile.
    The best way to test the response of any grid/cluster hosting system is to find a page that is rarely called and then you call it up and time how long it takes the grid/cluster to pull up that infrequently requested file and copy it into your temp directory. In my informal testing, finding and loading an unpopular page can take anywhere from 45 seconds to a minute and a half on a grid/cluster server farm. That’s much too long for me when I’m used to having sub-two second page loads on the (dv).

  28. Hey Dave, nice article, actually read ALL the comments as I’ve just got on the grid myself.
    So, in your last post, do you mean that, when someone hits your site, the requested page is stored in a temp directory somewhere on the grid, and then served up…. OK, and if you have an unknown page, it might take a while for the grid to locate it, Right ? …. OK so in other words, are the most often visted/most popular sites on the grid the ones which will come up most quickly?

  29. Welcome to Urban Semiotic, frizzo!
    Yes, the most frequently requested pages on a Grid/Cluster will be cached in a temp directory while less popular files will not be cached and will have to be “found” in the system and then served live.

  30. UPDATE:
    If you want to test the performance of any Grid/Cluster system, create an .HTML file and fill it with lots of text and images. Upload that file to a public directory on your server and don’t tell anyone else the name of that file.
    Then, every day or so, call up that file from your local web browser and see how long it takes for the page to completely load all the images. That should give you a good idea about how fast a simple HTML page will load when the Grid/Cluster has to “go out” and find your files for loading. Change the contents of the file every time you do a test to ensure nothing is being cached.
    If you want deeper database testing, set up a private test blog using MySQL and create up a few pages filled with lots of text and images. Then, every day or so, call up those pages from your local browser and see how fast the system responds to your browser requests.
    Good Luck!

  31. David … a couple more quick questions about (dv) hosting …
    How has your experience been having to keep on top of mysql and php updates and patches on your (dv) server? This is one of the most intimidating aspects of switching over from shared or grid hosting to a virtual dedicated server where you are responsible for upgrading all your software.
    Also, are you using Plesk’s default webmail or did you install a third part webmail package? If the later, was it a painful experience switching over?
    Reseraching the (dv) plans more closely starts to give you an idea of just how much is taken care of for you behind the scenes on a shared plan.

  32. Hi brian —
    Dynamic sites would not cache well on the grid — but if database calls are being made then MySQL might do some of the caching.
    I haven’t ever upgraded PHP or MySQL. When you sign up that’s what you get on your server with the (dv) plans. If there are system-wide critical software changes needed then Media Temple does that for you.
    I’ve never had to install anything on my own via command line or upgrade anything on my own ever when it came to PHP and MySQL.
    Upgrading WordPress and the like were easy via FTP. I also installed Moodle and Joomla and a few other pieces of software that were a breeze to get working.
    The default Plesk webmail is quite keen. I like it a lot. It is a Horde version so it is stable. I have a few accounts I manage via Plesk, but most of my more vital email is now being run through my Google Apps for Your Domain account. Google handles my mail via the Gmail interface. Sweet! Media Temple does a fine job of giving you lots of control over your own Zone Files so it’s easy to separate your mail from (mt).

  33. ….and, if you did actually have to update yourself via command line, (assuming that mt (dv) 3 is Debian-based like the gs), thansk to the magic of debian, you would just type “apt-get upgrade php5”, and debian would do the rest. Same with mysql. It’s so easy, that you will never want to use any other operating system ever again.