First off, a note. This is a long post. The one sentence summary is: had a site which averages 200k pageviews/month running fine on $8/mo DreamHost, moved it to MediaTemple, had some 404s for a week, they charged me over $1,000 for “GPU overages” which is some proprietary measurement they made up.

UPDATE: MediaTemple has contacted me and waived all charges above and beyond the regular monthly fee. Read on for the full story, or scroll to the bottom to read the new info.

If you’re still interested… read on.

I’m quite familiar with web hosting. My largest sites, the ModMy network (forums based on customizing your gadgets), live on beastly boxes that run thousands of dollars per month to host and administrate. Over the decade or so I’ve been doing web design and work, I’ve used dozens of companies for both shared and dedicated hosting, from free to $8/mo to thousands per month.

And I’ve never had as bad an experience as I just had with MediaTemple.net.

On January 23rd, 2010, I set up a (gs) Grid-Service account with MediaTemple.net. The stated price on the page is $20/month, a little high for a shared host, but hey – they’ve got great graphics on the site. 😉 And Starbucks, ABC, NBC, Sony, and more use them – should be fine, right? Sure. I bought the account and left it alone for a month while working on other projects.

Around midnight on February 23rd, 2010 I actually put the site live on the (gs) Grid-Service account. NegriElectronics.com was moving over from a dated osCommerce installation to a shiny new Magento install with a shiny new host to match – and the move was [fairly] smooth.

At 2:07 AM EST March 2nd (a week later) I received this email from MediaTemple.net (watch your head, here comes a 7 email volley of pastes ;):

Quote:
Ryan,

We’re writing to inform you that the (gs) that hosts your website negrielectronics.com is currently on course for a large GPU overage. If you log into the Account Center, you’ll be able to see your current GPU usage as well as your projected overage which stands at over 5,777 GPUs. You’re allotted 1,000 GPUs with your monthly (gs) package and additional GPUs are billed at $0.10 per GPU.

Take some time to take a look at your GPU usage and let us know if you have any questions about this.

Best Regards,

Michael Nguyen

System Engineering

(mt) Media Temple

30 minutes [ish] later (2:40AM EST) I got:

Quote:
Ryan,

To follow up on this issue, most of the GPUs are being created by 404 Apache error messages. Here are the main culprits of the GPU usage:

[these were ad graphics for the site, a directory that had not been transferred over in the move]

Please either remove these references from your code or re-apply these missing files. Please let us know if there’s anything else we can help you with.

Best Regards,

Mike M

Senior Support Specialist

(mt) Media Temple

Annnnnd an hour later at 3:45 AM EST another came rolling in:

Quote:
Dear Ryan,

This is a notice to inform you that your (gs) Grid-Service GPU (Grid Performance Unit) usage for the current cycle is projected to exceed the amount included with your purchased plan. Please review the information below as your account will be charged if you exceed the GPUs included with your (gs) Grid-Service.

DETAILS:

—————————————–

— Server domain name: (negritesting.com)

— Service plan: ((gs) Grid Service)

— Current period: (02/23/2010 – 03/22/2010)

— Projected overage is: (10931.00GPU)

— Purchased amount is: (1000.00GPU)

Projected charges: ($1093.10)

Huh? $1093.10? For 404s? Now, granted, it was nearly 2 million 404s (1979552 to be exact), but seriously? $1093? And this is increasing my… GPU usage?

Now, of course, I’m familiar with GPUs. All us geeks are. Wikipedia says “a graphics processing unit or GPU (also occasionally called visual processing unit or VPU) is a specialized processor that offloads 3D graphics …”

But of course that isn’t what MediaTemple.net is referring to. They have created a brand new, wholly original, proprietary performance unit with paragraphs of explanation on how its measured and how they form their charges. Here’s the nutshell:

Quote:
How are GPUs calculated?

A GPU is a measurement that derives from CPU time required by every single hit/request made to your (gs) Grid-Service. This includes your web server activity, programs, scripts and all associated parent and child processes across all nodes within our system (100’s of processor cores). The GRID system keeps track of all the measurements taken from your server and adds them to a running total which is calculated about once an hour.

A GPU (Grid Performance Unit) is equal to:

1000 GPU’s is equivalent to running a continuous 10% load on one processor for the month.

You can use up to 1.38 GPU’s per hour and not go over the 1000 GPU limit

1 GPU = 7.24% of 1 CPU for 1 hour

NOTE: The above numbers are based on a 30 day calendar, these numbers will vary based on the actual calendar days for each given month in your billing cycle.

In fact, their GPU FAQ is over 1300 words attempting to explain what a GPU is and how it works. And of course they were quick to point this out when I was confused at a $1000+ projected bill.

Quote:
…the pricing information and our policies regarding GPU usage is public information that anyone (even without (mt) Media Temple accounts) can view on our website:

http://mediatemple.net/webhosting/gs/faq.php#63

Please let us know if there’s anything else we can help you with.

Best Regards,

Robert V.

Customer Support

(mt) Media Temple

At 5:22 AM EST after putting back the dir causing the issues (3 ad files) and having a cup of coffee, I responded:

Quote:
Hello, I have corrected these 404s and replaced the files from the old host.

I also received this email:

[insert overage email with the details in it from earlier]

Please assure me this is not going to happen. We moved from DreamHost (roughly $8/month) to MediaTemple after hearing good things enough about you to warrant double the price. A $1000 overage charge for simple hosting would be absolutely ridiculous – I could rent TEN entire dedicated servers for that. I’d like some explanation and assurance my monthly bill will in fact be the $20/month we signed up for.

The 404s were in fact the only thing causing this “GPU Overage” – notice the usage went down to effectively zero after the dir was replaced.

Here was their response:

Quote:
Ryan,

Unfortunately, your account has already racked up 6296 GPUs in GPU usage. Once your account goes over 1000GPUs in GPU usage your account is charged for overages. Your current overage charges are at $629.60.

If we had known that your site scripting was so CPU/GPU intensive, then our Technical Support staff would have recommended that you go with one of our (dv) Dedicated-Virtual servers or possibly one of our Nitro servers.

Please let us know if there’s anything else we can help you with.

Best Regards,

Robert V.

Customer Support

(mt) Media Temple

Let me clarify – the site is NOT “so CPU/GPU intensive.” It runs Magento (and nothing else), a common e-commerce web software, and averages ~200,000 monthly pageviews – a solid and steady flow, but not something that should by any means bring a server to it’s knees in any capacity. It was running fine on DreamHost’s $8/month shared service – we just were moving because we didn’t like not being able to reach a PERSON for support when it was needed.

Needless to say, I’ve already swapped out their nameservers in DNS and moved the site elsewhere.

So what’s my point? A little ranting, I suppose. This (gs) system is supposed to be brilliantly innovative and powerful, a “modern hosting service powered by hundreds of servers working in tandem to power your websites”, but in my experience here it was slower than the DreamHost account we had, and within hours of being notified we were “on course for a large GPU overage” we got an estimated bill of over $1000, with the actual total already over $650. And there’s definitely no shared/grid/wtvr server worth that. MediaTemple’s own much-higher-end “Dedicated Physical Virtual Server” (coined Nitro), runs $750/mo – less than 3/4 the price they “estimate” they’ll invoice us for on their BASE $20/mo plan.

Sure, I could have logged in every day a couple times daily to check the “GPU Usage Reports” in the MediaTemple admin area… but why would I do that? The site has been around for years, and never had any bandwidth, CPU, or db overages/bottlenecks. And traffic stayed steady and typical during the week we were with MediaTemple. Why would I have /any/ reason to think this would occur? It’s low, at best.

How about a message like that at 75% of capacity? Or 50%? Why wait, on a $20/mo plan, for the overage charges to spike close to a grand before notifying anyone? What is this, a cell-phone company?

Stay away from MediaTemple.net.

UPDATE: On 03/04, Andrew from MediaTemple sent me his direct number asking to have a chat.

Quote:
Due to the unfortunate circumstance of issue, we can work with you on the current bill. Please call me at your earliest convenience. I can be reached at: [redacted] (direct).

Best Regards,

Andrew Won

Customer Support

(mt) Media Temple

I talked it over with Andrew, and he explained the overage charges to me (yah, yah, I already get it) and agreed to waive the charges. I explained my frustration and that MediaTemple would be wise to institute an earlier warning system for users – we had over $600 in charges within 1 week of being on MediaTemple, and while he said he understood my frustration, he also said “I didn’t… [want] to argue semantics, just let you know we’ll be waiving the bill.” Ok, Andrew, I appreciate the gesture.

So basically, they recognize the fallacy of that system within a first time user, and made the financial part right. Leaves a bad taste in my mouth, but thanks for the understanding at least. Here’s his last communication with me:

Quote:
Thank you for the phone call. Here is a brief summary of our conversation:

We are going to waive the current GPU bill of $637.30 as a one time courtesy. We understand that this was an unfortunate circumstance that you may not have been aware of. We ask that you closely monitor you [sic] GPU usage and make an effort to not exceed the allotted 1000 GPU’s.

Thank you for your time and understanding.

Best Regards,

Andrew Won

Customer Support

(mt) Media Temple

It IS interesting to note MediaTemple previously told me there was nothing they could do (read up when I asked if they could assure me this wouldn’t be an overage as it didn’t make sense), and I received a direct number asking me to call and work through the “unfortunate circumstance” within an hour of posting this blog. 😉

About Kyle Matthews

Kyle Matthews is an internet entrepreneur, musician, and amateur photographer. He lives in Tampa, FL (but hails from Seattle, WA) with his wife and son.