How I survived MediaTemple’s thousand dollar invoice

MediaTemple's Thousand Dollar Bill
This weekend was a real shocker…

As some of you already know, I received a $1084.40 GPU overage charge from Media Temple last week. Quite an adventure this turned out to be… one that I was fortunate enough to walk away from scot-free.

This whole incident really showed me how lucky I am to have great friends. Not only were they empathetic, some were ready to offer donations, while a few went above and beyond. For your benefit, I’d like to share my story with you.

I could be so lucky…
When I first tweeted about my $1084 Media Temple bill, I kept things formal by reporting only the facts. Since I wasn’t sure what exactly happened, I needed to make sure I could keep all options for recourse open. Part of me believed that I could work a reasonable deal with Media Temple to lower or remove the charge.

David McKendrick: @brainopera I'll pay the bill if you switch to Fused Network

Then came along a stranger named @DavidAndGoliath who caught wind of my sob story and made a shocking offer to pay off my entire Media Temple bill. His stipulation: To merely sign on with his FusedNetwork.com web host for at least a year, and write a review of the service. As a founder of FusedNetwork, David McKendrick said to give an honest review, even if it meant saying that his service was garbage.

Off the bat, this wasn’t your everyday web host provider. Confident, generous and above all, responsive, I’d switch in a jiffy if it weren’t for my friend @Lucian who offered to help resolve my issue with Media Temple. As an established web designer and information architect, Lucian wrote an email to persuade Media Temple to work with me on this.

After a few email exchanges, I received a call on Monday from Media Temple’s VP of Customer Service, Andrew Won. First, he calmly explained where the root of the problem was, which I understood as a technical oversight on my part (I’ll explain in a while). We talked about how this problem could have been prevented, and he entertained the possibility of an option to have a user’s hosting service temporarily shut down when severe overages occur, thereby alerting the user without severe penalties. Finally, he went on to say that they were going to grant me a one-time exception by washing away the charge over this time period. Huzzah!

What actually went wrong (i.e. the nitty-gritty)
It started with the typical email alert about GPU overages on my web hosting account. I’ve gotten these emails before, but since I had recently upgraded to a higher tier server, I thought it was a residual issue. Nevertheless I went in to take a look, noticed nothing outstanding, then went back to my daily routine. Unfortunately for me, something went really wrong after I last checked my GPU Usage Report, as seen below:

(mt) Media Temple - GPU Usage Reports
Yes, I didn’t realize how my blog’s GPU usage was spiking.

For the longest time, I’ve been wrestling with the problem of this blog taking up too much server resources. Being such a complicated outfit, the problem could have been with my customized old K2 template, any of the WordPress plugins, or some other script I had deployed.

After consulting with the Media Temple administrators, they helped me isolate the problem to a few WordPress plugins. The main culprit was the “Permalink Redirect” WP plugin which I had installed to redirect any weird variables in URLs to proper pages on my site.

Perhaps the Permalink-Redirect plugin was badly configured, but whatever it was, it started hitting the server for pages that didn’t exist, generating redirects and looping on itself. We quickly took it off, together with other high GPU consuming plugins such as flickr-rss, jquery-lightbox-balupton-edition, and vipers-video-quicktags. These last three plugins were inactive to begin with, which made me realize how it’s better to delete inactive plugins than to leave them lying around (Update 6/10: See WP plugin dev Lester Chan’s comment on how this is “subjective”).

From here on, I have to learn how to read Media Temple’s GPU Usage Reports carefully. I know that a blog overhaul is long overdue, but I’ll have to get to it when I’ve more time. Meantime, if you ever receive a warning email or a massive bill like me, keep in touch with your web hosting company to work out a resolution, especially if it’s your first time encountering such a problem. If nothing can be done, reach out to friends via twitter, email and so on, but don’t get too emotional about it. Help could be just around the corner.

UPDATE (11th Dec 2009): Looks like Lucian has saved another blogger, Sparklette, from digital extinction!

  • http://lesterchan.net/ Lester Chan

    Actually, inactive plugin doesn't matter as it does not get included by WP and hence it will not be called.

    You do not need a permalink redirect plugin as WP has one inbuilt which try to guess the URL before giving you 404 if it fails to guess.

    • http://theory.isthereason.com Kevin Lim

      Lester, that's both good news! I wonder how some of my inactive plugins were visible in my GPU report. Yes, that permalink redirect plugin should be depreciated by now.

  • http://lesterchan.net/ Lester Chan

    Actually, inactive plugin doesn't matter as it does not get included by WP and hence it will not be called.

    You do not need a permalink redirect plugin as WP has one inbuilt which try to guess the URL before giving you 404 if it fails to guess.

  • http://theory.isthereason.com Kevin Lim

    Lester, that's both good news! I wonder how some of my inactive plugins were visible in my GPU report. Yes, that permalink redirect plugin should be depreciated by now.

  • http://paulstamatiou.com Paul Stamatiou

    Yikes, glad everything ended up working out! I use a *ton* of WP plugins, some years old, I should really go through and check which ones I still need..

    • http://theory.isthereason.com Kevin Lim

      Hey Paul, speaking of which, I'm still stuck on K2 and need to move into something more optimized like Thesis. Are you going to develop on Thesis as you did with K2?

      • http://paulstamatiou.com Paul Stamatiou

        First off – I LOVE Thesis! And I highly recommend it. If you're considering going that way click my aff link at the bottom of my site haha, sorry just had to plug (they have a pretty good affiliate program you might want to look at too.)

        That being said, i don't have the time as I did back in school to tinker around with themes a lot or release anything of substance, so it'll have to stay on the backburner for now. But if you have any customization questions with Thesis I can def help out and theres a pretty good support community for Thesis as well (once you get it, you get access to forums).

        • http://theory.isthereason.com Kevin Lim

          I missed the earlier discounts on Thesis. When I've got time to tinker, I'll get it via your affiliate link of course. :)

  • http://paulstamatiou.com/ Paul Stamatiou

    Yikes, glad everything ended up working out! I use a *ton* of WP plugins, some years old, I should really go through and check which ones I still need..

  • http://theory.isthereason.com Kevin Lim

    Hey Paul, speaking of which, I'm still stuck on K2 and need to move into something more optimized like Thesis. Are you going to develop on Thesis as you did with K2?

  • http://paulstamatiou.com/ Paul Stamatiou

    First off – I LOVE Thesis! And I highly recommend it. If you're considering going that way click my aff link at the bottom of my site haha, sorry just had to plug (they have a pretty good affiliate program you might want to look at too.)

    That being said, i don't have the time as I did back in school to tinker around with themes a lot or release anything of substance, so it'll have to stay on the backburner for now. But if you have any customization questions with Thesis I can def help out and theres a pretty good support community for Thesis as well (once you get it, you get access to forums).

  • http://theory.isthereason.com Kevin Lim

    I missed the earlier discounts on Thesis. When I've got time to tinker, I'll get it via your affiliate link of course. :)

  • http://hostwisely.com/ Raja

    That's a Monsterous bill from MediaTemple. Great that you've got everything sorted at Mediatemple. Its really a great gesture from David of FusedNetwork to offer such a fabulous deal. I did hear a lot of good things abt FusedNetwork……

    I'm now getting started to worry abt the WP plugins my sites use. Can any WP guru above explain how not to get into such mess like infinite loops?? It might help avoid problems for other guys who host outside of mediatemple, like me having no cpu/gpu monitoring??