Thursday, January 07, 2016

Death of GilaChess.com

I've been mentioning Exabytes being a factor in the death of my old website GilaChess.com on several blog posts but I've never fully explained. So here's the full story:

I have been a loyal customer of Exabytes for over 10 years. Yeah, it's been that long. In the beginning it was a good relationship. Website was hosted with no problem and I liked the idea it was a local based company which meant the server load faster to Malaysians who are my main audience.

I even gave a good review when TheStar reporter asked me about webhosting in Malaysia and I praised Exabytes for their great service. One instance was my server went down for a couple of hours and one of their managers, Mr Chan Kee Siak personally apologised and gave me an extra month of hosting.

Sadly that was at the beginning. Things went downhill with some really aggressive malware infection and really unhelpful Exabytes tech support.

The website was so heavily infected that Google put me on their blacklisted websites and nobody can even browse to GilaChess.com using Chrome of FireFox because those browsers will automatically block the site from loading - a malware security feature. Exabytes took precautions like shutting down the whole site until I cleaned the site. I promptly did that but the malware would always come back. Writing to their support they blamed me saying it must originate from my site or computer.

"I was to blame". 

The cycle of hunting down the malware codes but then getting reinfected again after a few days or weeks. You can imagine, it was a tiring affair. Sometimes months would go by before getting infected again. When that happened,  I had to email Exabytes saying "sorry" and ask them to remove the blocks so I can access and clean up my website. After that, I had to go through the process of informing Google my site is clean again so it could remove me from the malware list of sites. That meant days of downtime for GilaChess.com. (Gone were those memories of Mr Chan himself making such a big deal of a few hours downtime and giving me one month's compensation!)

Later, I investigated and the computer that I was hosted on is shared by other websites too and I noticed they were blacklisted just like I was. So I wasn't alone in this problem. Finally it meant there were others facing the exact same predicament I was in.  I did a blog post listing out all my "neighbour" sites and posted on chess.maribelajar.com but like gilachess.com that blog is long dead - thanks to Exabytes. After all this time I still suspect the recurring malware was caused by a neighbour and not me as I have worked as technical support before and am very familiar with the precautions to take against malware and virusses. I also pity my neigbours many whom left their website infected for many months and probably die off because I suspect they just did not know how to clean it up.

Finally, I too just gave up. After over 10 years, GilaChess.com and MariBelajar.com went bust. I didn't renew it last year and the domain expired. It was picked up by some web squatter who now holds it for ransom for the price of...

That's in USD!!

How can it be worth that much you may ask. But on closer scrutiny it really was worth that much because of the Google Adsense earned over a few years. Losing that site was big loss of future revenue. I didn't know that at the time. I only wished I had transferred my domain name out of Exabyte in time before it expired. But I was so fed up with the company I just gave up and almost gave up chess blogging entirely.

So whenever someone mentions Exabytes as a choice of webhost it would fire me up to  share with them my Exabytes experience. 

Lately Exabytes have gone to Facebook for marketing/advertising. Of course, I left my thoughts of them in the comments. Surprisingly, this got immediate feedback asking me why I have a negative opinion of Exabytes.

Here's a snapshot of my messages with Exabytes representative:


Take note the date of the promised "come back to" is 9th December.


I replied... 


It took over a week and nobody got back to me. And the above reply was triggered by my comments to yet another Facebook marketing ad Exabytes just posted. Notice how fast they respond (within the same day) when one of their ads gets less than favourable comment.

I wasn't motivated to get into contact with them personally as the biggest damage was already done. 

GilaChess.com is dead and lots of potential revenue is gone. I am not boasting big ad revenue but I can say it more than covered the RM1000+ I paid every year for Maribelajar.com and GilaChess.com and then some!

This was during the Johor Open, so I did give my phone number on 22nd December after the event.

Of course I kept seeing more Exabyte Facebook ads and I can't help but leave a comment which suprise, surprise, you guessed it - got me another speedy feedback.


My contact number again??? I already gave it 2 weeks ago! Sure, it's understandable that they have multiple marketing people doing their advertising and not all of them are in sync with each other. But you can imagine how this can set off a customer when you keep asking them their problem when they have already done so.

In summary, what have I lost beside my "brand name" GilaChess and MariBelajar?

There were years of pictures and Malaysian chess results gone forever. All my blog posts made on chess.maribelajar.com which was numerous over the years was also lost. Then there is the Google Adsense revenue lost which only now I realise is considerable having to struggle to get to the same point with my new websites.

It's a big loss. So whenever the situation calls for it, you can be sure I don't have nice things to say about Exabytes when I meet new clients, or friends and colleagues. I work in tech and programming websites is my regular bread and butter. (GilaChess.com not withstanding as that is my "hobby" site)

To be fair Exabytes did call me up on January the 5th (after 2 weeks!!)


I have not picked up. Why? First, they made me wait 2 weeks.
Second, I need to get this out in writing so they can read it first. Why go through the pain of explaining everything on the phone again ? If after reading it and they still want to call me, then I will talk to them. Fair ?


So Exabytes, if you have read this and still want to call me, I will pick up your call starting on 8th Jan (Friday) onwards.


Conclusion:

All of the pain and suffering could have been avoided if Exabytes tech support took steps in pin-pointing the source of the malware and shutting it out completely. Working with servers I know this is not that technical and almost any competent tech support person could have done so in less than a day. Blaming your customer and treating them like some incompetent fool does not really help in customer relations. Locking up their account and telling your customer to fix problems not caused by them and threatening to suspend their account also does not help one bit. 

Instead today, they have a very dissatisfied ex-customer who will continue sharing his bad Exabytes experience on blogs, social media and in face to face conversations till the day he joins his beloved website GilaChess.com six feet under.


P/S: 

I fully understand that I could be the culprit spreading the malware from my computer if not for the following fact. I also host my other chess sites at DigitalOcean.com and GoDaddy.com at the same time with GilaChess.com and none of them ever got the same malware headaches I suffered from Exabytes.




5 comments:

Nabil Iim said...

Saya baru terjumpa artikel ini dari Google search. Nak buat hosting dan nasib baik belum register dengan Exabyte ni. Kalau teruk sangat boleh saudara recommen webhost lebih baik ??

Zamri Abdullah said...

I used exabytes many years ago and frustrated with the same, " its your problem " issue. Now I no longer use local webhosting as i feel I cant trust any of it. Currently using justhost.com

Andrew Ooi said...

Zamri: I am not surprised as I have seen the same feedback regarding #Exabytes in many forums over the years. This morning conversation with one of their managers did not give me any assurance that the claimed better service and clean webservers is now something real.

Nabil: saya recommend www.digitalocean.com ataupun hosting dengan GoDaddy.com

cicak said...

Oh why oh why I didn't see this post (or bother Googling about Exabytes before). I was a customer years ago and eventually quit my blog when I pursued my studies. I never knew Exabytes will be a pain in the neck before I signed my brother up for a hosting account two days ago. The server keeps failing and I keep getting that 500 server error.

What a waste of time. I'm thinking of asking for refund and will be warning everyone about them in the future.

Andrew Ooi said...

well one thing is certain. Exabyte is consistent in their bad service. This blog post is not the only digital black mark they have on the internet I am sure.

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