Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

With so many products being offered how do you tell what's good? We'll look at some of the things I did in a recent bit of research.

I found this product while researching backup and recovery programs. Do you have any thoughts about the company or the product?

As it turned out I'd never heard of the product, but after I did a little research I started to form an opinion.

It wasn't good.

Let me take you through some of the steps I took so that you can do the same next time you're curious about a possible purchase.

To begin with, I'd never heard of them. That concerns me a little right off the bat, simply because this particular niche - backup and recovery - is a very crowded one with a lot of familiar names.

Unfortunately that probably doesn't really help the average user. I wouldn't really expect you to be familiar with the various backup offerings unless you were in the middle of some research, or otherwise involved in the industry. Put another way, the average user may not have heard of any of the products in this space.

My first step was to simply visit the website of the product in question. What I found was a site full of grammatical errors - the kind that are extremely typical of a non-native English speaker attempting to write English. Diving in further, I discovered that their support phone number is in China, and that support was actually available only during weekday business hours in Beijing.

The site also made claims ranging from the questionable to the impossible (backing up your entire hard drive in one second? I think not.) Actual support information on the site was light, at best, and the "forum" that it was linked to was simply a sub-forum of a larger site hosted elsewhere that had exactly 5 posts, and 4 of them clearly marketing materials.

Normally, what I found on the site would have been enough to stop me, but for reasons I'll describe below, I continued.

"Normally what I found on the site would have been enough to stop me ..."

My next step was, of course, Google. I Googled the product name, and found:

  • Many of the posts in blog comments and on forums that mentioned this product appeared nearly identical, even down to some more broken English. That implies to me a concerted effort by a single individual or company to promote the product. At best, the fact that it appeared repeatedly could be ignored and treated as if the testimonial was found exactly once. At worst this kind of spammy behavior makes me wonder why the individual or company needs to resort to this type of somewhat misleading marketing.

  • Several listings that appeared in the Google search results had been removed from the forums on which they originally appeared. This means that it's likely that the forum moderator or blog owner felt it was spam, otherwise violated the sites terms of service, or perhaps had even received complaints about it and decided to remove it. This actually happened for several of the Google search results.

  • The only clearly objective report I ran into on my search was a problem report that involved, among other things, the product actually blue screening the customer's computer. This post appears on the product's own forums which I mentioned above.

Next, I checked the company's internet domain registration. I used betterwhois.com to look up the domain and found:

  • The domain is registered to someone who, by their name, is of Chinese descent. No real surprise given the location of their product support, mentioned above.

  • The address specified is a post office box in the United States. Nothing wrong with a P.O. box, I do that myself, but it'd odd that the address is in the U.S. given that the company is clearly in China.

  • The registrar used to register the domain is in Australia. China, the U.S. and now ... Australia gets involved?

Next, I took the IP address that the domain resolved to and went to whois.arin.net to see what I could find out about the IP block in which the server hosting that domain resides.

The IP address tells me:

  • The domain is hosted at a server provided by Yahoo

I also went to myipneighbors.com and found that the site is hosted on a server along with over 700 other web sites.

This implies that the company is using inexpensive shared hosting. Not a choice I would make for a product sales, download and support site.

Needless to say, I advised against purchasing or even trying this product.

The website alone was enough to tank it for me. If they can't get their English close to correct and they are attempting to sell the product to English speaking countries, the chances of them being able to support English speaking customers clearly are next to zero. The outlandish claims truly make me wonder about their technical competence and their need to overstate their abilities makes it feel like they're attempting to sell to folks who don't really know what they need or what's possible.

But let's ignore the website for a moment and examine the other data I found.

It's extremely important to realize that, aside from the problems with the product's web site, any one of these other items I've listed is not, in and of itself, a reason to be concerned. Heck even a couple I could let pass, depending on how "odd" they did, or did not, seem.

However when they're all taken together they make me quite nervous.

Taken together, they would be enough to cause me to avoid this product.

And that's particularly true when there are so many other better known and recommended solutions out there.

Article C3346 - April 11, 2008 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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3 Comments
Carl R. Goodwin
April 11, 2008 7:06 PM

What was the name of the product?

Big Dan
April 12, 2008 2:57 AM

A large problem is pricing, especially for downloadable software. For instance I recently purchased Hoyle Casino 2008 (on DVD ROM) from New Egg cheaper than the actual developers site offers. Previously versions of Hoyle Casino proved to be excellent quality so I decided to update Hoyle Casino along with my new desktop and laptop to the newest version.

I think this is ludicrous, how does a 3rd party offer something cheaper than the original developer's site??? This is why before buying anything online, downloadable or on physical media I Google the product. If it's from a trustworthy site, I buy from the cheapest place, point blank.

Ken B
April 14, 2008 9:21 AM

Big Dan said: "I think this is ludicrous, how does a 3rd party offer something cheaper than the original developer's site?"

Do you find it "ludicrous" in the retail business that you can buy things less than the "list price"? It's the same thing here.

The developer sells it, as he must, at full retail. Third parties buy in bulk, and get a wholesale price, and then resell it, often at less than full retail.

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