Premiumize.me: „Our lines are glowing“ – Interview with the CEO
In recent years Premiumize.me has developed into a serious cloud platform and multihoster. In addition to the support of the most share- and streaminghosters, wellknown or not, Premiumize.me also covers a wide range of video portals and much more. The list of supported web pages seems to be endless. We recently had a talk with the manager and founder of this multihoster.
A conversation with the founder of Premiumize.me
Premiumize.me also offers direct access to P2P downloads, the Usenet and, to a limited extent, a VPN service. We asked Thomas, the managing director of the Malaysia-based company, about all topics in detail. First of all, I’d like to thank our community for their support, as we worked together on the content of the interview in advance. All serious questions have been taken into account, which is why the interview has become so extremly long.
Note due to recent events: At the moment (6th of February 2020), due to an advertising campaign of the payment service provider CashToCode, you’ll receive a gift of one additional month in case you buy a 1 year premium subscription.
Where do most users come from?
Tarnkappe.info: How are your users spread all over the world? Are they mainly active in Germany or also in other regions?
Thomas from Premiumize.me: In absolute numbers the majority of users are scattered worldwide. Germany is of course still an important market. This explains, for example, why our English website has also been translated into German. Some people in our team speak German, too. So we offer a multilingual support.
How much personnel is required to operate Premiumize.me? 10 employees? 20? Or even more? Alternatively, could you please give us an indication of the amount of hours your team needs to work per week?
Depending on whether you count part-time employees or the graphic designers who work with us, between five and ten people are permanently active at Premiumize.me. We even try to meet once or twice a year, which is not always easy as the team is spread over three continents. But that has advantages too. We can cover most time zones despite the small team. Somewhere there is always someone awake. The core team is in Asia.
Tarnkappe.info: We asked ourselves, why do you actually continue Zevera under this name, even though it is the same infrastructure as Premiumize.me? Why did you buy Zevera at all!?
CEO: Zevera went offline very surprisingly back then – even though hundreds of users had still paid for Premium. The rest of the Zevera team could not afford a major rework of their infrastructure. So the opportunity arose to rent out our codebase and to offer a product to the old Zevera users in a partnership. By the way the active operation is not managed by the Premiumize.me team.
Do you also have corporate clients or users that can be assigned to the authorities? Is that at all desired by you?
We have a few small businesses that have an account. Even some of our competitors buy from us…
But we don’t know anything about government clients. Unfortunately we don’t have any business to business (B2B) customers in the classic case either. But if there were, we would be happy to have them. If someone can imagine working with our service or API’s, they’re more than welcome to contact us.
„We don’t make compromises, when it comes to the safety.“
Do you see your VPN service as competition to traditional VPN providers, or more as a supplement to your other services? Do you cover all the security precautions like a regular VPN service?
Thomas: We have many customers who trust us. They prefer to use the VPN service of a provider they trust instead of buying this service from a VPN-only provider. Unfortunately we cannot offer all features, that big VPN service providers have on stock. However, we do not compromise on security. The VPN is offered to the best of our knowledge and is subject to the same no log principles as the rest of our service.
But we are working on further features! Once fully programmed, most VPNs have huge profit margins. In fact the infrastructure costs for us to provide the VPN are comparatively small. So we’re happy to be able to include this feature to our customers. But only to the extent that we can offer it right now.
Tarnkappe.info: It’s true, the VPN market is without doubt the place where the big money is being earned! But now please something else…
In the past, you have offered a lot more locations for VPN servers. Why did you change that without telling the customers? Russia, Brazil and India used to be interesting for Steam purchases. Or is that the specific reason why these countries are no longer offered? Did the servers alternatively end up on the blacklist of Valves Steam (explanation: the video game digital distribution service)? Or on a blacklist of other rights holders, game publishers or content providers?
Premiumize.me: That’s the main reason, yes. We don’t usually remove sites voluntarily. Some data centers are very sensitive when it comes to P2P traffic and then we have to give up the site frequently. We even offer special servers for P2P traffic. Unfortunately, some users simply don’t care, which unfortunately has negative implications for all subscribers.
Other reasons are also, for example, in case the servers do not run stable enough. We’ve had niche server providers before. The problem is, they often had long downtimes, poor or no support or very fluctuating speeds. Most of the time we don’t have the possibility to change the provider quickly. Many of the server providers don’t allow VPN trafic or are not attractive for us. Especially in Asia or South America the traffic is often unbelievably expensive. In that case it’s not feasible for us.
How did the donations for the Hamburger Centre against Children’s Cancer actually took place? How did you hear about it?
Premiumize.me: One of the common denominators in the team is that we can get enthusiastic about social causes. So it only made sense for us in case we’re able to create a leverage effect with our Premiumize-users. Knowing that collecting donations requires quite a leap of faith, we wanted to approach this as transparently as possible.
With the help of Sofort-Überweisung (Klarna), we were able to direct the users‘ donations directly to the organization’s account. The money did not even go to us in this case. I think that was one of the components that created such a great momentum. But we also received many donations by credit card or PayPal, where direct payment is unfortunately not possible.
This process is very tedious, because even six months later some chargebacks can still happen. The centre in Hamburg was simply the first one where we were able to establish contact immediately despite the Advent season and where communication and planning went well.
And now something completely different: Why is it not possible to see the offered filehosters on your website anymore?
They can still all be found at www.premiumize.me/services. But I admit that we still have to work on this.
Filehosters defend themselves with technical measures against the multihosters
Ghandy: Are there any changes planned after Share-Online.biz has been shut down? Or is there a general plan to add new hosters or features? Are you satisfied with the current state of affairs? There is a lot of movement in the hoster scene at the moment. Things are changing quickly.
We haven’t supported Share-Online for years, so it didn’t affect us much and didn’t catch us as cold as the regular (former) users of Share-Online. In general we are always tinkering with our side and our own services. We also always take a look at the filehosters – although the market of course is getting more and more fragmented and things are getting more and more complicated. In the past, it was the exception that we could not offer a service in a stable way. Now it’s almost the case with most of them that have extended their protection against multihosters.
Usenet segment with a strong growth
Tarnkappe.info: I understand. Let’s look at something else: Have you noticed any changes in user behavior since SO.biz went out? Are you currently selling more subscriptions? Which hoster is still used a lot except for Uploaded.net?
Thomas of Premiumize.me: Since the raid of Share-Online, speaking of the the scene related filehosters, Rapidgator and Uploaded are used more intensively. The one or other niche hosters as well. Filer.net and DDL.to are also becoming increasingly popular. We are seeing new records in our Usenet service, where we have had to constantly increase capacity for several weeks now. Of course, the latter fits in well with our business, as we are connected here with several Usenet backends and it’s therefore much easier to offer this in a stable manner.
What’s your overall bandwidth?
Between five and ten Gbit are constantly busy. But that includes all services, including the VPN server and Usenet.
How much traffic do you generate on average per day or month?
We do not have exact data. However, most users get along well with the limit of 1000 GB per month that our Fairuse system provides. The one or other cheeky account abuser or account sharer runs into the limit. We do not have exact data.
What kind of backbone do you use?
We use a content delivery network that allows downloads to be routed through many data centers. The speed test at https://www.premiumize.me/speedtest then helps customers to find the best servers for them and thus the ideal server connection.
How many premium accounts do you use for each hoster?
This depends very much on the respective filehoster. Between five and several dozen per hoster.
Tarnkappe.info: How often, or rather quickly, will your premium account with One-Click-Hosters (OCH) be blocked? Can this be prevented by any measures? Are there perhaps even agreements with individual file hosters?
Premiumize: It depends a lot on the hosters themselves. With some OCHs we even have deals where we buy data contingents directly. Such deals may not be cheap, but they are stable.
How does it actually come to the high CPU load during downloads with the help of JDownloader?
We’ve never actually heard of it. The downloads are all SSL-encrypted, maybe you didn’t set this in the comparison downloads? Do you download via NAS or similar, with very low processing power?
Tarnkappe.info: Okay, I’ll have to check the board on that one. Something different: Is there a way to flash back and forth between your cloud storage and an FTP server using FlashFXP or another FTP client?
Thomas von Premiumize.me: In and of itself yes, because our FTP implementation follows standard specifications. But let me say this: The FTP feature is really „beta“, and still is terribly buggy. We will soon have to rework this from scratch.
What is the advantage of your Remote Downloader compared to regular downloads?
Well. The downloads are NOT made from and with your PC. This means that your IP address will not connect to the source at any time and therefore cannot appear there. This is nice for filehosters – but especially important for torrents.
Tarnkappe.info: Yes, already because of the expensive Peer-To-Peer related filesharing dissuasions, which one otherwise risks without any protection.
CEO von Premiumize.me: Exactly. But besides the concealment, it also has speed advantages. Because the whole thing is done by a server, it is also much faster than most home lines. And users don’t have to leave their PC on all the time. Finished files are checked for viruses and can then be downloaded or streamed from our servers. Well, you also save yourself the trouble of installing clients for filehoster, usenet or torrent clients, some of which are infected with malware.
Still the best data is no data.
Tarnkappe.info: Do you actually store the payment history of your customers? If so, for how long? Can you view this as a user? At Premium.to you can see under „your orders“ exactly what you’ve bought that I don’t like at all. The history goes back to the year 2011.
We practice a considerable lack of data. Of course we have the direct payment history for billing purposes – but it is regularly removed from the database. We have no ancient payments from the year Jon Schnee (from Game of Thrones) anywhere.
Can you control the content in the cloud storage for dangerous content (child porn etc.)? Is such a control of the content of the transferred files even wanted by you?
Premiumize: We have designed our system in such a way that we have the possibility to use so-called „hash block lists“. There we can store digital signatures of unwanted content to prevent it from ending up in our system. We actively contact independent agencies to provide us with these lists. In addition to a virus scanner, we also use the same method to protect users from viruses and malware, such as ransomware (blackmailing software).
By the way, this is the same methodology that Google uses. You can use their products to store files. But these are filtered through a blacklist.
TK.info: Is your cloud storage actually encrypted? If so, with which method?
Thomas: Our new system supports what is known in the science as „data at rest“ and „data in transit“ encryption. This means that the hard drives are encrypted. The key (or password) to make the data in the server accessible is then entered by us administratively. The server can then deliver the data encrypted to the user. If the server or the hard disks are replaced, there will only be „data garbage“ on them.
The CEO believes that his service is legal.
Is there any risk that the servers could be seized, as like those of SO.biz? Will the authorities then get access to the contents of my own Cloud Storage?
CEO: No, we do not take that risk. We are not a filehoster who aims at the payed publication of files and we take specific action against public link sharing. This is hardly ever done.
Our service is 100% legal. We therefore see no reason why our servers should be confiscated. Should this happen, there is no way to see which users had which data.
To do so, the data would have to be available in plain text, and also the database that links this data to the users. That is not the case in either case. The database is located on a server in another country. The database is also protected according to best practices.
Tarnkappe.info: Do you plan to expand this storage facility in the future? Or is one TB sufficient on the long run?
Premiumize.me: We are doing quite well with the one TB, I think, for our prices, and are not planning to expand the volume for the time being. But you can save more with Booster Points. Every GB beyond the one Terabyte (1 TB) will be charged daily with 1/30th of the amount you need. Accordingly, you can get another TB of storage for about five Euro per TB per month.
Are P2P transfers safe from content lawyers‘ dissuasions?
Tarnkappe.info: Hey, well roared, you PR lion. Am I’m safe from dissuasions as a torrent user?
Thomas vom Premiumize.me: Yes, you are: If you are a user downloading torrents via the Premiumize.me downloader, one of our servers in the data center will download your torrent and push the data into your separate cloud server. So you’re not involved in the actual torrent download, and your IP address doesn’t appear anywhere except with us.
You can also use your own BitTorrent program and protect yourself with our in-house VPN. Please always use the servers marked P2P. Even then the user is safe from any legal warnings.
TK.info: What security precautions does Premiumize.me take against hacker attacks, DDoS attacks and user data theft?
We take all modern measures. That includes:
DDoS protection at network level, regular security updates, network and WAF firewall, code security reviews, the usage of the latest best practices such as Salted Bcrypt hashes for passwords or honeypot users to detect if a hack happens – something that has never happened before. Furthermore, we store only the minimum of necessary data. The team is small by nature. However, we have additionally limited access to critical data.
The price should remain stable…
Tarnkappe.info: Can Premiumize.me keep the service running at the current low price? Or are price increases planned in the short to medium term?
Thomas: Currently no price increases are planned. We’re planning to introduce a membership with a higher storage volume for the really big collectors and leechers.
Lars: Have there been purchase or takeover offers from competitors or perhaps even from the content/media industry in the past? Do you plan to buy up other competitors?
Premiumize: In the past, there were some ideas, but nothing concrete came of them. Besides, nothing is planned at the moment. We are open for suggestions, but for now the focus is on expanding and improving the website. Too much distraction is not good :)
Tarnkappe.info: Is an abuse service for the cloud storage planned for the future? After all, your subscribers have also access to popular files of other users, don’t they?
CEO: Hmm. Could this be a misunderstanding? It’s already impossible to access other peoples‘ files. We have no sharing function. Files or links can of course be reported to us already now. Afterwards we’ll take them offline for sure.
Future prospects for the Web rather bleak
Lars „Ghandy“ Sobiraj: What do you think from the team of Premiumize.me, how will the Internet look like in five to ten years? Even more commerce instead of private websites? More government influence and control? Will the usage of VPN services continue to increase in order to escape the authorities‘ passion for collecting datas?
Thomas from Premiumize: Unfortunately, I see the things in the same way like you do. The network effects of existing large platforms should not be underestimated and it’s hard to break out. I certainly don’t see politics taking action. From a purely political point of view, it can be assumed that large corporations will continue to write their own laws and that users and content will concentrate on fewer and fewer providers.
I personally am no exception. Even though I’ve tried to uninstall Whatsapp some times before, I’ve kept it somehow.
But still, I must say that the period of ten years is a long time to make a prediction. For purely idealistic reasons, we hope that decentralized, zero-trust networks will then at least be a viable alternative. Probably it will be similar to the eternal battle of corporate vs. open source software and Operating systems: Just as you can do almost everything without Windows, Mac OS X or Microsoft Office, you can alternatively rely on Ubuntu and LibreOffice instead.
When everything has to be fast and reliable, you’ll have to switch to the data vacuum cleaners…
Linux or Apache OpenOffice vs. LibreOffice, that’s such a topic of its own. For hobbyists and amateur users with a lot of time they’re of course well suited. But if you need a system to be fast and reliable, you’ll have to stick to data vacuum cleaners á la Apple or Microsoft (MS).
Tarnkappe.info: You have obviously taken some security precautions to protect yourself from being unmasked. And yet: How long do you at Premiumize.me think you can keep this project „online“?
CEO von Premiumize.me: To be honest, we don’t anticipate any problems. We expect to run our service for many years to come. If legal conditions change, we will do what the law will require us to do.
If that means we will have to suspend our service, we will do so. But there’s nothing visible to indicate that. At the moment, there is nothing to suggest that a new legal framework will be put in place that will break our service.
Thomas, thank you very much for the detailed conversation and the many answers you gave us!
Note on our own behalf: No, this is neither a paid interview nor a paid contribution. We have only taken the liberty of setting a few affiliate links within this endlessly long interview. Not less, but also not more! You can read the german version of the interview here.