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SpiderOak Backup Review: A Secure, Encrypted and Private Online Backup Service

My readers know that historically I haven’t been a fan of online backup services for one main reason:  privacy.  The way I see it, data is only as secure as the server that it’s on, and while you can encrypt from here to the moon, your encryption is no good if someone else has access to your password.  Now as the volume of data I need to store has increased, I started exploring ways to get my data online — with the requirement being that I wanted as much anonymity, privacy, and platform independence as possible (e.g. no proprietary systems that can’t restore individual files on demand), as well as the need to not be tied to a backup monitoring application constantly running in the background.

In my search to find such a solution to my backup problems, I came across SpiderOak.  SpiderOak is a backup company that touts what they call a “zero-knowledge environment”.   One of their major selling points (which is the selling point for me) is that while they store your data, they don’t know what data of yours they are storing.  Their proprietary system is quite complex, but the gist of it is the company sees your data as block on their servers, as opposed to actual folder and file names.  So in theory, if one of their servers were compromised, all you’d be able to get out of it would be gobbledygook.

Which brings me to my next feature of SpiderOak’s service: because they don’t store your password, if you lose it you are on your own — e.g. you won’t be able to access your data and neither will they.  Now many computer users promise themselves (and others) that they won’t forget their passwords, and do rely on companies to provide them an easy way to reset their passwords.  But if you want the level of privacy and security that SpiderOak provides, you are going to need to understand this fact right from the start.  That being said, it makes sense:  if they don’t have your password then they can’t email it back to you, but they also can’t access your data.

In terms of the backup interface, SpiderOak can’t be simpler.  There are only a few tabs which are quite intuitive to use, and you are presented with a familiar windows explorer style interface to select the files and directories you wish to backup.   The main screen of the software gives you a nice overview of the current operation  — if you are backing up it shows you the status of the backup, and there is also a progress bar-type indicator at the bottom to let you know where you are in terms of your storage space.

Another feature that the software adds  is the ability to schedule a time to backup.  You can select a day and time so the software can automatically check your files and run the backup for you.  Because I’m paranoid about cpu usage, I don’t like to have many programs running in the background.  And as a power user I don’t need a program to remind or prompt me to run a backup, as my backup schedule is ingrained in my daily schedule. So for my purposes (at this time I run local backups daily and I archive online once per week). I can turn on SpiderOak once per week, push the refresh button in the lower left part of the interface and then let it do it’s thing (by the way the sofware will tell you the last time it refreshed which I think is pretty cool).  Now I’m sure the folks on SpiderOak customer service team will tell you that their program has a tiny footprint and will stay out of your way and won’t use up your precious CPU cycles; and from what I’ve seen this is true.  But for someone like me, facts don’t always matter when it comes the way I manage my machine — but the important point here is that SpiderOak gives me, the power user, the ability to run the program the way I want to run it, when I want to run it.

And on that note, I’ve been quite impressed with SpiderOak’s customer support team.  I’ve been speaking with one member of the support team throughout my review period of the software and service and he’s been nothing but helpful and professional the entire way.   Because of my specific needs, I peppered him with questions about the program and his answers were prompt and informative.

The pricing schedule for SpiderOak is reasonable, as well.  At first glance you may wonder why it costs $10/100GB where other companies give you unlimited storage for less.  I suggest two major reasons that make this service worth the price.  First, I know of no other service that provides the privacy and flexibility that SpiderOak offers (the service also allows you to have synchronization and sharing services for no additional cost) and the privacy alone makes it worth it.  Secondly, SpiderOak puts no restrictions on the number of computers that you can use with their service under your account.   If you compare this pricing structure to other companies out there, you will find many other companies will charge you if you use more than one computer with their service (though some companies do allow you to have two computers under one account).  The number of computers included in the backup price becomes an even bigger issue when you look into specific online backup business plans. as their fees get higher and higer as more machines are added.  Obviously you will need to look and do some simple math to figure out your savings, but with the number of machines I have, a flat rate fee per account works for me.  And then add to the calculated price the value of your privacy and you’ll see that you will come out on top.

Now when using SpiderOak it’s important to understand that the service is for the most part a backup service (though there is a very neat sync feature that will allow you to share data across all of the computers on your account), and not a comprehensive synchronization program.  SpiderOak does not have the advanced comparison features that a program like SyncBack has, but remember that SpiderOak isn’t designed to do that.  If you are using only  one machine and backing up directly to an external hard drive (which you already do, right?), then you can go right to SpiderOak to backup online at your preferred interval.   However, if you are like me and have multiple machines,  you can use first use SyncBack to synchronize the data between your laptop and your desktop, and then upload this synchronized data from your desktop to SpiderOak.  Again, the program gives you flexibility so you can find the backup procedures that work best for your home or business.

In the interest of keeping this review at a manageable length, I won’t get into the features I glossed over above: namely the ability to sync data across all of the machines on your account, as  well as the ability for you to share your data to users over the web (only if you choose).

In summary, SpiderOak is a secure online backup company that provides top-notch service and support at a very reasonable price. Their  number one priority is privacy — and privacy is the magic word for me when it comes to selecting an online backup provider.

Disclosure. I originally approached SpiderOak about writing a review of their online backup service, and I was given some complimentary storage space.  I like the service so much that I am continuing to use it and I encourage you to check it out.  Here is our affiliate link so you can try out the service:

SpiderOak Online Backup, Storage, Access, Sync, and Sharing

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  • simply and easy to understand explanation, i have already download and install spideroak in my ubuntu 10.04 box

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SpiderOak Online Backup, Storage, Access, Sync, and Sharing

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