- Fast Backup
- Most secure provider
- Very good support
- Client for Windows, Mac and Linux
- Client restore could cause trouble
SpiderOak is by far the most secure online backup service I have tested so far. With its syncing and sharing functions it is certainly a worthy (and cheaper) alternative to Dropbox. If security is one of your concerns and you need backup and sync your data – give SpiderOak a try.
Who is SpiderOak Online Backup for?
At first sight SpiderOak seems to do it all: online backup, syncing and sharing. So it offers the same features as SugarSync, LiveDrive and some others at a competitive price. If you’re looking for the above-mentioned ‘trinity’ you want to consider SpiderOak after reading this SpiderOak review and viewing my SpiderOak videos. Also, with $10/month SpiderOak is $4.99/month cheaper than SugarSync and a whopping $9.99 than Dropbox while still offering more space: 100GB. I am thinking to myself: this can be an interesting one since I am looking for a cheaper alternative to Dropbox as well. If you are not sure if SpiderOak is something for you then you may want to look at their ‘typical user profile’ page that presents you with an array of different kinds of users you might identify yourself with. But let’s dive deep into SpiderOak and find its gems, shall we?
SpiderOak Online Backup Review
SpiderOak was first released back in 2007, so, around the same year as Dropbox.But it didn’t get as much attention as its competitor. This could have several reasons: it just wasn’t that powerful back then, or it didn’t get as much venture capital as Dropbox, and thus less press. It has never been featured on Techcrunch as for example SugarSync. If we are looking at Google Trends comparing the search volume of those three online backup services you’ll see that up until 2010 Spideroak is barely noticeable:
But what’s the saying? Quality over quantity – so this graph should not be interpreted in a judgmental way – it just is one popularity indicator I like to look at when comparing several products and services. I have also already prepared some great online backup service comparison articles that are soon to be released – so stay tuned for that.
At first sight SpiderOak seems to have everything I want in an online backup service. The most noteworthy features are
- Automated online backup, syncing and sharing
- Uses de-duplication and compression to save time, bandwidth and storage – more on that later, don’t worry
- Unlimited file history
- High level of privacy with your private encryption key
- Easy to use software, cross platform (Windows, Mac, Linux and mobile devices)
- LAN Sync as of April 10, 2012
If all those features work as promised I’d be very inclined to change to SpiderOak for my daily syncing needs. It got even more interesting when they introduced (finally) LAN Sync that would empower your local syncing by a lot. In a previous release of this review SpiderOak still didn’t have LAN sync that’s why I had to eliminate half a star, now I am pretty inclined to give it a full 5 star rating.
SpiderOak: First impression, signing up and payment
SpiderOak seems to be what I like: clean and simple. Their website is very clear-cut and they opt for a vertical navigation bar where you find the most important items. In the center of the page you find an inviting button to create a forever free 2GB account. Dropbox offers the same 2GB for their free plan, only SugarSync gives you a full 5GB for free.
On Cloudbackuping.com I always want to sign up for the paid account to test all the services accordingly and provide you with legitimate online backup reviews. That’s why I’ll sign up for the standard 100GB plan for $10 per month.
The necessary evil – the price you pay
In fact, there are not many plans to choose from unlike SugarSync that tends to overwhelm the user with a multitude of different plans. With SpiderOak you just pay $10 for 100GB increments meaning if you want 500GB you’d end up paying $50/month which is very reasonable. If you choose to pay for a year (which is highly recommended) you end up saving two months. So instead of paying $120 per year you only wire in $100.
The actual on-page sign-up is easy and despite having chosen the 100GB plan, I am not yet asked to whip out my credit card to pay for their services. Instead they let every customer download their software first before pressing you to pay. You see this ‘relaxed’ approach all over the SpiderOak realm and I highly appreciate that.
Top notch security
Today’s backup services need to find their very own niche due to the stiff competition they face in the market. And SpiderOak certainly has found its own: Security. I’ll go into more detail later in this SpiderOak review, yet you already notice some of the security beauty when signing up and installing the software.
Instead of a mere password you are also provided with a 14-digit ‘activation code’ that you need when you’ll log in to the client for the first time. And here comes a real cool user friendly gimmick: when you copy the code to your clipboard and have to client open it automatically inserts the code into the correct field. Somebody really thought this through – congrats!
Installation on both my Mac with Lion and Windows 7 was easy as expected and the initial configuration not that difficult either. After surpassing the security hurdles you’re welcomed by a very well organized backup client where at the top you’ll find the main functions grouped in tabs so you can easily switch back and forth between backups, syncs and shares.
Upgrading your account to 100GB
As I said before I want to test the paid version of SpiderOak to give you the best possible and realistic review I can. In order to upgrade your account from the free 2GB version to the 100GB you have always to prominent orange buttons at hand that allow you to ‘Buy More Space’. So this is what we’re going to do.
Your standard browser opens and you can choose your billing period and payment option. Finally I see a provider who offers PayPal payments. Unfortunately, I am having an issue with my account so I’ll pay with credit card this time choosing to be billed monthly.
Client doesn’t update after payment
After so many pleasant surprises I somehow knew there was going to be a downer. After upgrading to the 100GB account I’d normally expect the client to update automatically. But even after a 10-minute waiting period my 100 gigs just wouldn’t appear. So I had to restart the client.
SpiderOak was then quite hard to find. It wasn’t in the start menu nor was it on the desktop. So I had to go manually into the installation directory Program Files -> SpiderOak to restart the software. And then something weird happened: instead of relaunching the client I needed to restart my trajectory through an installation process and reinstalling my existing device for whatever reason.
Well, I think by now many potential customers would have been lost. And I don’t know if it’s just because I installed my Windows 7 as a virtual machine on my Mac. So it would be cool if anybody could verify if it’s just me or a bug. On my Mac everything worked flawlessly, as expected.
After those minor installation issues we’re now ready to go right into the meat and start our first backup. Yeah!
- Very fair rates
- Up to date client
- Windows, Mac and Linux supported
- Some weird installation issues
How to backup your data with SpiderOak?
Two aspects are crucially important to SpiderOak’s developer team: ease-of-use and security. And I think they just made the right bet here. Granted, I am a geek so I like to fiddle around with things and try everything out until I have an in-depth knowledge of the subject matter. But most of the customers and users are just not like that or they simply don’t have the time. They are probably more like you: you want your data secured and your backup up and running as quickly as possible to not lose any time that you could spend with your friends and family.
Let’s see if SpiderOak can live up to its promises
As with other online backup reviews I’ll use my prepared test folder of around 1GB in files. This allows me to test the time the online backup services need to backup all my data. I try to perform the backup at the same hours during the day to guarantee more less equivalent network usage.
SpiderOaks backup sets
Did I already tell you that I love SpiderOak’s design and usability? Well, here you go again: After so many ugly 1998ish style software designs this one is really eye candy. For those who are lazy you can use the backup sets to backup your data – in case you stored them in those folders, that is. Backup sets are called ‘Categories‘ and if you have files in them you get an overview of the file size of each.
For this SpiderOak Review, however, I’ll select my test folder manually by clicking on the ‘Advanced’ button at the top right.
The file browser is just how I like it. Similar to Mozy I can easily select my files while always knowing how much of my quota is being used and how much I have left thanks to the ‘storage bar‘.
Now that we’ve selected our data we can hit on save to perform the initial backup. The initial backups are always going to take some time depending on many factors:
- Your *up*speed connection – for a detailed metering go to speedtest.net.
- The size of your backup – it could take weeks to backup 100GB of data
- Last but not least – your online backup service provider’s performance
As I test the online backup providers with my test folder of 1GB I am able to get at least some kind of comparison, yet I know that it is not 100% accurate. SpiderOak does a pretty good job: backup takes only 2:48h thus being in pole position of all online backup services tested. Mozy (3:12h) and even SugarSync (2:56h) took longer.
You can monitor your backup at any time in the status overview which gives you a detailed overview of your items being currently uploaded and other important quick facts such as the file sizes. Unlike BackBlaze there is no option to real time prioritize the files you want to upload, a feature I hardly want to miss because I want the urgent files to be uploaded immediately. Data loss can happen any time, even while you’re doing a backup.
If you’re in the mood for digging deeper into SpiderOak’s file menus you’ll discover some beauties:
- Don’t backup files oder than ‘x’ amount of time – very useful.
- Mass exclude files with wildcards, e.g. *.doc
These option help to speed up the backup process ensuring you only backup important data.
- Well designed client
- Easy file selection
- Useful advanced option such as exclude files
- Very fast backup
- No LAN Sync
- No option to prioritize files
Schedule or automatic backup?
Once you specified folders or files to be backed up you can also alter your backup schedule. The standard value SpiderOaks suggests is ‘Automated’ and the only reason why you’d want to change that is when either your machine or your internet connection is very slow. There might be also other exceptions, say, your files hardly ever change. For those people who need scheduling SpiderOak offers backup scheduling from 5 minutes to once a week which should suffice every scheduler’s dreams.
Automatic backup works great with SpiderOak. I’ve been moving files around a lot and all changes were detected successfully and quickly. All versions of the files are being monitored and forever recorded which will come very handy if you accidentally saved or have overwritten an important document. Just restore the latest version and that’s it. But we’ll cover the restore process in depth a little later in this review.
Online Backup Security with SpiderOak
Nowadays security is a major issue with all things of our digital life. We pay with credit cards online, do online banking, share our private data on Facebook and you are about to backup your important and sensitive data online. Therefore, it is mandatory for your online backup provider to comply with the latest security standards and top-notch encryption technology.
Luckily, all the online backup service provider reviewed here do have decent security levels. Yet SpiderOak tops them all. I do feel confident to say that SpiderOak is the most secure online backup provider out there. To put it simple: security is their major selling proposition, their market niche.
SpiderOak’s zero-knowledge policy
Well, ok, here is a little marketing speech for you: SpiderOak has a so called ‘zero-knowledge’ policy. That simply means that nobody at SpiderOak will have every access to your data. Even if they were forced by the government – they couldn’t provide anybody with the files stored at their servers. There is no way to verify that, however, I feel a lot more secure with a provider that offers a private encryption key. Mozy does that pretty well, too and is also one of the more secure online backup services out there. Let’s see how SpiderOak summarizes their security policy:
One of the driving purposes behind SpiderOak was to dispel the notion that just because data is online means it can no longer be private. The goal was simple – devise a plan where a user’s files, filenames, file types, folders, and/or any other personal information is never exposed to anyone for any reason (even under government subpoena).
Dropbox for example doesn’t offer such level of security and has often been criticized in that regard. So if you’re looking for a more secure provider SpiderOak might be an option.
Back from the dead – Restoring your files
Computer crashes are a horrible and frustrating experience. It not only means that your data might be lost forever but also you’re going to spend at least a day in front of your PC trying to figure out what’s wrong and how big of a damage it caused. Good for you if you have chosen an online backup service where you stored all your important data because it then can be recovered with just a click of a button.
SpiderOak’s approach to restoring your files is a very easy one. In fact, they don’t even call it ‘restore’ as all the other online backup services but rather ‘viewing’ your files. In the client you can view all your files and recover them individually or in batch. Remember that this can take a while depending on your internet connection. If you need some files urgently, say, if you need to send this important report to your boss that you have been working on for hours you might just select those files first and then start the entire restore process.
For the purposes of this SpiderOak review we’re going to download the whole test folder with roughly 1GB in files. So you click on View and select your folder from the file browser. Then you click on that little arrow icon at the top of the navigation to download all your files.
Similar to Mozy and other online backup provider you can choose a different Download folder where you want to restore your data to. This can also be on an external hard drive for example which provides extra security.
Downloads extremely slow
You can then monitor the restore process in the ‘Download Manager’ which opens automatically. In my testing the download status appeared to be frozen for quite a while so one might be worried about the files. The last thing you need when you had a complete system crash is more stressful situations so it would be great to get real time updates as with IDrive which had the best restore status window of all providers.
With regards to the slow file downloads I had a look into the private user forum of SpiderOak and apparently the developers are working on that. Not only are the downloads slow but SpiderOak also slowed my machine down quite a bit. There are a few complaints about that so I am not alone here. Upload was a lot faster which to me seems almost impossible. Well, you’ll definitely need patience if you face the same problem as I do.
- Good overview of files to restore
- Partial or complete restores possible
- Client file download excessively slow on my machine
SpiderOak Support Review
Ok, my overall impression until the point of restore was a very positive one so I decided to contact the support to see if it was me or a general SpiderOak problem. Better for you as well: you get to see how their support team works and if your issues are handled quickly. First I decided to submit a thread to SpiderOak’s private user forum describing my problem:
Anyway, JoCo couldn’t help me in the forum directly which would be against their security policy which I appreciate. So I sent an email as required. In less than 24 hours I had a response from a support rep telling me what I could do and what could be wrong. So great support here. If you really need help I am confident that SpiderOak’s support will assist you well.
Honestly, I don’t have time to go through their instructions and send them my log files etc. So my plan is to try the web download instead (which was also recommend in the email). And as you can see in my video it works very well. Conclusion: something has to be wrong with my system configuration and I suppose it is due to the virtual machine I am using. In the end you might be using the web restore anyway because it is a lot faster than having to download the client, install it and then restore your files.
SpiderOak sharing and syncing: an alternative to Dropbox?
Without a doubt Dropbox is a powerful online backup and syncing suite. However, it is very pricy ($19.99 for 100GB) and there are some security concerns. That’s why I was looking for an alternative to Dropbox and SpiderOak may just be it. They are cheaper, and supposedly more secure than Dropbox. We have already talked about SpiderOak’s security policy and therefore know that it’s top notch. I personally think you don’t get anything more secure than SpiderOak.
They also claim easy, fast syncing AND sharing functions, so let’s test them thoroughly.
Syncing your data
Unlike Dropbox SpiderOak lets you sync any folders you like provided that they are registered folders in your backup configuration, meaning the folders have to be backed up at least once in order to qualify for a sync. Syncing is a crucial part for me. I am a student so I have a laptop and an iMac at home and there are folders that need to be at sync anytime because I don’t want to think about whether I transferred file x correctly to location y.
Before you can start syncing your data you need to ‘setup a sync’ in the SpiderOak client. As you click on the sync tab you get to choose 2 or more (!) folders that you can have in sync with each other. The ability to choose multiple folders here is very appealing. So if I had 4 PCs I could set up different folders and name them differently as well and keep them all in sync.
One feature I personally love is that you can exclude certain file types to be synced. So you can exclude everything but for example Word documents and therefore speed up syncing speed considerably.
How fast does SpiderOak sync?
Initial sync unfortunately takes time even though being in my local network. SpiderOak’s security policy forbids to use LAN sync because of security reason. This could be a deal breaker for you if you constantly sync larger files. It will be a pain the butt having to upload all the files to SpiderOak’s servers and then sync them accordingly.
Like the backup syncing my files was fast and accurate. You can obviously create multiple syncs and manage them in the sync tab. So there are virtually no limits how you can organize your data syncs among a variety of devices.
Syncing an iMac and Windows 7
I setup my sync between my iMac and my virtual Windows 7 and it works flawlessly and after the initial sync files were updated faster due to incremental file upload, that is, only the bits and bytes that changed have to be reuploaded instead of the entire file.
Sharing your files with SpiderOak
Imagine the following scenario: you are on vacation and want to share several holiday pictures with your mother. You can easily select a folder to be shared in a so called ‘Shared Room’. You would then send her a link and she can download or browse the files directly.
Obviously this feature is not limited to pictures this can be done with any files you might have.
As usual you can manage your shares in the client and the current status as well as the share link that you need to send to your friends or family.
SpiderOak Online Backup Review Summary
If security is your main concern and you need the highest possible protection for your data you should definitely consider SpiderOak. I had some problems when using the client to get to my backups, it just took too long and I couldn’t figure out why so I used the web restore instead which worked flawlessly.
With 100GB for $10 per month it is very competitively priced will certainly serve you well for all your backup, syncing and sharing needs and I think it is a worthy competitor to the somewhat overhyped Dropbox. In general I think they did a good job with the user interface however it could be difficult for some users to get used to it at first. You have to learn to understand several concepts such as ‘shared rooms’, ‘folder merge’ and the like.
Support was great and very responsive so if you are having a problem with your backups or anything you can rely on getting a quick answer and solution for your problem.
Let’s see some interesting specs for SpiderOak
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