SpiderOak Review: Online Cloud Backup
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|Most secure, customizable, streamlined file backup for advanced users|
Despite its odd name, SpiderOak is more than an online backup service: It consolidates your backup, syncing, remote access, sharing, and more into one seamless, beautiful interface that runs invisibly in the background. Its homepage illustration is equally cute. You can add an unlimited number of devices, including external and network drives, at no additional cost; you only pay as you need more space. SpiderOak can be confusing for the novice, but it's a great option for more advanced users of online backup.
Like other online backup services, the first backup on each device might take days, depending on the speed of your connection (denoted in SpiderOak by the "Network Health" bar) and how much data you're backing up. SpiderOak lets you select manually which folders you want to back up under the "Back Up" tab.
On a Mac, this setup was a bit finicky and didn't want to listen to commands, but it finally started its backup, the status of which (and of any other processes SpiderOak is running) can be monitored under the "Status" tab. On the PC, setup was also annoying, repeatedly asking us for the Captcha image after logging in. Be wary of operator error, though, as someone in the office more familiar with online backup found it easy to use and a refreshing change from other services. SpiderOak is also unique among online backup services because it's compatible with Linux. It also offers a smartphone app that is free and even simpler to use.
SpiderOak backs up automatically, within seconds after you make a change to any document you've selected for backup, making it more secure than other services that only back up hourly or daily. You can also set it to back up, sync, and share less frequently if you like.
Restore & Remote File Access
You can retrieve your backed-up files within the SpiderOak application, or you can log in on a web browser with your user name and encryption key (password). Both methods of viewing and downloading files are fast and easy to navigate. Should you lose your data, simply re-download it. You can also choose from every historical save of every file in the event your file was irreparably damaged on your computer. We tested this with music, photo, and text files, and they transferred from Mac to SpiderOak to PC and back again without a hitch.
You can perform all sorts of actions with your data in SpiderOak. You can sync folders on separate devices: anytime you save a change to a document, it overwrites the file on the other device(s) as well if you have them synced. You can also merge files, a unique feature that combines your interactions among folders in a way that prevents overwriting of newer data with older. Suppose you recently purchased a new computer and, after a few weeks of using it, wanted to import some data you had on your old machine. SpiderOak's Merge function won't perform a full replace of the data; it will merely bring the folders together so that you can have one master copy and then ditch the old machine.
SpiderOak makes it somewhat more difficult to share your files with others. You'll create as many ShareRooms (online locations for sharing your data) as you need, each of which uses a ShareID and a RoomKey that you provide to your collaborators. The program also offers a website link that you can send out, but it won't let you share directly from the program. Any changes you make to the shared files will show up automatically for all sharers. spideroak-shareroom-large
To a new online backup user, all these options can seem overwhelming. The many features are great, but they're useless if you don't know what to do with them. Video tutorials are available on the website, but the Help page is simply a series of screen shots and very little explanation for some of the features.
Data is extremely secure on SpiderOak. In addition to standard triple-encryption on backup, during transmission, and on the storage end, you create your password on your own computer. SpiderOak servers will never receive your password, so make sure to write it down and store it in a safe place if you're prone to forgetting. While this is an option with most online backup services, it's mandatory with SpiderOak. Advanced, security-conscious users will like this feature.
The company operates its own hardware and data centers with redundant systems, power, generators, battery backups, cooling systems, and uplinks. You can negotiate even more geographic redundancy if you're willing to pay extra.
In regard to HIPAA compliance: Online backup services cannot legally state that they are officially HIPAA compliant. However, Spideroak contains all of the security mechanisms to protect data that is transmitted to and from their servers. Spideroak follows strict guidelines to meet factors that go into HIPAA compliance. If you want to know what HIPAA is, please visit our FAQ page.
SpiderOak provides 2GB of storage at no cost. Just download the program, and start backing up your files. If, like most of us, you need many more gigabytes of storage space, you can order more space. It costs $10 a month for the first 100GB, and $10 for each additional 100 gigabyte increment. It's not the cheapest option for online backup, but with the advanced features and added security, we think it's worth it for very important or sensitive data.
SpiderOak is a full-featured, streamlined online backup service that keeps all relevant information in one place. It's designed for advanced users who want to take their data backup to the next, more secure level. If you're new to the world of online backup, though, setup and use can be tricky, so it might be better to start with a simpler online backup service like SugarSync.
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