SpiderOak Online Backup Review

by Reads (27,599)
  • Pros

    • File compression saves cost
    • Cutting edge file sync & share
    • Broad OS support
  • Cons

    • No backup scheduler
    • Clunky restore process
    • No server OS support

There are a host of available online backup solutions on the market — unless you’re running Linux, in which case the SpiderOak online backup service is one of the few Penguin-friendly options. Is SpiderOak truly a one-size-fits-all-operating-systems solution, or just a multi-platform pretender? We get to the root of the issue in this review.

PRODUCT OVERVIEW

Like most online backup products, SpiderOak’s offering revolves around an individual subscription account, each of which allows a certain volume of data to be backed up via the Internet to a remote storage cache. There are two basic SpiderOak subscription offerings: A free service that is limited to 2 GB or tiered pricing for the storage consumed. The table below details each SpiderOak subscription tier:

Feature

SpiderOak 2GB

SpiderOak Plus

Annual Cost

Free

$10 per month for a 100 GB increment

or

$100 per year for 100 GB increments

Storage

2 GB compressed

No account limit (compressed)

Supported Systems

Windows 2000 or later

Mac OS X

Linux platforms

Windows 2000 or later

Mac OS X

Linux platforms

Multiple computer support

Yes

Yes

DOWNLOAD & INSTALLATION

Just click the giant green Download button on the SpiderOak homepage to download the SpiderOak client for Windows. This process is straightforward, and the figure below shows the first screen of the installation:

SpiderOak Online Backup first install screen

The first option of the installation is where to install the SpiderOak backup program. This is not where the backups will be kept; but where the applications that will compress, encrypt, and transport your data to the SpiderOak servers will locally reside. Once the installation process is complete, we can log in now or create a new account.

Creating a SpiderOak account only requires only one piece of unusual user data – the name of the computer you’re backing up:

SpiderOak Online Backup account setup screen

Only after naming yourself and your PC do you select a username, create a password, and accept the obligatory End-User License Agreement (EULA). The last step of the account setup process is to enter a security code displayed on screen, and then the installation is complete. The figure below shows this final setup step:

SpiderOak Online Backup encryption setup

PROGRAM INTERFACE

Once SpiderOak has been installed and the account has been set up, we can immediately select contents of the PC to be backed up. The interface is straightforward, and selecting the Desktop and My Documents folders for backup will launch a backup after the data is locally compressed and encrypted. Once the backup is underway, the current backup tasks are displayed within the status tab of SpiderOak. This is shown in the figure below:

SpiderOak Online Backup status tab

One of the built-in features of SpiderOak is its pre-upload and remote store compression of the data. This is important as the cost associated with the backup service is based on disk consumption in the compressed state. For example; if many of the files being backed up are text-based documents, there can be great efficiency in the disk cost compared to the extracted size of the files. Files such as music, movies and graphics won’t likely benefit as much from the compression, but for document-hoarders, SpiderOak is cutting you some slack on your incremental costs.

The compression is comparable to what you can get with products like WinZip or Windows compressed folders. To get an idea of how effective the compression is for your data, the Storage Bar at the bottom of the SpiderOak application will give a bar-graph view of the total footprint online with the compression.

SpiderOak also offers a Sync feature that may be beneficial to users with many computers. The Sync feature will keep a designated path up to date across many computers, including those of different operating systems. This can be very helpful for users who have multiple computers, even across different locations.

Up to this point, SpiderOak has behaved almost identically to every other online storage service we’ve reviewed, but it has one more trick up its sleeve that most of its competitors can’t match. The SpiderOak Share feature allows designated files to be put up as a share to a specified list of people. The figure below shows a share being created:

SpiderOak Online Backup file share setup

Once created, we can configure access to the share. This feature allows a subset of your data to be presented out in a URL to function as a file exchange, either for you or people you interact or share files with. The figure below shows a share being accessed through a web browser:

SpiderOak Online Backup share Web interface

IN USE & EFFECTIVENESS

While it is easy to get files up to SpiderOak, the restore process is the heart of an online backup solution. SpiderOak’s restore process is straightforward and quick, and downloads the files to the C:\Documents and Settings\UserName\Application Data\SpiderOak\downloads folder with default Windows installations. The restore process decompresses the files locally, to save bandwidth and preserve the storage consumption online.

SpiderOak’s additional features include support for multiple computers, including multiple operating systems. This makes backups and restores across systems a breeze. Each computer can simultaneously access the same account, allowing Sync and Share functionality for easy transfers. The figure below shows a second computer added to the account, and restores can be easily made from the other system:

SpiderOak Online Backup multi computer support

There is one glaring omission to the SpiderOak offering, however. SpiderOak currently does not offer an interface-based backup scheduler for backing up documents. SpiderOak is currently working very hard to get this functionality rolled into the product. For advanced users, options exist via the command line and task scheduling to make backups run automatically.

CONCLUSION

The SpiderOak offering is very strong. The lack of a scheduler will be addressed soon, and advanced users may take it as-is and configure away their own automatic backups to suit their needs. While the product is not perfect, the nice extras make a strong offering for the product. On the highly technical side, SpiderOak is a technology-first product. A quick read over their story will show this clearly.

PROS

  • File compression saves cost
  • Cutting edge file sync & share
  • Broad OS support

CONS

  • No backup scheduler
  • Clunky restore process
  • No server OS support


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