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Use SpiderOak for Backup and File Sharing

Lee Hachadoorian on Jan 3rd 2011

The New York Times just ran 10 Ways to Get the Most Out of Technology. Two of the ideas were “Back up Your Data” and “Set up a Free File-Sharing Service”. Slightly puzzling to me was why these were two items instead of one, since it seems most of the back-up services (they suggest SOS Online Backup, Windows only) also work as file-sharing services (they suggest Dropbox, cross-platform) and vice versa. I’ve listed several of these services below, in roughly what I consider the order of their attractiveness, all things considered. And yes, SpiderOak is listed first because that’s the one I’m using.

Service OS Annual Pricing
for 100 GB
2 GB Free? Machines Notes
SpiderOak Cross-platform $100
$50 educational pricing
Yes Unlimited
Dropbox Cross-platform $240 Yes Unlimited? Available in 50 GB
MozyHome Windows/Mac $54 unlimited storage Yes 1 Backup only!
SOS Online Backup Windows $100 No 5 Available in 50 GB
Ubuntu One Ubuntu Linux (Windows in beta) $150 Yes Unlimited Available in 20 GB packs; Application-level syncing features

Why do I think SpiderOak is the top choice? It was mostly process of elimination

  1. Mozy is inexpensive, but built in sync is a major bonus. I keep certain folders synced between my home and work computer, and it has been really nice to not have to deal with copying files to my external hard drive anymore. As far as I can tell, even though you can pay to add additional computers on your Mozy accout, the service does not sync files between the computers.
  2. It seems obvious that you would want to back up your files in whatever way you have them organized. Dropbox started as a file-sharing service, which is probably why its model is to have the folders and files you’re interested in all stored in one shared folder (called, naturally, the Dropbox folder). So while you can use it for backup, you would have to rearrange your entire hard drive to get it to work. It’s also pricier than the other services. Note that Dropbox says they are working on adding the ability to backup/sync/fileshare any folder or file anywhere in your filesystem.
  3. Since I’m using Ubuntu Linux, Mozy and SOS are out, though Mozy might still be a contender if you’re a Mac user. But if you’re interested in cross-platform sync, even a Ubuntu user could do better than Ubutnu One (no Mac client, Windows client still in beta).
  4. While the pricing of most of these is similar (DropBox is the major outlier), SpiderOak’s educational pricing (available to anyone with a .edu email address) is amazing for what they offer. Mozy is the cheapest if you compare SpiderOak standard pricing, but doesn’t do sync or filesharing.

There are many aspects of these services which I have not discussed, so you may have to look more closely to decide which one is right for you, but many of the services are similar. Almost all offer secure web access to backed up files, so if your laptop dies on the way to a conference (happened to me three years ago) you can download your presentation from the backup service’s website. Also, almost all are offering mobile apps as well, though I haven’t yet tried SpiderOak’s.

Backup is one of those things everyone knows they should do and never does. These online services make it really easy, and are more secure than backing up to CDs or an external hard drive. After all, if there’s a fire at home you could easily lose both your computer and your backups!

PS. If you happen to decide to subscribe to SpiderOak because of this post, please consider using this referral link: https://spideroak.com/download/referral/3a666a03312a3b93532ec23861f6d190

Filed in Computing,General | 7 responses so far

7 Responses to “Use SpiderOak for Backup and File Sharing”

  1. Peter Fraseon 04 Jan 2011 at 9:22 pm

    Thanks Lee, this is helpful–and it makes me think maybe I should be using SpiderOak instead of Dropbox! But are you sure it’s right to totally conflate backup with file-sharing? It’s true that these file-syncing services work fine in the situation where a machine dies or gets lost. But the other case where you’d want a back up is where you accidentally delete or corrupt a file and need to get an old version. Since the syncing services (I think) all sync instantly, any accidental change you make while online will automatically get synced to the server. I know Dropbox at least does have some ability to revert to an earlier version, but I’m not sure I’d totally trust that. So for that reason, I still do periodic backups to an external hard drive in addition to using Dropbox.

    One other thing–any way to get a full-post RSS feed for your blog?

  2. Lee Hachadoorianon 04 Jan 2011 at 11:15 pm

    Good point, Peter. SpiderOak and SOS Online both provide version history with no time limit, so if you alter or delete a file you can easily roll back to the earlier version, even months after the fact. For SpiderOak, each version only stores incremental changes, so it won’t greatly compromise your storage capacity to have several versions of the file, but if you do run up against the limits you can manually delete old versions. Old versions in SpiderOak do not go away unless you manually delete them.

    Since SOS Online’s website says they also provide version history with not time limit, I assume the implementation is probably similar to SpiderOak. Mozy’s website says they offer 30 day version history for their service (which, remember, does not include syncing). Since, as you note, Dropbox offers version history as well, then this is another way in which these services are almost totally converging.

    I’ll look into the full-post RSS feed, or if you know how WordPress does it, let me know. This blogging technology is still new to me!

  3. Lee Hachadoorianon 04 Jan 2011 at 11:19 pm

    OK, I found how to set the feed to full-text (simple WordPress setting). If anyone complains about it I’ll have to make a decision, but I can’t imagine I have very many feed subscribers (yet).

    No I have to figure out how to make my front page show snippets, at least of older posts, instead of the full post.

  4. Jeremyon 05 Jan 2011 at 5:49 pm

    I tried SpiderOak, but was disappointed. It’s not usable for backing up multiple machines accessed by more than one user (like my home network).

    http://jeremyslade.com/2011/01/spideroak-online-backup-not-what-i-hoped-it-would-be/

  5. Lee Hachadoorianon 06 Jan 2011 at 1:47 am

    Jeremy, everyone’s use case is different, so maybe SpiderOak isn’t the product for you. I haven’t had the memory problem that you report, but it sounds like you’re using it to back up your entire hard drive, while I’m only using it to back up selected folders.

    But I’m not sure I understand your main objection, which has to do with multiple users on multiple devices. I’m not sure that I would call it a security breach that accessing the account with the correct password exposes all the backed up files across multiple devices. The correct way to keep the files separate is to have separate accounts. My wife and I both have SpiderOak accounts running on the same computer, although I use the paid account to back up all of our media files, while she uses the free account basically just to back up her Documents folder. Maintaining separate 100 GB accounts for the separate users on your home network would get expensive, but this is a pricing issue rather than a technological issue, which is how you seem to be framing it.

    This seems to be comparable to the other services I mentioned. Like SpiderOak, SOS Online and Dropbox both have a one-account-one-username philosophy. And like SpiderOak, Dropbox allows multiple accounts on the same computer as long they are associated with separate local logins (can’t tell if SOS is similar).

  6. Monica Bergeron 11 Jan 2011 at 11:08 am

    I’ve been a Dropbox user for about a year and love it but need more than 2GB but don’t want to pay $30/month. That’s a lot. $50 per year for 100GB is so much cheaper.

    Can there be any downside to SpiderOak??? Maybe my hesitation is that Dropbox is the known entity. I feel confident that they will stay in business for the near future.

  7. Lee Hachadoorianon 11 Jan 2011 at 2:33 pm

    SpiderOak has been around as long as Dropbox and SpiderOak (both launched in 2007). I’m not sure why Dropbox got a jump on market share. I set up Dropbox when I was first looking for a backup solution, but fled when I found out I would have to reorganize my hard drive so that everything I wanted to backup would sit in the Dropbox folder. Honestly, both of them were so easy to set up, that even if one went out of business (which presumably would happen with some kind of advance warning), it would be pretty easy to switch to another.

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