SpiderOak Review: Privacy-as-a-Platform

One feature taken for granted with most online backup companies is the concept of privacy. Not at SpiderOak: they highlight it. SpiderOak features a “zero-knowledge” privacy environment, where you are the only person who can unlock encrypted data. Find out what zero-knowledge is and what privacy means for your data.

SpiderOak Knows Privacy

spideroakAlmost every online backup company tells a tale about how easy they are to use or how much space you get. SpiderOak takes a different approach. They take the one feature we take for granted—information privacy—and build their business model around it. They do this with good reason. Believe it or not, people who refuse to place any trust into the cloud still exist. Too many stories tell of data compromise. Even if you have nothing to hide, privacy means no one has a right to view your data except you.

Behind SpiderOak Door Number One

SpiderOak is big on privacy. The main reason no one trusted the cloud in the beginning was this idea that once data went online, nothing was private. People still believe that. Call them the people with the tin foil hats; they have a real reason for being cautious. Hackers still abound in the most secure of networks. Not too long ago, a big box retailer got hacked, compromising thousands of people’s credit card information. Unless you want to invite wrath, one thing you don’t want to mess with is someone’s wallet.

At SpiderOak, everyone has a right to privacy. They know it will take time to get people to trust them. They started laying this foundation in 2007; to encompass all data, from every computer platform, regardless of data size. Their mission is to empower users to sync and share data without compromising privacy.

SpiderOak is showing transparency: they put photos of everyone on the SpiderOak team on the About Me page. Some photos were missing, but it shows they are willing to show their face on their product.

Zero-Knowledge Privacy Platform

Just about every page on their website emphasizes privacy as the number one focus of SpiderOak. Zero-knowledge is their way of saying the server has zero knowledge of your data. No one can read your data but you. No one can subpoena your data, for any reason, because no one can read it. This includes employees, law enforcement, the government, or whoever else wants to take a look at your data. Your data is kept private by design.

  • Encryption Keys. Encryption keys are not kept or sent to SpiderOak. You’re the only one with access. Employees can only see sequentially numbered containers of encrypted data.
  • Any Device. Access your data from anywhere, on any device connected to the internet, whether it be in your pocket, backpack, or on your desk.
  • Unlimited Devices. SpiderOak doesn’t care if you have an Android in your pocket, MAC at home for business, and a Windows home entertainment system; SpiderOak will cover them all.
  • Restore Everything. SpiderOak guarantees your data will be available no matter what happens to your phone, tablet or laptop.
  • Trash Recovery. Once SpiderOak has your data, feel free to delete your files from your computer. Whatever you delete will always be retained by SpiderOak.
  • Always Working. SpiderOak runs passively in the background providing continuous backups that are always up to date.
  • Version Retention. Make as many edits to a file as you wish; SpiderOak promises to keep every version, without charging you more space for each version.
  • Free Trial. SpiderOak offers a free version, with a data limit of 2GB.

Let the People Speak

spideroakapIn June 2013 SpiderOak asked people to tell them why they liked SpiderOak. While this was a marketing technique used to get people to speak up and expose them in a positive light, the customer reviews are real. I found an underlying theme. People chose SpiderOak because of their privacy guarantee. They love that even if the people at SpiderOak make a mistake, their data is still safe. That’s the same theme they have on their website. I have never seen a cloud company take privacy to a whole new level like this.

What can you expect?

Let me put this word on the table: privacy. Nothing is more precious than data integrity and privacy in today’s online age. They say no lock can be 100% secure because every lock can be unlocked. This is also true with SpiderOak. When you trust your data to SpiderOak, you’re given an encryption key. They will tell you—more than once—if you lose this key, your data is lost. SpiderOak cannot reset your password. No decryption program can safely decrypt your data. Once the key is lost, so is your data. On the bright side, your data is 100% safe by design. Just like the deadbolt to your front door, you’re the only one with the key.

Here are some perks.

  • 50% Discount for Students. If you sign up with an “edu” address, SpiderOak will give you 50% off your subscription.
  • Easy-To-Use Interface. Even among the most negative reviews, the interface often receives high ratings for being easy to use.

The Ugly

To be fair, no backup company is without sin. Consider these next points before you dive headfirst into SpiderOak.

  • There is no customer support phone number. For many people, this is a deal breaker.
  • Don’t lose your encryption key. If you do, you will lose access to all of your backed up data.
  • Customers complain about slow customer service. Since no phone number is provided for live support, your only choice is email. In their defense, they publish a User Manual for their services, have an FAQ page, startup guides, and video tutorials.

My Recommendation

SpiderOak is nothing if not private. That seems to be their number one selling point. Customer service aside, they appear to be a solid service with an easy-to-use interface. They are one point above the others in terms of data integrity. Cheaper alternatives exist as well as ones that offer more storage on free accounts. My data won’t be nearly as secure on any other server. They claim they are the first cloud computing company offering Privacy-as-a-Service and they haven’t let anyone down yet. Get started with SpiderOak here.

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