[UPDATED Feb. 1, 2019, with price increases. This review was originally published on May 15, 2018.]
SpiderOak became well-known several years ago for offering strongly encrypted cloud backup services that not even the company could crack open — a "no knowledge" feature that made the service attractive to privacy fanatics. But since then, many other online-backup services have begun to offer something similar.
These days, SpiderOak's One service has a couple of unique strengths that set it apart from other online-backup services. But taken as a whole, it can't compete with Backblaze and IDrive, the top options on the market and our choices for best cloud backup services.
SpiderOak's extensive sharing functionality is unquestionably its biggest differentiator. If sharing files is important to you, no other cloud-backup service has anything particularly close, even if that feels like a fairly limited niche. SpiderOak also has pretty good syncing functions that are better than most other online-backup services', but not as good as those of dedicated syncing services like Dropbox.
The real issue with SpiderOak One, though, is the cost of storage, which might drive off many would-be SpiderOak One users. You could split a single account among multiple users, given the unlimited number of devices allowed, but you might quickly find yourself hitting the $320-a-year 5TB limit, which, even divided among many users, is pricey compared with the competition.
MORE: Best Cloud Backup
Online Backup vs. Online Syncing
You may be familiar with online-syncing services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud or OneDrive. Each acts as a cloud-based drive for a specific set of files or folders on your device, while also placing copies of those files on all of your devices and letting you share some files with specific people.
Online-backup services take a more comprehensive approach, backing up all of the personal files on your computer to a cloud drive. Most offer unlimited storage for a single device, or a fixed amount of storage for an unlimited number of devices — and, in some cases, any connected external drives — for a reasonable subscription fee that's often less, gigabyte for gigabyte, than what you would pay for an online-syncing service.
If sharing files is important to you, no other cloud-backup service has anything particularly close to what SpiderOak offers.
SpiderOak One combines a bit of both approaches: It backs up every file and folder you designate but also creates a Dropbox-like folder called the Hive on your hard drive. Everything you put in the Hive gets synced to all the other desktop and laptop computers connected to your SpiderOak account. You can also sync other files in a more granular fashion to specific computers on your account.
Unlike some online-backup services, SpiderOak One lets you back up system files and applications as well as the usual personal files. It doesn't really want you to do so, however; in a support document, the company explains that its software "is not designed to back up application data or operating system data" because those files are large, updated frequently and make your SpiderOak backup software work overtime.
Costs and What's Covered
All four of SpiderOak One's pricing tiers offer the same features, such as the ability to back up an unlimited number of devices, including external drives and local network drives. The only difference is the storage space provided.
It breaks down like this: You can get 150GB for $6 per month or $69 a year, 400GB for $11 per month or $115 per year, 2TB for $14 per month or $149 annually, and finally, 5TB for $29 per month or $320 a year. (These are increases of about 15 percent from 2018 levels.) There's a three-week free trial for all four plans. For the purposes of this review, we'll look at the 2TB plan.
The cost of storage might drive off many would-be SpiderOak One users.
These prices could be more competitive, at least for online-backup services. IDrive, which also backs up an unlimited number of computers, gives you a similar 2TB plan for $69.50 per year, and a 5TB one for $99.50 per year.
Taking the opposite tack, Backblaze gives you unlimited backup space for a single computer for $50 per year. A few machines that hold more than 2TB of personal data among them could be backed up for less than what SpiderOak's top tier costs.
As mentioned above, SpiderOak has a lot of syncing functions. But even in that market, SpiderOak is pricey: $115 per year gets you 400GB of storage space with SpiderOak but 1TB with Dropbox or Google Drive.
SpiderOak One supports Windows 7 or later, Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks or later, and Debian and Red Hat-based Linux distributions (including Ubuntu and Mint). Watch out, though, if you've got an older machine — SpiderOak killed 32-bit Linux support in September 2018.
On mobile, SpiderOak's Android app (which had a lot of negative user reviews in Google Play when we looked) requires Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich or later, and the iPhone app needs iOS 8.0 or later.
To test SpiderOak One and other cloud-backup services, we used a 15-inch MacBook Pro 2017 running Windows 10 via Boot Camp. Mobile apps were tested on a Google Pixel 2 XL. Each service was tested individually and then uninstalled from both devices prior to the next test. Our set of files to back up included 16.8GB of documents, photos, videos and music. We uploaded this data to the cloud and then restored a 1.12GB subset of these files to the laptop.
We used the GlassWire application to monitor upload and download speeds and the built-in Resource Monitor to track computer usage, all on Windows 10. Internet service was provided by a TDS Telecom Extreme 300 home account in Middleton, Wisconsin, that theoretically provided up to 300 megabits per second (Mbps) down and 300 Mbps up. Real-world speeds during testing were typically closer to 280 Mbps down and 120 Mbps up, according to Speedtest.net.
Our initial upload of the 16.8GB of files on SpiderOak One's standard settings took approximately 4 hours and 48 minutes. This was by far the slowest upload performance of any service we tested. By comparison, IDrive took 92 minutes, while Acronis, Backblaze, Carbonite and Zoolz each took about 3 hours, give or take 15 minutes.
We couldn't blame slow network speeds for SpiderOak's performance. A speed test at the time showed the network upload speed to be 281 Mbps, but SpiderOak's average data-transfer speed was only 8.4 Mbps.
However, SpiderOak had phenomenal download speeds. Restoring our 1.12GB of photo and video files took approximately 1 minute and 55 seconds. According to Speedtest.net, the overall network connection was providing a 256 Mbps download speed at that time, while SpiderOak transferred the files at 83 Mbps — 10 times its uptake speed. The next two swiftest services in our testing, Acronis and Backblaze, took about 10 minutes each.
The SpiderOak One desktop app is entirely too cramped.
SpiderOak One's desktop application used an average of approximately 4 percent of CPU time during the initial backup, varying from zero to 12 percent at times. This decreased to approximately 2 percent of CPU processes as SpiderOak ran in the background.
Our primary complaint with the SpiderOak One desktop application was that the presentation was entirely too cramped. There's a lot of functionality and information presented, and yet the interface designers opted for a minuscule font size that makes the information needlessly difficult to read and navigate.
Ignoring that issue, there's also an excessive number of options available, to the point that it feels overwhelming. If you are the sort of person who likes tweaking software to perfectly fit your preferences, this is great. But for most users, the single page of less than a dozen options found on the rest of the services we tested will be plenty.
The primary functions of SpiderOak One are accessed via the five tabs across the top of the desktop interface. The Dashboard, the first tab and the home screen, offers a useful overview of your current backup, sync and share status.
The Backup tab gives you the option of either backing up all files within a given category or drilling down to specific files and folders in a standard tree menu. Both options appeared to work well, although one odd detail to note is that nothing obvious occurs when you click Run Now after making your selections. You are left to look back at the dashboard to note that the upload has begun.
You can actually back up almost all the files on your hard drive or drives, including system files and applications, to SpiderOak, but the company actively discourages doing that. Instead, it asks you to select files manually.
This makes sense from SpiderOak's point of view, but it's not a very user-friendly function. It's far easier for tech newbies to get started with something like Backblaze, which, at the touch of a button, automatically scans your entire drive, filters out the system and application files, and backs up everything else.
As you might expect, the Manage tab is where you view your uploaded files and have the option to download or delete these files. You can also view historical versions of older files in the event you need to return to a previous version of a file. SpiderOak saves these indefinitely, so you'll need to delete older versions if you're close to hitting a data-storage cap.
The Sync tab contains both the Hive folder, which is sort of like a catch-all Dropbox folder, and any folders you have identified for individual syncing.
As the name suggests, these folders act more like an online-syncing service than a backup service, and any changes to the files in these folders will be synced immediately across the rest of the devices that have access to them.
The final tab is Share, which lets you create either shareable single-file links or ShareRooms. The former option creates a simple URL that will remain active for 72 hours and allow anyone with the link to access that file.
ShareRooms, on the other hand, shares an entire folder with anyone, regardless of whether that person is a SpiderOak One user. The ShareRooms are password protected and encrypted, and the files in these folders are read-only, so no changes can be made.
The SpiderOak One mobile app has a simple interface but packs a little more functionality than most competitors' mobile apps do. However, it's really just a list view of your backed-up and synced computer files; the apps don't actually back up the smartphones they run on.
Swiping right on the menu bar in the upper-left corner of the app gives you the full list of options with the SpiderOak Hive, any devices you've backed up, ShareRooms, Favorites, Recents and Settings.
SpiderOak Hive gives you access to the contents of that synced folder. Similarly, selecting any of your backed-up devices from the list gives you access to the contents of those folders. But as with most online-backup-service mobile apps, this is a one-way street — you can't upload anything to your backup or Hive folders from the mobile app.
The ShareRooms functionality in the mobile app allows you to access any of your existing ShareRooms, and you can also add a new ShareRoom by entering the ShareID and RoomKey, but you can't create a new ShareRoom from within the mobile app.
While the mobile app lacks a search function, it does feature both Recents and Favorites tabs — something that other backup apps should consider adopting. These nicely handle the difficulty of navigating through the folder structure on a mobile app to find the (probably) couple of dozen files that you typically look for when remote. Favorites are identified by the star to the right of the file name, and Recents displays the last several files you've viewed.
Unfortunately, while the features of the mobile app are quite useful, we still had an extremely frustrating experience using it on our Pixel 2 XL. It was incredibly slow to navigate through menus, and the app would regularly fail to display the contents of our backed-up folders.
Security is one of SpiderOak One's key selling points, and the company calls itself a "No Knowledge" backup solution. That means SpiderOak One cannot ever see your files because they are encrypted prior to leaving your device, and the key to decrypt the files rests on your device(s) alone.
Many of SpiderOak's competitors now offer an optional private encryption key that creates a similar level of privacy, so security is less of a unique advantage for SpiderOak than it once was. And as with those services, if the encryption key is lost, SpiderOak theoretically can't retrieve your files.
However, this No Knowledge guarantee applies only if you use nothing but the desktop client software. If you want to see your files in the SpiderOak websiteinterface, or in the SpiderOak mobile apps, then those platforms have to retrieve the encryption key from your desktop software, which means that SpiderOak itself might be able to see them.
Oddly for a company that stresses security, SpiderOak One has not yet fully implemented two-factor authentication (2FA) as a login option. Its major cloud-backup competitors — Backblaze, Carbonite and IDrive — already have. Existing One customers do get 2FA, but new customers will have to wait.
The SpiderOak Hive and Sync features are basically ways to get at least some of the functionality of an online-syncing service in your desktop backup application, and were designed to provide a "no-knowledge" alternative to Dropbox.
Any files that are dumped into the Hive folder will be backed up there and will sync across all of your devices running SpiderOak's client software. The Hive folder, specifically, cannot be renamed, but any folder in your standard backup can be made to function similarly by creating a Sync.
The Sync function is more fine-grained than the Hive. It lets you select exactly which backed-up folders you wish to sync, along with the registered devices you wish to sync them on. At that point, any changes made to the files in these folders will be reflected across those devices.
SpiderOak One has the most powerful sharing features of any of the online-backup apps we tested, but the rest of the package isn't enough to justify its subscription — particularly at the high prices it charges — over strong competitors like Backblaze and IDrive.
While SpiderOak One competes favorably on a feature-by-feature basis against services like Acronis and IDrive, the app is difficult to navigate and can be needlessly confusing at times. Unless SpiderOak's sharing and syncing features alone are enough to win you over, you should be looking elsewhere.
Credit: Tom's Guide