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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair
Thu, 26 Apr 2012

I'm testing SpiderOak backup

Google Drive just made its public debut, so I'm testing something totally different: SpiderOak.

You can file SpiderOak under, "everything's encrypted, unlike Dropbox and Google Drive they can't see ANYTHING you do, more geeky and more powerful."

I've been meaning to try SpiderOak for years. Today I downloaded and installed the client software on my Debian Squeeze laptop, and right now I'm backing up the exact same files I have in Dropbox.


At least in Debian, when you install the client software from the .deb package, SpiderOak doesn't start automatically (though you can tell it to do so once you've started it for the first time). At first I couldn't find SpiderOak in the menu, so I clicked alt-F2 to open up a launch window, into which I typed SpiderOak. Afterward I found the SpiderOak application under the Internet portion of the menu.

Adding to the geeky (i.e. not super-polished) nature of the SpiderOak client, I created my account on the SpiderOak Web site, picking my username and password. After I downloaded the SpiderOak client application, installed it via GDebi and started it up, I was asked for my login and an "access code." I didn't have an access code, but I typed in my password (which wasn't hidden from view, by the way) and that worked, taking me to the next screen, during which time the SpiderOak system was generating encryption keys on my local drive.

Once that's done, in the full-featured client application that is somewhat difficult to grasp (lots of options) at first, you can tell SpiderOak to back up portions of your /home directory as general as Documents, Videos, Music, etc., or you can hit the Advanced button and choose directory by directory what you want backed up. I did that because for now I want to stay under the 2 GB free-account limit.

I'm not sure if Dropbox allows you to back up files in folders other than the Dropbox folder, but SpiderOak lets you back up anything, anywhere on the drive.

And in case you haven't been reading all that closely, I'm running SpiderOak on Linux. There are Linux client applications for a whole lot of distros -- Debian, Ubuntu, RHEL/CentOS, Fedora, Suse -- even Slackware 12.1 has a client (which I hope works on Slackware 13.37).

I give Dropbox credit -- much credit -- for having an excellent Linux client. I give Google Drive less credit for launching with Windows and Mac clients yet only promising that a Linux client will be delivered soon. I give SugarSync no credit for promising a Linux client, farming out the work to a freelance developer and never managing to deliver any damn thing.

My 891 MB of files are still syncing to SpiderOak at the moment. I haven't yet installed client software on any other machines, but I very well may do that soon.

If you're at all worried about Google looking at your files to advertise to you, Dropbox looking at your files (they can see filenames and get in there if they "need" to), SpiderOak is for you -- everything is encrypted, only YOU have the keys, the SpiderOak people can't see what's in your files, can't see your filenames, and can't get in there even if some law-enforcement entity asks them.

For the paranoid, SpiderOak checks most every box. I grant you that it's not as easy/user-friendly as Dropbox, but it seems more powerful out of the gate, way more secure, and offers 100 GB for per year vs. Dropbox's 50 GB for per year. (That's twice as much for the same price, not that you couldn't figure that out without my "help.")