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SpiderOak One - Review 2021

It’s important to back up your data, but you might hesitate to use an online backup service out of concern that the company housing your data would have access to your personal files. If you’re this kind of security-conscious user, consider the privacy-focused SpiderOak One, which has a No Knowledge policy. Aside from its privacy features, we like SpiderOak’s intuitive desktop application and unlimited versioning capabilities. The service charges more for online storage than others in the category, but you can back up an unlimited number of devices per account. The biggest downside is that SpiderOak One still does not support two-factor authentication for web logins.

How Much Does SpiderOak One Cost?

SpiderOak One is free to try for 21 days, and we like that the trial doesn’t require entering any credit card information. Paid personal plans start at $69 per year for 150GB of space. For $149 annually, you can get 2TB of space. The largest Personal plan offers 5TB of online storage for a whopping $320 per year. Although these plans are pricey, all of them support an unlimited number of devices. Additionally, all SpiderOak One plans let you back up external hard drives, removable devices, and network volumes. Other services, such as Carbonite, charge extra for these capabilities.

For comparison, IDrive’s $69.50-per-year plan offers 2TB of online storage for an unlimited number of devices. Backblaze charges $60 per year for its unlimited storage plan, but limits you to one computer. SpiderOak One does not offer backup or restore options via mail—Backblaze, Carbonite, and IDrive all do. This capability is useful in the case of accidental data loss or simply if you want to perform bulk file transfers as quickly as possible.

SpiderOak One has desktop apps for Windows, macOS, and 64-bit versions of Linux (such as Fedora and Ubuntu). It no longer offers an Android or iOS, however. SpiderOak’s mobile apps were only ever read-only (you could view files in your backup sets, but not back up data from your phone), so this is not necessarily a huge loss. However, many other services, including IDrive and Zoolz BigMind, allow you to back up several types of data from your mobile device.

Getting Started With SpiderOak One

SpiderOak One’s account setup process is simple. All you need to do is download the app and provide a username and password (used to encrypt your backups, as we explain in the next section). The desktop apps for Windows, macOS, and Linux are the key to SpiderOak’s service, since they are the only way to upload files. It is worth noting that, in order to update the software, you need to download the latest release from the SpiderOak website. The company explains, “Our challenge, which we have not yet solved, is to devise a system in which we can push out authentic updates yet be technically and legally infeasible for an overzealous authority to compel us to push out an update containing a deliberate weakness.” The security-conscious crowd might appreciate this policy, but other users may find it inconvenient.

SpiderOak One Windows Dashboard

Although the install process is simple, SpiderOak One does not guide you through the initial backup setup with a wizard. For experienced users, that’s fine, since it’s easy to find everything that you need. For newcomers, SpiderOak may be a bit overwhelming. That said, SpiderOak’s Help resources cover topics in great detail. The link to those resources is in the lower-right corner of the desktop app.

Security and Privacy

SpiderOak One’s strength is its security practices. For instance, its No Knowledge policy states that it has absolutely no way to access or view any of your files. In practice, this means that all traffic to and from the SpiderOak servers is encrypted via TLS/SSL and protected by certificate pinning (a method of preventing man-in-middle-attacks); in other words, no one can see or access the contents of your files.

As mentioned, SpiderOak encrypts your backup set with your account password. It hashes your password with salted PBKDF2. This is a key derivation function used to prevent brute force or rainbow table attacks. SpiderOak says its encryption approach uses a combination of 2048-bit RSA and 256-bit AES.

All those measures help keep your data private. It also means that SpiderOak One can’t help you reset your account password, if you forget it. This setup is slightly different than other online backup services. IDrive and Acronis True Image, for example, allow you to set private encryption keys that are separate from the account password. The companies still can’t help you recover your data if you lose your key, but they can, at least, reset your account password.

We give SpiderOak One bonus points for transparency in its support documents and across the experience. For instance, when you log into your account on the web, SpiderOak One informs you in straightforward language what privacy you may be giving up as an unavoidable result of using that platform. The warning ends with the explanation that the No Knowledge policy only fully applies to the desktop application. The web interface does not support two-factor authentication, which is another reason you might decide not to use it. Many other online backup services, including IDrive, Backblaze, and OpenDrive, support this security feature.

SpiderOak’s privacy policy states that it collects three types of information: account information (username and passphrase), billing information, and device information (operating system, approximate amount of data stored on its service, IP address, any system error messages, and the date and time of each request). SpiderOak says it uses this data internally to maintain, improve, and customize the service. We appreciate SpiderOak’s statement that it “never sells your information or shares it with third-party advertisers,” which is what we like to hear. Note that SpiderOak says it will disclose information “if we believe it is reasonably necessary to comply with a law, regulation, or valid legal process,” but that’s standard practice. SpiderOak is based in the US, in Missouri.

Desktop Interface

SpiderOak One’s desktop app has a straightforward design and a clean blue-and-white color scheme. There are lots of features to take in, but SpiderOak One smartly divides them across five main tabs: Backup, Dashboard, Manage, Sync, and Share. The Home tab has a panel that lists your devices and a center module with the status of running Backup, Sync, and Share processes. A persistent storage bar at the bottom of the interface indicates how much space you have left on your account. The blue Run Now button in the lower-left corner makes it easy to start your backup from anywhere in the interface.

Tabbing to the Backup section shows suggestions for content that you might like to back up to SpiderOak One. Choices include Desktop, Documents, Favorites, Movies, Music, and Pictures. Note that these options refer only to the folder name itself. For example, selecting Music backs up your Music folder, not all the audio files on your machine.

SpiderOak One's Backup Options

The center of the Backup tab lets you view the folder tree of files selected for backup and add anything to that list. Unfortunately, SpiderOak One doesn’t have a disk image backup option. Acronis True Image and IDrive both offer easy ways to back up an entire hard drive.

You can download items from the Manage tab as well as access the file history (or versions) of items in your storage backup set. The Sync tab lets you view the status of the SpiderOak Hive, a shared folder for syncing files across devices. Alternatively, you can specify two other folders on your hard drive that you would like to remain in sync with each other. Share is the last option, in which you set up ShareRooms. We’ll go into more detail on these last two sections later in this review.

Scheduling Your Backups With SpiderOak One

SpiderOak One lets you customize your backup schedule via the Preferences menu, which is located in the lower-right-hand corner. With the default option, Automatic, SpiderOak continuously watches your system for any changes to files—a strategy we emphatically endorse. Alternatively, it can back up files on timed intervals (every five minutes is the minimum) at a specified time or day of the week. You can also independently schedule syncing and updates of ShareRooms (see the Syncing and Sharing section, below).

Another option lets you include or exclude files of varying types and sizes from your backup. For example, you can exclude files that are larger than 1GB, use certain keywords in their filenames, or are older than a defined age. These options are excellent for power users.

SpiderOak One doesn’t re-upload an entire file every time one little thing changes. Instead, it scans your files, finds the modified parts, and uploads the new data. As a result, SpiderOak One can store historical versions of your files, while minimizing the amount of space and bandwidth required. The service also de-duplicates information and condenses your files to maximize your space.

We like the convenience of right-clicking on any file or folder in Windows’ File Explorer (this isn’t supported on macOS or Linux) to quickly back it up. If a file is already backed up, SpiderOak One offers a few more options, such as Make Shared File Link and Show Versions. Carbonite offers a similar feature. If you don’t want to see SpiderOak One options in File Explorer’s context menus, however, you can turn this off in Settings, via the the Enable OS Integration option.

Syncing and Sharing

SpiderOak One includes a syncing service called Hive. When you set up an account, SpiderOak One creates a folder on your machine called SpiderOak Hive, which works like a Dropbox folder. It syncs any files you add to other places where you have SpiderOak One installed. Livedrive offers similar folder-syncing capabilities.

(Editors’ Note: Livedrive is owned by J2 Global, the parent company of PCMag’s publisher, Ziff Davis.)

Sharing files and folders in SpiderOak One uses a slightly convoluted but very flexible system called ShareRooms. Tap the Share tab to get started. SpiderOak first requires you to create a ShareID, which is a public username that helps anyone you share files with identify you. SpiderOak recommends that you choose a different name than your account username. Then, the app walks you through a few text fields in which you name your room, provide a description, and optionally lock it with a password. Keep in mind that to share any folder, it must already be a part of your backup set.

You can add an optional description of the room, which might be instructions or other information for your collaborators. The process feels slightly backward, since you don’t actually select folders to share until near the end of the process. The last step is to verify all the information and enable sharing.

SpiderOak One Hive Settings

Now that a ShareRoom has been set up, you have to send the details to your collaborators, but there isn’t a built-in option on the desktop for taking this action (the Share section on the web has an email option). Your friends and collaborators can only get to a ShareRoom through a unique URL or by logging into the SpiderOak website using a ShareID and RoomKey that you generate. Everyone with access can add new files and edit existing ones, and all the changes are automatically viewable to everyone else.

When you share files, SpiderOak explains that doing so breaks some aspects of the No Knowledge pact, but it’s your choice to do so. All your other data remains private and SpiderOak still has no way to view it.

You can bypass all of these steps by entering the Manage tab, selecting a file and clicking the Link button. Alternatively, you can create a share link by right-clicking on a file in Explorer and selecting Share, Make Shared File Link, Make Share Link and Copy to Clipboard, or Make Share Link and Create Email. However, none of these latter options can be set up with a password and the link only remains active for three days. Stick with ShareRooms if you want the most protection for your shared content.

Web Client

SpiderOak One’s web interface retains the bright orange tabs we saw the last time we reviewed it, with no other significant changes. As mentioned, we like that SpiderOak clearly informs users that using the web portal breaks the No Knowledge pact. To some, this may not be worth the trade-off, given that SpiderOak One’s web presence is far less functional than the desktop app.

SpiderOak One Web Interface

The web interface is divided into four orange tabs: Hive, Manage, Share, and Account. Hive lets you view and download all of the files stored in the Hive folder, but unfortunately, you can’t upload anything to this folder from the web. The Manage section lets you download data from your backups and gives you the option to de-authorize any of the computers you have linked to your account. To download a file, just click on it. There’s no search feature on the web interface, however, so you better know where they live. The Share section enables you to view all of your ShareRooms and download files from them.

In the Account section, SpiderOak has a section for enabling two-factor authentication, but it says it is unavailable for our test account (as it has for the last several years). The lack of a two-factor authentication option is disappointing for a company that caters to the privacy- and security-conscious crowd. You can also manage your account subscription here; we appreciate the easily accessible Cancel Account button in this section.

Restoring Files

Advanced users who want a lot of control over backed-up files will appreciate the way SpiderOak One handles file restores. From the Manage tab, you can download any selected folder or file. If you want to restore a huge batch of files at once, you can pick the highest parent file or drive in the directory. The Manage tab also conveniently lets you remove items from your backup. Note that you can only remove items from your backup from the computer you originally backed them up from. SpiderOak says this policy is to prevent someone from deleting everything who gains access to your account via the web portal.

By default, SpiderOak One saves an unlimited number of versions of each file it backs up. This is ideal. IDrive keeps only the past 30 versions of each file—though it does so indefinitely. SpiderOak One supports point-in-time recovery—albeit via the command line or terminal—so you should never lose access to a file you may have accidentally deleted locally.

SpiderOak One Manage Section

To see all saved versions of a file, highlight it in the Manage tab. The History panel appears on the right. It places the newest version at the top, but you can select any previous version and tap the Download button to get it back. SpiderOak One successfully saved each version of a file we changed several times.

How Fast Does SpiderOak One Upload Files?

To test an online backup service’s performance, we time how long it takes for them to upload three 1GB file sets. We then take the median of results for comparison. We don’t have access to PCMag’s corporate testing network due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic this year—we’re working from home, like so many other people.

We ran this year’s tests over a home Ethernet connection (16Mbps upload). Our test device was a Dell Inspiron tower running Windows 10 with a 256GB SSD and 32GB RAM. Your individual results may vary, as differences in network environments and system resources will likely affect performance.

Online Backup Upload Speed Test Chart

SpiderOak One took slightly longer than average to complete the test with a time of 16:11 (minutes:seconds). IDrive (12:29) and ElephantDrive (12:44) finished in the top two slots. SpiderOak One was about six minutes quicker than last-place finisher, NovaBackup (22:14).

Backup time will matter most when you are running the process for the first time on a computer, but faster backup speeds make the process that much more convenient. A SpiderOak representative noted that the service optimizes for security and privacy, more than upload speed, which is one potential explanation for these slower results.

Lots of Privacy, Lots of Control

SpiderOak One takes privacy seriously, and if that’s your primary concern in a backup tool, it’s one of your top options. Its desktop app is also one of the best we’ve tested, with a slick, yet straightforward design. SpiderOak’s online storage prices are a bit high, but every plan supports an unlimited number of devices and enables you to save an unlimited number of file versions, too. The service needs to add two-factor authentication options for web logins, however, and we would like the option to back up mobile devices.

IDrive and Acronis True Image are our Editors’ Choice winners for the online backup category. IDrive’s plans are an excellent value and Acronis True Image security and backup features are impressive.

If you don’t feel comfortable storing your data online, take a look at our roundups of the best local backup software and external hard drives.

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