SpiderOak Backup First Glance

While I don’t have an immediate need for “cloud” syncing, now that I’ve dropped Dropbox I’ve started looking at alternatives. I’ve been using Windows Live Mesh and it’s been working fine, The main benefit to me is that it can sync between computers without involving the internet. This works well for large video files where I don’t want to burn the bandwidth and also for files I just don’t want or need on the internet.

But after thinking about this some more there are some things I might want to sync to the internet, or update while I’m on the road. SkyDrive can provide this ability but has the same limitations as Dropbox – it’s not encrypted by me. This isn’t a problem in many cases but having to keep track and think about encryption seems to be asking for trouble as it would only be a matter of time before I slip up. Along those same lines (me slipping up) having to remember to encrypt before uploading wouldn’t be a good idea,

SpiderOak came to my attention awhile back when I was looking at possible backup solutions. It has the benefit of being cross platform (Windows/Mac/Linux). SpiderOak’s features include syncing and sharing in addition to backup. Another must have feature is that they encrypt the files on the computer before sending them and they don’t have the encryption password. (I do have to take their word that they don’t nab the password.)

SpiderOak offers a free 2 GB account, just like Dropbox. Additional storage is $10/mth for each 100GB increment. This is cheaper than Dropbox but more expensive than many other backup services. Especially since you pay for 100 GB no matter hove much you use. There is a discount for pre-paying for a year.

The features that drew me to try their free 2 GB plan were:

  • Local encryption on the PC and only I have the password.
  • Backup (or sync) can be continuous or can be scheduled.
  • Directories can be synced between PCs and like Mesh they don’t need it be in a set directory structure.
  • iPhone/iPad App
  • Paid plans include 2-factor authentication.

What I don’t like so far:

  • The account password is the encryption key (technically it’s not the actual key but it can be used to unlock the files). I’d prefer I’d be allowed to enter a key that’s different than the password. They say as long as I access their site through the client software that the password is never sent to them. If I access through their website the password is sent to them and kept in server memory for the duration of my session.
  • Only files being backed up can be synced. This means I can’t realistically sync large video files between PCs, so I’ll need to continue using Mesh for this.
  • It’s pricey, especially if I’m well below the 100 GB increment. Other backup options are generally cheaper although may have some limitation (number of PCs, local drives only, etc…).

Since SpiderOak also runs on Ubuntu it would be a backup option for my web server. The drawback to this is the cost since the 2 GB plan would be too small so I’d have to buy the 100 GB plan. Since this doesn’t really give me any benefit over my current backup method I’m unlikely to go for it.

Initial Impressions

SpiderOak seems to be a better choice than Dropbox except in the area of 3rd party app integration, especially for the paid plans where SpiderOak is half the cost. As a pure backup solution it’s a bit pricey unless you need all it’s features (cross-platform, no device limits, external & remote drives allowed, unlimited file history) . The bite is a bit less if the backup is close to the 100 GB available (or whatever 100 GB increment you pay for).  If I actually had close to 100 GB to back up the price would be comparable to Amazon S3 (using reduced redundancy storage). But my current backup to S3 is only about 10 GB. Amazon does charge for more than space so my costs are closer to the SpiderOak charges as I have a lot of transfers, but it’s still less than SpiderOak in actual dollars.

I set SpiderOak to sync my Bento database to see how it handles a OS X bundle (seems fine so far – but backing up after every session) and set it to sync my Windows Live Writer drafts (like this one) and I was able to move across PCs. I’m still using the default to do automatic backups & syncs which may create more traffic than is necessary but we’ll see. I have had one problem so far – the app crashed on my MacBook Air while I was setting up a sync, Other than that there haven’t been any issues.

I’ll try setting up some more syncs and try some iPhone access to view files. There’s a series of PDFs I like to keep on my iPad for reference so I’ll see how SpiderOak handles those. I have a hard time justifying the cost so I probably won’t rush to test the backup features since if I actually liked it I’d have to pony up the money.

It’s only been a couple days but so far I’m happy with SpiderOak and look forward to continuing with it.

Anyone have experience with SpiderOak?

Bento Tip: Syncing A Database Between Macs

Bento for Mac Tip tile

Bento for Mac Tip tileI use Bento a bit and I’ve been using a symbolic link to point to the database in a Dropbox folder. This has worked pretty well, except occasionally the symbolic link would break. I recently eliminated the symbolic link and it seems to be working well.

To set this up you’ll still need Dropbox but then you can skip the symbolic link.

  1. Decide where you want the database in Dropbox. I want mine in /Dropbox/data.
  2. Move the existing Bento database(s) to the new location. By default the default database is created in [UserHome]/Library/Application Support/Bento and is called bento.bentodb.
  3. Start Bento while holding down the option key so that the following dialog appears:
    bento_selecteddb
  4. Click the choose button and browse to the database you just moved and select it. It should now be listed as the selected database as shown below:
    bento_selecteddb
    Note that in the above screenshots I checked the “Show This Dialog” option so this dialog always shows and I don’t have to hold the Option key down. This is useful if you have multiple Bento databases. I do but don’t want them all in Dropbox. Bento will continue to open the last database selected unless told to do otherwise.
  5. Click OK and the database will open.

Words of warning. Bento isn’t designed to be opened by multiple PCs at the same time so while the database will sync, be sure to only have it open on one computer at a time. Be sure to keep backups in case the syncing causes bad things to happen. I’ve been syncing this way with Bento 4, although Bento 3 does have the same database selection dialog.