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SpiderOak as a Secure Alternative to Dropbox

Old Oak TreeThe writers at ProfHacker have often recommended Dropbox as dead simple way to backup and share documents across multiple devices and users.

Recently, however, Dropbox has suffered from some privacy issues, most recently a programming bug that left every user’s Dropbox completely unlocked for a four hour period. Combine this security lapse with Dropbox’s default encryption system, which, as Dave Parry argues, makes it possible for your files to be accessed by a third party via a backdoor, and some of us ProfHackers have begun considering more secure alternatives to Dropbox.

At the head of the list is SpiderOak.

Like Dropbox, SpiderOak automatically backs up files to the cloud, and those files can be accessed from many other devices. Like Dropbox, SpiderOak works on multiple platforms—Windows, Mac, and Linux, as well as Android and iOS. Like Dropbox, SpiderOak offers a free 2GB version, from which you can upgrade all the way up to 100GB for $100/year ($100/year only gets you 50GB at Dropbox).

Despite these similarities, there are several significant differences between Dropbox and SpiderOak. Most relevant here, SpiderOak encrypts the files on your computer before uploading them to the server. That means it’s all but impossible for anybody other than yourself to access readable versions of your data by hacking into SpiderOak. Even SpiderOak itself has no access to your unencrypted files, something SpiderOak calls its “zero knowledge” policy.

The other significant difference is that SpiderOak offers a wider range of features, trading Dropbox’s elegant simplicity for greater control. For example, you can opt to forego instant backing up and instead have SpiderOak backup during the night, when it’s less likely to borrow processing power from other applications. Also, rather than having a single “My Dropbox” folder, you can select any existing folder to be backed up by SpiderOak. Another feature is that in addition to backing up your data on the “cloud,” you can also use the desktop version of SpiderOak to sync between hard drives and flash drives.

While I’ve started using SpiderOak, I haven’t entirely given up on Dropbox. The main reason is that other apps I use also rely on Dropbox. For example, I use 1Password to track my passwords, and that data is automatically backed up to Dropbox, where 1Password for iOS and Android can also access it. Appropriately enough, my 1Password data is safer than any other data I have on Dropbox, since 1Password does encrypt my passwords, even if Dropbox doesn’t!

What about you? Have you given up on Dropbox? Have you found other alternatives? Do you want to try SpiderOak?

[The Old Guard photo courtesy of Flickr user Dave Wild / Creative Commons License]

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