Spideroak Vs Dropbox


Ok, so I’ve been a fan of online backup now for probably over a year or so. I never used to like the idea of my data being stored off-site but then after reading various backup methodologies, I realised I needed an offsite backup solution to be truly safe from data loss.

So I tried the various different options at the time and basically played around with two options, Spideroak and Dropbox. To make it clear, I bought paid for subscription to each over this testing to make sure I was getting the full service.

I’ve now come to the conclusion on each now I think.


Dropbox is a fantastic service. Easy to use, simple and clean. However, whilst it says that it’s data is private, it’s only a very small note in the terms and conditions. And it’s track record for privacy isn’t untarnished.

It’s connivence cant be denied. Simply drop a file in and wait for it to upload and then access on any device you own that’s connect to Dropbox. Pretty sweet.

The main downsides are that you need to mess about moving folders and files into the Dropbox folder to get them to sync (or use Symlinks, something that might be over and above that average users want to learn about). Whilst Dropbox offers versioning of files for 30 days, you cant get an extension to this unless you buy the Packrat extension which adds to the monthly charge.

Overall, the simplest service for syncing and sharing data is great but potential privacy issues are worrying – especially to myself where I want to sync data between my Mac’s and some of that data is personal data such as scans of drivers license, bank statements etc. However, Dropbox support built into web apps, mobile apps and desktop apps allowing easy syncing of non personal data, such as code snippets in Codebox and settings such as Alfred app mean that Dropbox is a great tool.


Spideroak’s main draw is privacy. It’s screams it at you from the very beginning. It’s webpage mentions 2 factor authentication (should you want it), they make sure you know that they don’t store your password. it’s quite clear from the start that Spideroak’s privacy features are a top priority.

Like Dropbox, you can add whatever you want to Spideroak but unlike Dropbox, it can stay where it is on the disk drive – you open up the software and select what you want to backup. Syncing is done via sync option which is a bit more in depth than Dropbox which can be a pain for new users. However, it’s not so hard once you figure it out. it does mean you can select only the folders you want to sync between machines which is quite good (in more detail at least than Dropbox’s selective sync features).

Spideroak offers a better value for money in terms of storage. 100GB of storage is $10 a month ($5 if you’re a student) compared to Dropbox’s $10 for 50GB. Unlike Dropbox, Spideroak offer de-duplication. Meaning if you upload the same file on one computer linked to Spideroak and then upload it on another, upload will be fairly instant (as it’s already on the server – which Dropbox do as well) – however, Spideroak only count it once towards space used on your account.

However, after using for a while, the cracks have started to appear in the sync feature. In the event of a clash of updated files, Dropbox will create a conflicted copy – Spideroak silently updates both files to the newest version and keeps the previous version. Not entirely good to see as often you wont notice. And it seems that sometimes sync actions seem to fail for no reason – good reason that I found today was that I access a file yesterday, made a change and saved. Spideroak uploaded it. I went to access it today and the changes from yesterday hadn’t synced across (sync and backup set to instant and the laptop was on all day yesterday to allow sync) – Spideroak even showed in the software that the laptop version had uploaded yesterday but no reason was given why it hadn’t downloaded to the Macbook.

The uptime of Spideroak is lacking slightly behind Dropbox as well. It’s been quite often that I’ve found that Spideroak is having trouble uploading whilst Dropbox is having no issues.


Overall, both bits of software are great. However, both are lacking. Dropbox is lacking privacy and Spideroak is missing out on sync functions that work all the time and desktop notifications. It’s a shame.

I feel that Spideroak is an offsite storage medium, rather than a sync tool. It compares fairly well to other services like Crashplan+ as you can add unlimited devices without paying extra. Dropbox is unrivalled by Spideroak as a syncing program – it’s ability to sync documents easily, quickly and transparently is great -it’s greatest flaw however is the privacy issue.

At the end of the day, you pay your money and take you’re choice. For me, it looks like a potential return to the hard drive for syncing private data, however, should I want to download a file – I know the Spideroak will have the latest version on it’s website to download securely.

Of course, there’s always the option of running my own SSH server…

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