SpiderOak: Great Concept, Poor Execution

Although the title may seem harsh, it's only because I truly want to see the business that I'm reviewing succeed.

I love the way technology is moving.  Not only does the push toward cloud-based services help me to save time, money, and heartache in my consulting business – it also helps my clients to grow and collaborate on a level that could never be done in the past.  That being said, one of my clients needed a solution that not only solved their data backup needs, but to alsoprovided real-time file syncing between their users.  Although Dropbox seems to be the front-runner in that game, I thought that was their price a little high, and they didn't allow for the syncing of any files and folders on the system other than what is in the DropBox folder.

Looking around the web, I found a promising solution called SpiderOak that touted the ability not only to back up data at a great price, but to also sync any folder you wanted over an unlimited number of computers.  Sweet, Georgia Brown!  That was exactly what I wanted!  I enthusiastically tested it out on my systems, which seemed to work well, and then slapped it on my clients system and waited for the magic to happen!

Not quite what I expected

The client had about 20 gigs worth of data that needed to be backed up and synced.  That's not very much by today's standards.   The backup portion of SpiderOak ran smoothly and seemed to transfer at the normal rate, and things were looking pretty good.  However, when I began the syncing, that's when the fun began.

Folders and Flippery

First, 30+ phantom folders were created that had nothing in them.  That's not that big of a deal though, I just needed to go and delete them.  However, I didn't want to delete them until the sync between computers was complete.  Well, 2 weeks later (yes, I said 2 weeks later) the syncing of files were complete and I was able to let those folders go.

Second, the Windows version of the software itself ate CPU cycles and memory like a mad man.  Unless you throttled it in some way, you were hard pressed to do anything else on your system needed a decent amount of resources.

Communication issues

Lastly, and the most important thing in my opinion, is the support offered.  The only way to communicate with the SpiderOak staff is via email, or their forums (and their forum posts seem to be rarely answered).  When I emailed them as a prospective customer, they were great and very helpful. They are also helpful when I emailed them as a client.  However, when I contacted them letting them know that my client wanted to change vendors, they weren't so nice and were extremely hesitant about giving a refund (there is no trial period).  Part of this may be because I was interacting with a tech, but it was still a bit of a shock.  actually, I'm not sure if my client ever did get a refund, because the SpiderOak staff never responded to my last email.  I will need to check on that.

I hope they improve

Sincerely, I do hope that their solution is refined.  They have a price that can't be beat, and a solid concept.  Unfortunately, as it stands right now, it would be very hard for me to use them as a vendor again because of past performance and inflexible customer service (again, perhaps that because I was speaking to a tech).  I truly believe that if they fix things in their software, and open up a little more with their customer service, they could dominate the online backup/sync market.


  • Andy Whitaker

    May 27, 2010

    1. I agree with the synching and resource complaints you mention
    2. the latest version 3.6.9659 is very much improved
    3. I have had extensive discussions in the early days re functionality and over failures in the system …..now rectified…you need to email the CEO Ethan Oberman … ethan@spideroak.com in the past VERY helpful.
    4. good luck…Spideroak is maybe the best of this type of product and improving all the time…but keep complaining to the right person !

    • Dean Soto

      May 28, 2010

      Thanks for the referral to Ethan. I definitely will contact him. I admit that I was hesitant to try the latest version because I was busy trying to mitigate the failure of the prior. My understanding is that the majority of developers are Unix/Linux gurus (and it shows because the *nix version works great), so the Windows version suffers.

      As I said, I REALLY want to see this product succeed. I'm still on their newsletter, and I'll give the new Windows version a try on a a couple of VMs to see if it's usable. Thanks for the info Andy!