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SpiderOak is a highly capable online backup solution, with competitive pricing in 100GB increments for an unlimited number of computers. Your first 2GB of online storage is free, just like with Dropbox. The application gives you extensive control of your ‘SpiderOak network’, which consists of all the computers that you’re backing up, and all the files you’re backing up on those computers. SpiderOak works fluidly across Mac OS, Windows and Linux, automatically uploading changes to any file or folder that’s marked for backup. Selecting the files you want to backup, restoring backed up files and previous versions are all easy tasks with the SpiderOak application. Beyond efficient online backup, SpiderOak has a couple of tricks up its sleeve.

First, let’s say you like the idea of synchronizing specific data across two or more computers (a la Dropbox), but you don’t want to have to move files and folders around to achieve this. With SpiderOak, you can set up a ‘Sync’ between two or more folders in your SpiderOak network. Those folders can be on different computers or on the same computer, SpiderOak doesn’t care. Once a Sync is set up, SpiderOak will keep those folders synchronized automatically. Want to do the same with another folder? Just set up another Sync. It’s like having multiple Dropbox folders, all of which are independent, so you don’t have to synchronize everything on all your computers.

SpiderOak’s second clever trick is a feature called ShareRooms or Shares. This feature lets you make a subset of your data available to others online. You set up a named Share that includes one or more of the folders in your SpiderOak network. These folders don’t have to live on the same computer. When you want to give someone access to a share, you give them either the login credentials or a unique URL. Your friend or colleague can then browse and download anything contained in that share. If you make changes to files or folders included in a Share, those changes are reflected in the online ShareRoom. Users can even be notified of changes via an RSS feed.

So why would anyone use Dropbox when you can have SpiderOak? Although SpiderOak easy to use, the process of setting up a Sync or a Share is not as simple as just installing Dropbox and throwing files at it. Contrast Dropbox’s no-UI approach with the 5 main tabs, 11 sub-tabs and maybe 50+ buttons, checkboxes, combo-boxes, text boxes and menus of SpiderOak. The absolute simplicity of Dropbox is a big win if what it does so well is all that you need.

We’ll continue using SpiderOak for its Sync feature. This will make it easy for us to keep files synchronized when we’re both working on the same project, without having to move project folders around. The only reason we won’t be using it for all our online backup is that I found a solution offering unlimited storage for the same price as SpiderOak’s 100GB package. If you have less than 100GB of data to backup, SpiderOak’s unique combination of features is compelling. I also find the company’s philosophy and openness to be very refreshing.

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