Conversations about life & privacy in the digital age

Don’t be an April Fool. Participate in World Backup Day on 3/31

Stop for a second and think about this: if you were to wake up one morning and find that your computer would not boot up, what would you do? Unfortunately, many of you have probably experienced a similar tragedy.

Some facts:

 

  • A hard drive is a mechanical device, and as such is the most failure-prone component in your computer.
  • If you need to recover your data when the drive fails, you will probably have to pay hundreds of dollars to a recovery service, and there is no guarantee that your data will be fully recovered.
  • The real-world observed failure rate on hard drives is around 3%, and much worse under non-ideal conditions.
  • Accidents happen, whether it’s a coffee dumped on your laptop or a stuck delete key that sends an important folder to the trash without you noticing. Human error is one of the main culprits.
  • Laptops and cellphones are attractive targets for a thief.

 

Remember, it’s not only making backups that is important; It’s making sure that your backups actually work! Participate in World Backup Day (March 31) with us and start backing up your data with SpiderOak today, and we’ll make sure your data is safe so you’re not an April fool:

5 free GB for new users – your World Backup Day deal

Sign-up HERE or use the promo code “WorldBackupDay” manually through your account.

Instructions for using the code through the Spideroak client or your account page:

 

  • Open your ‘account’ through the accounts tab in the Spideroak client or click ‘Buy more space’ button.
  • Once on the Account Details page, you will select “Upgrade My Plan” to the right.
  • On this page, you will see a “Promotional Code” box.
  • Type “WorldBackupDay” in this box and select “Update”
  • You should see the discount 5GB free option as well as the 50% discount to yearly plans.
  • Choose the option you wish to use, and continue the ‘checkout’ process and you are done!

 

Note: This code will replace your current amount with 5GBs if you are an existing member.

DON’T BE AN APRIL FOOL! Join us and learn more at worldbackupday.com.

The Risk to Your Encryption Keys when Using Virtual Hosting

Dan Goodin over at Ars Technica has a nice article with an example of one of the privacy risks of using virtual hosting (such as Amazon EC2 and other cloud computing services.) This particular scenario allowed attackers to recover GPG keys from other virtual machines that happened to be running on the same physical machine. It’s likely possible to recover SSH keys in a similar way.

Since a few customers have asked, SpiderOak owns and operates all of its own physical hardware. None of it is virtual hosting with other organizations.

Mind in The Cloud

The individual mind is immanent but not only in the body. It is immanent also in pathways and messages outside the body; and there is a larger Mind of which the individual mind is only a subsystem. Gregory Bateson

I believe that our consciousness has evolved within historical time. And that this evolution is chiefly based on external storage. This evolution is disruptive. There is a long period of transition.

We are entering an era of unprecedented access to external storage. I think that we are at the beginnings of a new mode of consciousness.

While our user’s information is inaccessible, SpiderOak spends a lot of time and resources making company information available.

Bruce Sterling (that smirking twit) imagines tracking objects: Spime. But we have the resources to track ideas. Who would have imagined Amazon Reviews becoming a literary form? A modern book is more than a physical artifact. It becomes enfolded in a cloud of comment and interpretation.

The book may surface on the net long before it is published, and may continue to interact with readers. The modern author maintains a conversation with his readers.

For a person of degraded sensibilities, as I am, YouTube becomes a primary repository of music. Incredible new forms are evolving:

SpiderOak Speaks At CloudCon

In the middle of downtown San Francisco yesterday, four experts in the area of cloud storage and backup platforms, including our CEO, Ethan Oberman, gathered at the CloudCon Expo & Conference. The panel discussed open source storage solutions, data replication to the cloud and re-inventing cloud storage to provide accessibility, reliability and performance. 




Ethan was asked to be on the panel by moderator and friend Gleb Budman, Co-founder and CEO of Backblaze. Other panelists included Larry Lang, President and CEO of Quorum, and Ranajit Nevatia, VP of Marketing at Panzura.




The array of solutions represented illustrates the wide variety of approaches to the cloud. Panzura brings local network-attached storage (NAS) capabilities to a distributed network of sites in globally integrated enterprises. On the other spectrum, Quorum uses a hybrid model toward disaster recovery offering both a local and remote (read ‘cloud’) product.




The hour was lively with discussions around 3rd party cloud providers from Amazon to HP, the role of consumer products like iCloud and Gdrive, differing beliefs around the concept of ‘private cloud,’ as well as anecdotes about Dropbox and the privacy concerns raised in enterprise usage. 




In addition to these important topics, one word managed to stay hidden for most of the conversation before being brought up by Ethan – that being ‘privacy’. Most cloud companies prefer – and rightly – to use the word security as they are in fact only talking about securing the data they are storing on behalf of their customers / users. SpiderOak’s ‘Zero-Knowledge’ privacy approach was created so that companies and individuals could benefit from various cloud technologies without having to sacrifice the privacy of their data. How is this the case? For a more detailed analysis you can visit our website but in short we never store user’s passwords and therefore can never look at the data. 




It will be interesting to see how this dialog continues to play out in conference halls and board rooms across the globe but we would bet it is an issue that is only going to grow in importance as the cloud continues its ascent. 

[NEW VIDEO] You + Your Data

You and your data are quite the pair. You spend a lot of time together. And your growing relationship is something you share with others, whether business proposals, in gaming, family photos, your favorite music or movies.

But who makes sure your precious data is safe, private and accessible when you’re not looking? Enter SpiderOak: The only 100% private Backup / Sync / Share provider in the cloud, for you or your business. Access your files anywhere, from any device. Linux, Mac, Windows.

We’ve got your back(up).

A Brief History of Privacy

Remember the 15 year-old kid who was videotaped waving around a golf ball retriever while pretending it was a light saber in 2002? The video was uploaded – unknowingly – to an Internet video site by some of the boy’s friends. All across the Internet, people started mocking him, making fun of his awkward maneuvers. Then, several edited videos of “the Star Wars Kid” started to be uploaded, adorned with special effects. It was a breach of privacy that made this kid an internet sensation.

Privacy has a very long history. In fact, privacy in America has gone through drastic changes since the 1600′s as you can see in this chart. Fortunately, methods of protecting privacy are always evolving and getting better. Unfortunately, security breaches will always occur.

The legal concept of privacy in the United States states that if you intend to keep something secret then it shall, in fact, be kept secret. All other information is considered public. However, the societal concept of privacy is a bit more complicated and has been for a very long time. For example, many people have a strong desire to share experiences, anecdotes, photos, videos and souvenirs. However, those same people don’t like when others they didn’t invite to share in those experiences have access to this information. Then the question shifts to – ‘Who can I trust with this shared data?’

Controlling privacy online requires effort. It can result in a paradox where we can be unaware of how much information we are sharing and with whom we are sharing it. Danah Boyd, an anthropologist and social networking expert says, “information is not private because no one knows it; it is private because the knowing is limited and controlled.”

Managing online privacy is difficult because we do not have the degree of control we would have in an offline environment. However, there are protective options available. Since inception, SpiderOak has been very focused and passionate about online privacy. This lead to the creation of our 100% ‘zero-knowledge’ privacy approach to storing users’ data. More recently, we have worked closely with our friends at Electronic Frontier Foundation who are continually active in protecting the digital rights of online users.

How important is privacy to you? Do you have any stories you’d like to share where your privacy was compromised? How has it changed your online activity? Please don’t hesitate to write your thoughts and/or ideas and ways you protect your privacy.

On a related note and if interested further, I encourage you to read a good book on this topic – “Privacy and Big Data”.

Explaining The Cloud to my Grandparents

Granny and Papa

Pleasure to meet you! I’m new to the SpiderOak team. And I’m new to the cloud technologies space – I come from four years of work with an international nonprofit, Water.org.

I’m completely fascinated. Intrigued. Excited, even. I find myself not only spending time each day learning more about the world of backup, sync, share, and access (mobile), and all things related, but trying to adequately explain to someone else in my life what it all is. It’s good practice.

I recently visited my beloved, hospitable and humorous grandparents – Granny and Papa – in Memphis, Tennessee. As I told them about SpiderOak, they asked the question I have come to expect on a regular basis: “What is the cloud?”

A few weeks ago, SpiderOak’s Jovan Washington wrote a blog post called “Living the CloudLife: Cloud Computing 101,” in which he rightfully called cloud computing a critical trend, and asked “How would you explain the cloud to your mother?”

I took on that challenge. But let me give you a little background: Papa gets on AOL every morning to check his email, the news, his stocks, and forwards the latest funny email, such as “Wal-Martians”. He also keeps tabs on some of the family via Facebook ( i.e. “lurking”). I helped my Granny get on Pinterest (although she loved it, I don’t think she’s active), and she has an e-reader. As far as grandparents go, I think they are doing pretty good with progressive technology.

So I told Granny and Papa:

“The past few years, I haven’t had my own personal laptop, just my work computer. And I obviously had to turn that back in when I left. Since I’d had it for years, it had all my personal music, photos, and documents on it too, besides work stuff.

So, I opened a SpiderOak account, and had it backup, or save, everything off my computer. Then, I completely erased everything on my computer, and turned it back into work, empty. Now, whenever I buy a new computer, I can login my SpiderOak account, and grab anything I want that I had saved off of my old computer. I can just access it, or save it to my new computer. But it’s all there – on the cloud. And no one can get to it but me. And if my computer burns in a fire, everything will still be there for me in the future.”

Even within these past few weeks, I’ve learned to tell most people – “Actually, you know what the cloud is, you just don’t know you do – all of our photos on Facebook, our email in gmail, anything in Google Docs, or if you have photos on Flickr – that is cloud storage, or cloud-based sharing.”

What do you think? How did I do? What did I miss? How do you explain the cloud to someone who doesn’t know?

I’m excited and honored to be a part of the SpiderOak team, getting to know you – the loyal SpiderOak user, and the ever-growing space. In fact, you probably recently heard that Google announced its contribution: Google Drive.

If you missed it, last week, our CEO Ethan Oberman was interviewed on InvestorPlace about the Facebook IPO. I also enjoyed the 6 Myths About Cloud Backup You Probably Thought Were True (as well as the Zero-Knowledge shout out that linked to our mention).

Cheers! Thank you for the warm welcome, and see you here again very soon…
Erin Swanson

P.S. Stay tuned for a SpiderOak announcement this week, particularly of interest to universities.

What Cloud Computing Can Mean for Small Businesses

Cloud storage will be a necessity within five to ten years for businesses and for individuals so we have invited a professional to talk a little about the future of cloud computing. Biz-it Pro has distinguished himself as an online backup reviewer for many years. He has graciously agreed to contribute to the SpiderOak blog and talk about what cloud computing can mean for small businesses.

Cloud computing is changing the way businesses utilize IT infrastructure. Enterprise organizations are deploying on a massive scale to integrate entire business processes to help them scale their business. However, even smaller businesses can benefit from what the cloud has to offer. Take a look at some of the ways a small business can streamline their operations with help from the cloud by SpiderOak.

How Cloud Computing Works

Instead of developing an in-house infrastructure, complete with expensive servers, physical copies of software and lots of fully equipped computers, cloud computing puts all the processing and hosting responsibility on a professional third-party company. Employees access their programs, email and data via thin clients, browser-like tools that remotely connect them to everything they need to do their jobs. There are numerous benefits to this configuration.

Flexibility and Mobility

Since cloud computing services store all the documents, programs and related data in a online, cloud computing system, your employees will have more flexibility and mobility than ever before. They’ll never be tied to a specific computer to work on a presentation or use a special program. This is excellent for traveling salesmen or executives that are often on the go.

Since programs are not stored locally, bug fixes and updates can be done seamlessly from the server side without causing any trouble for the user. This creates a stable, flexible platform that is also accessible via smartphones and laptops. This gives your users the ultimate level of flexibility.

Backup and Redundancy

Cloud systems also make it easy to backup existing data and provide disaster recovery . Easy-to-use systems like SpiderOak allow users to create and sync their local documents with a cloud version, which they can later access from any device. These systems even save revisions of documents so users can go back if they make a mistake and retrieve a previous version. Customer reviews of SpiderOak point out that this cloud data specialist manages to make this technically difficult process very easy for businesses of all sizes.


Many cloud providers have comprehensive small business data backups that regularly copy and protect your data. You’ll also benefit from on-site security, professional-grade cooling systems and a team of professionals who keep the hardware running smoothly.

Collaboration In The Cloud

Cloud systems also make it easy to collaborate on documents, presentations and projects. Since data is stored in the cloud, users can “check out” a file to work on it and then add it back to the collection for co-workers to view. Systems like email and chat are integrated into word processing and productivity tools for a very intuitive and flexible collaboration process.

Get Started Today

You might be surprised at just how easy it is to start using cloud computing tools provided by SpiderOak . Many small businesses discover they can switch to the cloud and even stay on their existing equipment! Instead of paying for an expensive server and technicians to maintain them, a small monthly fee can cover all the needs of your organization. Making changes and expanding is also intrinsically easy thanks to the cloud’s dynamic design. Find out today exactly what the cloud can do for your organization!

Living the CloudLife: Cloud Computing 101

Ever wonder just how far into the clouds you and your data are traveling? You are likely using multiple cloud-based services (including SpiderOak, we hope). Google offers software as a free online service to billions of users across the globe. The Internet giant hosts a set of online productivity tools and applications that live in the cloud such as email (Gmail), word processing (Google Docs), calendars (Google Calendar), photo sharing (Picassa), and website creation tools. And whereas you may not think of those services in ‘cloud’ terms, that is exactly what they are. So when someone asks you to define cloud computing, it may seem difficult at first to explain. Try asking that question to 5 of your friends and you’ll probably get five different answers.

There are many ideas of the ‘cloud’. Often wrapped in marketing lingo, definitions fly all over the net. And while they don’t clearly define cloud computing and what makes it different, they sure make it sound good. In essence, cloud computing means having every piece of data available via the Internet anytime you need it. Wikipedia defines it as “the delivery of computing as a service rather than a product, whereby shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers and other devices as a utility (like the electricity grid) over a network (typically the Internet).”

Do you (or can you) remember when there wasn’t a cloud? Before the cloud emerged, there was software-as-a-service computing. Instead of data pipes and routers and servers, the cloud brings full fledged services. The underlying hardware and software of networking remains of course but there are now higher level service capabilities available to build applications.

Every day new start-ups present options for cloud computing. If we follow these trends, the computer merely becomes a gateway into the cloud – removing the need for onboard storage and freeing consumers to leap from one device to another depending on their requirements.

The days of downloading and installing memory-hogging applications on their device will be gone and replaced a powerful Internet browser capable of accessing and computing. However, we are not quite there yet as there are many drawbacks to this system still. The first is accessibility as we still don’t live in a fully connected world where the Internet is accessible everywhere. Further, there are critical security and privacy concerns and who ultimately has access to what data (an issue we worked hard to solve at SpiderOak with our ‘zero-knowledge’ privacy).

The idea of handing over critical data to a 3rd party company still worries many people – and with good reason. Ultimately, users adopt a hybrid approach where some data lives in the cloud and runs off of cloud applications while other more valuable data stays firmly on their machine.

As you are aware, we at SpiderOak are very passionate about privacy and security. In fact, the founders – Ethan and Alan – created SpiderOak to dis-spell the myth that just because data is online doesn’t mean that it cannot be completely private. We believe, as hope more and more companies will agree, it is in the users best interest to employ the most advanced techniques around protecting user data. This will only grow in importance as the cloud becomes more ubiquitous.

Another somewhat lesser known complaint about the ‘cloud’ relates to outages. In the ‘cloud’ world, we have come to expect that data should always be available. And when it is not we become very very impatient and frustrated. For example, imagine not being able to access email or an important business document. All companies suffer from outages as nothing can be perfect all the time (including us humans). Amazon, generally considered the gold standard, had devastating downtime last year that had millions of users suffering. Though no company can promise an outage-free service, there are methods in place to quickly restore service and make sure data is not lost.

Despite some of the drawbacks and a bit of hype, cloud computing remains a critical trend. Many of you have voiced your opinion on Facebook and Twitter on cloud computing. We would love for you to also sound off in the comments. How would you explain cloud computing to your mother? What do you think of cloud computing? What are some of your predictions for the next 5 to 10 years?

I’d love to look back at this blog post in 5 to 10 years to compare your thoughts!

What Does Freedom Mean To You As A Cloud User?

There’s been plenty of talk surrounding The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). This bill had the consequence of allowing the US Government to ‘police’ the Internet and restrict peoples freedom to share content with others. We at SpiderOak – like many of our colleagues – found this simply unacceptable. And as all the voices rose up to combat the bill, thankfully it has currently been removed from consideration. At SpiderOak we believe in providing a FREE, innovative and private online backup, synchronization, and flexible sharing solution. So we’d like to get you involved in something special.

What does freedom mean to you?

Personally – freedom occupies the number one position on my values list. Nothing is more important. I neither take it for granted nor do I ever allow myself to be complacent about the many freedoms I enjoy personally. Others are of course free to agree or disagree. With this in mind and in the spirit of self expression, we would like you to show us how you feel.

Show us what freedom means to you!

First – Post your best photo interpretation of FREEDOM to the Facebook fan page wall. Your entry will be moved to the “Freedom Photo Contest Album” on the Facebook fan page from now until February 29, 2012.

Second – Each participant is only allowed one entry. Submit your best photo interpretation of freedom.

Third – Ask your friends to ‘Like,’ and/or follow SpiderOak on Facebook, Twitter. On Facebook, visit the designated album on Facebook and ‘like’ your entry. 50% of your rating will be based on the number of likes your photo received.

Fourth – The winning 3 photos by midnight CST on February, 29 2012 will be awarded 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place. Details of how these are judged are listed below.

Fifth – Participant grants SpiderOak perpetual license to use photos submitted for advertising and collateral.

Instructions for Twitter::
Follow @SpiderOak on twitter.
Simply tweet: “Just entered to win money in the #FreedomPhotoContest! Follow @SpiderOak and retweet my picture if you like it. Thanks!”

The grand prize winner will have his/her photo published on our blog and a little about yourself.

  • Grand prize: $100 and a 100 GB SpiderOak Account
  • 1st runner up: $50 and a 50 GB SpiderOak Account
  • 2nd runner up: $25 and a 25 GB SpiderOak Account
  • Winners will be informed via Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. NOTE: Sorry everyone – due to restrictions, Google+ entries will not be a consideration for this contest.

    Judging Guidelines:

  • 50% – number of ‘likes’
  • 25% – picture quality
  • 25% – Idea Content. Originality.
  • There you have it! Be creative and have fun. Share your passion with the world and remind yourself and others how important freedom is to you and us all.