Conversations about life & privacy in the digital age

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. 

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!

In the trenches…

I sit writing this blog at 35,000 feet above the earth as myself and about a
100 other travelers head from San Francisco to Chicago. The time is 4:30 am CDT
(or 2:30 PDT) on Saturday morning October 25th.

It has been an exciting although long week at SpiderOak. In fact, this week
brings the conclusion of a long string of weeks, ending successfully in the
launch of SpiderOak 2.0 – a faster, more responsive, more flexible iteration of
our initial version. In addition to these increased functions, the truly
exciting part about 2.0 is that it serves as a strong foundation for many
important and needed features to come including our Sync tool, Team Sync (or
read/write ShareRooms), development of our multi-user / multi computer
environment for small businesses, and several others…

Over the last couple of weeks we have received many emails asking if we had
stopped developing or growing because our blog had not been regularly updated.
Being somewhat of an outsider to the blogging world, I thought the question a
bit strange. After all, the last few months have seen some of our most
important advancements as a company – a redevelopment of our core architecture
to make SpiderOak faster, more efficient, and increased responsiveness (a known
issue since we launched). But because this development hadn’t happened in
‘public’ or our progress been constantly updated in the formal setting of our
blog, people thought this a sign of weakness.

Well – I write this post to ensure you all – those who inquire about our
resolve or longevity – that we are here and here to stay. And if it is regular
blog posts that you require to confirm this, then you shall have them as we
promise to rise up from the trenches more often and let you all know that we
are alive, well, and committed to bringing you the best and most secure online
backup, storage, access, sharing, and sync product available. And 2.0 brings us
a lot closer..