Conversations about life & privacy in the digital age

Hey from QA & how we run sync testing in SpiderOak

Hi people of the internet (and mom!).

My name is Rebecca and I am a quality assurance tester with SpiderOak. This means that I test EVERY aspect of EVERY release on EVERY operating system — catching functional and style issues before the product goes live. I report issues to the developers, who then write a patch or some other sort of tech wizardry. Then, they send me the new builds to test again – this loop repeats until we create a product we’re excited to push live!

Sometimes, testing compatibility across different operating systems can get tricky – especially with syncing. A user can sync any two folders connected to a SpiderOak account, from any operating systems we support, and with any filetype exclusion. Testing this can get confusing, and worse – boring. So we came up with an idea that is fun and very efficient.

Here’s a glance at sync testing in SpiderOak!

First, I create uniquely-themed folders on each operating system in my Virtual Machine. Each folder must contain a variety of image and text files, and at least one subfolder. Pinterest and food blogs are my favorite sites for this. For example, my Windows 8 OS has a folder named “Cupcakes,” with images of cupcakes and some recipes and cookbook reviews, whereas my Ubuntu OS has a folder of cheeses and cheese/wine pairing notes. Each OS has a distinct theme, so I instantly know what files are coming from which location, without even having to track it in the “view” tab in the SpiderOak desktop client!

Second, I test the syncing within one operating system. I create a sync name and description (RecipeShare / sharing recipes for allergies), select two folders (“Cupcakes” and “Gluten-free cookies”), select wildcards to exclude (*.jpg, *.gif), approve it, and start the sync. With this particular sync, only the text files should sync across – if I see cupcake pictures in my my “Gluten-Free Cookies” folder, I’ll instantly know something is wrong. Also, folders that are synced cannot be in another sync (endless sync loop). So if I were to try to sync “Vegan Cookies” and “Gluten-Free Cookies” after the previous sync, an error message should appear.

Third, I test the syncing of folders from different operating systems. Both operating systems need to be running and set for the same – if one OS is set for yesterday, the sync will not complete (and you probably have bigger problems than a sync issue if you’re some sort of fancy time-traveller). I find this type of sync really useful for creatives – you can pull together inspirations and notes from your work, personal, and mobile devices, much more quickly than emailing attachments and texting reminders. I repeat the same steps as syncing within one operating system, and since each OS has a unique theme, I can instantly tell what files originated in which OS.

Finally, I repeat this on each OS to hunt down any anomalies. I also cancel syncs and then add files to one of the folders, to make sure the sync isn’t still active. If I cancel the above “RecipeShare” sync, and add a recipe for almond flour snickerdoodles to my “Gluten-Free Cookies” folder, it should no longer appear in the “Cupcakes” folder as well.

By creating special themes for each OS, I instantly remember where everything originates and ends up. Picking themes I personally enjoy and creating scenarios for why one would need folders synced in particular ways helps me understand the customer experience. This way I can also provide suggestions to make syncing more user-friendly and efficient! I, and the rest of SpiderOak, want to get you your data in the most clear and most secure way possible!

Themed syncs also allow for some silliness, so I’ll test your understanding of syncs with this:

What do you get when you combine a folder from your work computer about bathroom renovations, a folder from your home computer about Ancient Egypt, and a folder from your tablet of 90s hits?

Syncing your sinks with a sphynx and N*SYNC.

Happy Syncing!


Download The Newest Version of SpiderOak

Today we are proud to release our newest version – SpiderOak 5.0.


The most significant addition is SpiderOak Hive – a simple drag and drop folder that allows you to sync files across all your devices. For more information on Hive, feel free to visit


You can read about several other new features, enhancements and bug fixes at SpiderOak Launches 5.0 Beta.

Please reach out with any thoughts or questions. We look forward to continuing development and making SpiderOak the best it can be.

SpiderOak Launches 5.0 Beta

Today we are proud to release the SpiderOak 5.0 Beta. It comes as the result of a lot of hard work and planning and we are excited to get it into the hands of our users. The most significant addition is SpiderOak Hive which makes syncing data between your various devices simple and easy. You can find a detailed list below of what will be included from new features to feature enhancements to bug fixes as well as some FAQs about SpiderOak Hive. Please click here to download the 5.0 Beta. (Click here for the 64-bit Windows build)


  • SpiderOak Hive: We adopted a simple approach to syncing data across all devices by creating the SpiderOak Hive folder. Simply drag and drop files or folders into this folder and they will automatically sync to your other devices.
  • OS Integration for Windows (Mac and Linux soon to follow): Granting right-click access functions via Explorer now allows you to backup, share, and view historical versions.


  • ShareRoom Enhancement: Users can now add passwords to their ShareRooms which adds an additional layer of security when sharing important files.
  • Remote Diagnostics: We added a capability for remote diagnostics to help when troubleshooting problems with customer support.  This option is disabled by default. You must explicitly enabled it.  Diagnostic reports consist of metadata such as program and OS version information, file system types, program log files, folder and file names. Reports do not include backup data, passwords, or encryption information.
  • Password Enhancement: As a new user, you must now change your password upon setting up your first device when JavaScript was disabled during signup and a temporary password was automatically generated.
  • ShareRoom Enhancement: We added clarification to the ShareRoom creation wizard


  • LAN sync: Fixed a bug with LAN sync, allowing the client to recover from certain error conditions
  • UI / View Tab: Fixed a bug that sometimes caused the UI to erroneously disable the View tab in the client after displaying the “out of space” popup window.
  • AppIndicator framework: Switch system tray icon to use AppIndicator framework on Ubuntu.
  • Backup: Fixed a bug which prevents category size indicator on basic backup tab from updating without restarting the client
  • Downloads: Fixed a bug that prevented downloads from resuming after a network failure.
  • Uninstalling SpiderOak: Fixed a bug on Windows which reports publisher info as ‘unknown’ when uninstalling SpiderOak.
  • Sync: Fixed a bug that sometimes prevented sync from detecting a moved folder properly, instead considering it a deletion
  • Backup: Fixed a bug causing backup to fail under a very rare edge case


Here are five questions and answers we anticipate users having.

1.  What is SpiderOak Hive? How does it work?

SpiderOak Hive creates a simple way to sync data between your various devices. All you have to do is place files and/or folders inside your SpiderOak Hive and the data will automatically appear on any other device running SpiderOak. Easy.

2.  Where do I find the SpiderOak Hive folder?

A shortcut to SpiderOak Hive will appear automatically on your desktop. Depending on the operating system, SpiderOak Hive will also appear in the file system browser as follows: Windows Explorer –> Documents folder;  Mac Finder –> “/Users/<username>/SpiderOak Hive/”; Linux –> Home folder.

3.  Can I still backup my files from their original locations using the SpiderOak application?  Do I have to use SpiderOak Hive?

SpiderOak Hive was designed to run on top of the existing SpiderOak application; as such, you can still select specific files and/or folders for backup using the ‘Backup’ tab inside the application. We view this ability to create a unique and structured backup set as a core function of SpiderOak and have no plans to get rid of this functionality.

4.  How do I get SpiderOak Hive?

Currently – SpiderOak Hive is in Beta and available by clicking on the following link: (or 64-bit Windows) As soon as you install the new version, SpiderOak Hive will appear automatically on your desktop.

5.  If I would prefer to use SpiderOak Hive as opposed to selecting data to back up and sync inside the SpiderOak application, how do I make this transition?

This is simple!  All you have to do is drag and drop all the items in your current backup set over to the SpiderOak Hive folder. This action will cause SpiderOak to effectively move this data over to Hive which will take a few moments to process. Upon completion, you will be done and fully ready to use your SpiderOak Hive folder. Please remember that future files must be saved into your SpiderOak Hive folder to ensure they are being backed up and synced.

Update: The beta download links may have delivered a 32-bit build to Windows users with 64-bit computers, rendering the OS Integration feature inoperative. If you have a 64-bit version of Windows, please re-download using the updated links, or by clicking here: 64-bit Windows build. Sorry for the inconvenience!

NEW FEATURE: What would you call it?

Saying this is an exciting time at SpiderOak is an understatement. There are so many wonderful things happening. One of which is a major release, Version 5.0, coming in the next few weeks. This release will include many fixes as well as a couple additional features. Stay tuned for posts about these fixes and features.

As for now, I’ll let you in on one of these new features in exchange for some of your creative juices. Deal?

We are keeping our highly customizable sync features for advanced users, while simultaneously adopting the ‘industry standard’ central sync/backup folder spearheaded by Dropbox. This new folder makes it easier for new users to get started without having to select items to backup or sync. Items placed into this folder will be uploaded to SpiderOak and then pushed out to any other place this folder exists. Additionally, this folder will be available via the newly designed mobile app.

Here’s an example. Upon downloading the new SpiderOak application on your Mac, you will find this new folder in the Finder window under ‘Favorites’. You can then drag and drop documents, pictures or whatever you desire, into that folder. These items will start to upload immediately.

On your Windows machine, you will notice the new folder located in the Documents folder in Explorer, and easy reachable through favorites and a desktop shortcut. When opening up this new folder, you will see all the items you placed into this folder on any of your other devices. As you then place items from your Windows machine into this folder, they will in turn be available in the folder on across your network.

This new functionality will also be available in Linux as well as accessible through our newly redesigned and soon to be released mobile applications.

Now that we’ve let you in on this exciting news, I’m curious to know what you might call such a feature? The SpiderOak Folder? The Oak Chest? Your Super Simple Folder? Here is your chance to try your hand at branding. Share with us your creativity and who knows, you may be responsible for coining the name of this additional feature…

Central Repository 101: Where Does Your Data Live?

Welcome to SpiderOak University. If you’re a student, new user, or a lover of continuous learning, this month we’re talking to you.

This is our last week of posting video shorts where SpiderOak CEO Ethan Oberman uses a whiteboard to explain some of our basic product functionalities. School yourself and keep an eye out for our last POP QUIZ this week so you can receive extra GBs.

Ethan Oberman shows off how SpiderOak centralizes ALL your data across all platforms and devices.

Do you have a .edu email address? Don’t forget – you can enjoy 50% off your private backup/sync/share account:

Sign up today.

Let’s Be in Perfect Sync

Welcome to SpiderOak University. If you’re a student, new user, or a lover of continuous learning, this month we’re talking to you.

We’ll be posting a couple video shorts each week where SpiderOak CEO Ethan Oberman uses a whiteboard to explain some of our basic product functionalities. School yourself and keep an eye out for our next POP QUIZ so you can receive extra GBs.

SpiderOak CEO Ethan Oberman discusses the sync function and how it benefits the you.

Do you have a .edu email address? Don’t forget – you can enjoy 50% off your private backup/sync/share account:

Sign up today.

Features 101: 5 Characteristics That Make SpiderOak Different

Welcome to SpiderOak University. If you’re a student, new user, or a lover of continuous learning, this month we’re talking to you.

We’ll be posting a couple video shorts each week where SpiderOak CEO Ethan Oberman uses a whiteboard to explain some of our basic product functionalities. School yourself and keep an eye out for our next POP QUIZ tomorrow so you can receive extra GBs.

Apologies for the brief blackout in this video

Whether you need to access a document you have stored on a remote server, synchronize data between a Mac, Windows or Linux device, share important business documents with your clients, or just rest easy knowing all of your data is safely, securely, and automatically backed up – SpiderOak is there for you. Ethan Oberman shows off 5 distinct characteristics.

Do you have a .edu email address? Don’t forget – you can enjoy 50% off your private backup/sync/share account:

Sign up today.

To SpiderOak, Freedom = Your Peace of Mind, Privacy Online

As we approach the Fourth of July in the U.S., we at SpiderOak can’t help but reflect on the importance of freedom online. After all, it is where many of us spend much of our time. To us, this freedom is accomplished through ensuring 100% privacy, and therefore your peace of mind (and ours too!). Since our founding in 2007, this is something we’ve really hard on and made a priority.

In an attempt to capture the continuously unfolding tale of how our love affair with privacy began, I sat down with one of our Founders and Chief Technology Officer, Alan Fairless, and asked, “How did SpiderOak come to be?”

A solution born out of frustration

Founders Ethan Oberman and Alan Fairless met previously while building a different company. Oberman had files everywhere on different computers and wanted to connect his computers and their contents to one central location. Fairless was frustrated that he didn’t have a reliable place to safely store all his files and data.

“Anyone who uses computers for long enough learns the necessity of keeping copies of whatever is important to them,” Fairless said. “They typically start by copying to other drives and emailing stuff to themselves. This combination of inconsistencies – files and data saved stored haphazardly over time – combined with the likelihood of your computer crashing or files suffering from human errors, gives limited protection.”

“All of these are deeply flawed strategies,” Fairless said, “because they are rarely current and require time and attention – you will lose data in that process. I remember before SpiderOak, I would buy a new hard drive, encrypt my data onto it, and give it to a friend to throw in a closet and forget about. I had a huge amount of data from two to three years of all kinds of projects.”

No other options

“At this time in 2006, there wasn’t an option for where you could store your data reliably and privately,” Fairless said. “The existing options didn’t do encryption, no support for Linux, and rarely support for Mac, which was important to us. We wanted to create a product that supported all the major platforms, especially Linux, and since privacy was a part of our personal philosophy, that would be included. The crypto required for meaningful privacy is hard, but also it is a problem that engineers are drawn to, which is why we’ve been able to attract the quality of engineers we have that also believe in our approach and focus on privacy.”

“I store my daily journals, financial records, and the embarrassing family photos on SpiderOak, and I prefer they are available only to me,” Fairless said. “I am not alone in this feeling. Others want to have a central place for their data that is only accessible to them.”

“With the way SpiderOak is oriented, your encryption pass phrase is something that only exists in your mind. This means your SpiderOak data is only useful in combination with the contents of your brain. What you store with SpiderOak becomes a giant extension of your own mind, that effectively you are simply remembering your own data, as if it were all stored in your brain in a giant USB drive surgically implanted behind your ear. You may share those things exactly as you chose. This puts you entirely in control, it’s your decision and no one else’s.”

“Freedom is being able to choose,” Fairless said. “Everybody loves choice.”

On the horizon: convenient, private collaboration

Over the years, SpiderOak has extended incrementally. At first we were just online backup, then we added sync, mobile components (which we’re still expanding), and now, we’re moving into the enterprise and collaboration space for groups that care about privacy.

“This could mean you collaborate and work privately with your coworkers on a project, or your own individual projects, or with your family, or maybe your wedding website,” Fairless said. “We’re keeping with our theme [of privacy], but finding more and more ways to make it convenient for people to access, move and manipulate their data.”

Celebrate your freedom online

Your peace of mind is our priority. And as Fairless said, freedom is being able to choose. It is with that spirit that all next week, SpiderOak is proud to offer you 4 (more) FREE GB for the 4th.

Whether you are already using SpiderOak, just signed up, or are ready to give it a try, celebrate with us by grabbing your 4 FREE GB. Stay tuned for details via our blog, Twitter, and Facebook.

Thanks from all of us!


Top 5 Reasons You Need SpiderOak Now

  1. That family picture you love will be safe forever. Back up the files that are important to you. Whether it is personal or professional, photos, music, movies, or documents, you’ll be glad you did. Your peace of mind is our priority.

  2. 100% Private. SpiderOak is for the privacy conscious. Only you can see your data – never our employees or the government. That is what sets us apart from other cloud providers. And that is what we mean by our “Zero-Knowledge” privacy standard. Your files are encrypted at the highest level. We do everything in our power so you feel safe with us.

  3. Cross-platform. Access your files anywhere, from any device. Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux (Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora & openSUSE) compatible.

  4. It’s easy. Once you sign up for a SpiderOak account, we will automatically sync with the files you choose. A few clicks, and we go to work for you, making sure we save the data you care about. Our friendly support team is always on standby to answer any questions you may have.

  5. Share files – safely. Even though all your files are encrypted, you can carefully and selectively share something from your account with the family, friends, colleagues, or clients of your choosing. All you have to do is create a ShareRoom and send the unique web URL to whoever you’d like.

If it sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is. We have your best in mind when it comes to life in the cloud, and privacy is our specialty. Give us a try with 2GB free for life. Get started now, and let us know what you think.

Want to learn more? Read our Engineering Matters page for the more nitty gritty technical details, and what makes us different from the competition.

How does SpiderOak use SpiderOak? – Part 5

Daniel Larsson, QA and Marketing.

Being a frequent traveler and the resident US living Swede here at SpiderOak (born and raised in Sweden and living in the Midwest) one of the features of SpiderOak that I really love is Sync.

While many companies offer a ‘sync folder’ that allows you to place all the documents, images, video etc. into a folder that synchronizes between computers, I think the SpiderOak approach to folder structure retaining sync is an essential feature.

After backing up my entire desktop containing all my work material, the last thing I want to do is run a USB stick around updating documents in multiple locations such as temporary offices abroad, new laptops etc… This is where the brilliance of folder structure retaining sync comes in.

Using the same account across all my devices, I can simply backup my base configuration of any laptop or remote desktop, set up sync for my document, video, image folders etc…, and click ‘start’. With SpiderOak having an up-to-date copy of the data on my office desktop – and retaining folder structure when synchronizing – all I have to do is sit back and watch my new device fill with all the data I need for work, anywhere in the world, with the same structure as I am used to at the office!

This is one of the features of SpiderOak that truly feels like magic at work!