Cloud Storage Adventures

Cloud Storage Adventures

Using cloud-based storage services has become kind of normal these days – pictures taken with your phone, documents created with online office suites, web-based applications storing your content in one of your personal cloud accounts, … these are just a few aspects where cloud-based storage is powering our daily digital life.

For various reasons (and like many software developers), I have more than one computer (not counting my phones and tablet devices), and all run different operating systems. For a long time, I relied on my good old Synology J-series DiskStation dating from 2012 to share files between my computers. So far it hasn’t broken down, but the hard disks are old and difficult to replace (ATA HDDs have become pretty rare these days), and running this device requires additional backup infrastructure. Furthermore, I can only access files on the DiskStation while connected to my local network at home.

True, I had free cloud-based storage accounts for a long time already (Dropbox & Google Drive, the usual suspects), and while Dropbox is dead useful, the storage limit for the free account prevents it from being used as my main synchronisation storage. Replacing the DiskStation by another home server costs a lot of money – in fact enough money to finance an upgraded storage account for quite a while. But which would I chose? Dropbox would have been a natural choice, but the pro account is not exactly cheap (~200€ p. a.).

Furthermore, Dropbox has been heavily criticised for its lack of data privacy. Now while I’m quite sure my files are no matter of national security, some of them deserve proper protection, as they contain either personal, private information (e. g. family photos and videos), or sensitive information from a development perspective; e. g. security-related information such as audit results, security issues, etc. – or simply work in progress I don’t want to see being published yet, or being stolen by somebody else.

Therefore I decided to give SpiderOak a try – they operate under a no-knowledge policy, using relatively secure crypto to keep my files private and accessible by me only. Furthermore, their small account offers 150 GiB for ~50€ (US $59) p. a. – more expensive per GiB than Dropbox, true, but still cheaper when looking at the total amount to pay (I currently don’t need the 1 TiB offered by Dropbox). So I started my adventure with SpiderOak, also being curious for their backup feature and point in time recovery (something not offered by Dropbox, at least not in their basic package).

Installing the client software is no challenge – it’s straight forward and simple. Configuring and getting it up and running however proved to be more difficult. Here are some points I perceived as negative concerning SpiderOak:

  • Although their website somewhere states they’d accept PayPal, the checkout process only permits using a credit card
  • Backup jobs can hang up easily, and block the Hive (Dropbox-like cross device folder) from being synchronized
  • Up to now I didn’t manage to get the two Hive folders on my Mac and Windows computer to mutually synchronize – apparently the SpiderOak client thinks they’re two different sync’ed folders:SpiderOak Hive Synchronisation Issue

So overall the client software feels less mature and robust than Dropbox. Particularly the last item is quite annoying, as this is the main reason I need cloud storage for. The documentation provided is not really helpful (mind you, I grew up with Unix man pages) – they rather lack of technical information; instead they feel like a lot of buzzword waffle for marketing people. I pushed this problem to their support; let’s see if they will be more helpful and get this sorted out. I’ll keep you posted on how this journey continues…

About Jesco Freund

Caffeine-based life form loving X-Plane, crypto, coffee, chili pepper, FreeBSD, C and Python. Likes coding stuff nobody needs and never gets finished either.