SpiderOak vs Dropbox: Is it Time to Switch For Better Security?

obrBy Eric Bradley — Last Updated: 30 Apr'18 2014-01-14T13:59:22+00:00
Dropbox and SpiderOak ONE may have been created to serve a similar purpose, but in practice the two products couldn’t be more different from one another. Dropbox has been designed as a fast, easy to use, foolproof cloud storage system to allow anyone, anywhere, to sync their files to (almost) any device that can connect to the Internet. We have a detailed Dropbox review you might like to take a look at.

SpiderOak ONE, on the other hand, was built from the very start with a focus on maintaining the highest level of privacy and security for your files. Our SpiderOak ONE review gives more specific details on this product.

The different development priorities for these two heavyweights have resulted in very noticeable product differences. The purpose of this article is to look at what those differences mean for you as a consumer, so you can decide which one will meet your needs best.

Another helpful resource will be our complete list of best storage and backup services. With this, you can see our highest rated cloud storage and backup competitors and how they measure up against each other on the major selling points.

Starts from$ 9 92monthly for 1000 GB
Visit DropboxDropbox Review
  • Very fast sync
  • MS Office Online Integration
  • Dropbox Paper
  • Only up to 1TB
  • Expensive
  • Not zero knowledge
  • No 24/7 support
Starts from$ 4 92monthly for 100 GB
Visit SpiderOak ONESpiderOak ONE Review
  • Unlimited devices
  • Good file sharing
  • Private encryption
  • Expensive
  • No mobile backup
  • No NAS backup

1

Pricing

Cost is always an important consideration in any situation where you need to decide between two competing services, and Dropbox gets away to a good head start here because it offers the option of free storage, while SpiderOak ONE currently does not.

How significant this matter is will depend on a few things. If you don’t need to store or sync a lot of content, free storage may attract you. It’s worth pointing out that plenty of other providers are offering free storage (see our best free cloud storage article for more details), many offering better deals than Dropbox currently is.

Price isn’t everything, however, and you also may find your storage needs are far in excess of what is available on Dropbox’s free storage plan. In that case, it comes down to how much you get for what you pay.


PlanDropbox PlusDropbox ProfessionalDropbox Business
Price Plan
$ 9 99monthly
$ 119 00yearly
$ 19 99monthly
$ 239 88yearly
$ 15 00monthly
$ 180 00yearly
Storage 1000 GB 1000 GB 2048 GB
Details
PlanSpiderOak ONE TrialSpiderOak ONE 100GBSpiderOak ONE 250GBSpiderOak ONE 1TBSpiderOak ONE 5TBGROUPSENTERPRISEON PREMISEENTERPRISE SERVER BACKUP (5TB)ENTERPRISE SERVER BACKUP (10TB)ENTERPRISE SERVER BACKUP (20TB)ENTERPRISE SERVER BACKUP (50TB)
Price Plan
Freemonthly
$ 5 00monthly
$ 59 00yearly
$ 9 00monthly
$ 99 00yearly
$ 12 00monthly
$ 129 00yearly
$ 25 00monthly
$ 279 00yearly
$ 9 00monthly
$ 5 00monthly
Freemonthly
$ 500 00yearly
$ 1000 00yearly
$ 2000 00yearly
$ 5000 00yearly
Storage 100 GB 250 GB 1000 GB 5000 GB Unlimited GB Unlimited GB Unlimited GB Unlimited GB Unlimited GB Unlimited GB Unlimited GB
Details

21-day free trial.

Free setup and minimum 10 users.

$299 setup and minimum 100 users.

Custom setup and pricing, minimum 1,500 users.

Supported servers include Windows Server 2016 and Windows Server 2012 R2.

Supported servers include Windows Server 2016 and Windows Server 2012 R2.

Supported servers include Windows Server 2016 and Windows Server 2012 R2.

Supported servers include Windows Server 2016 and Windows Server 2012 R2.


As you can see from the above tables, the only comparable product offered by both services is 1TB; Dropbox wins here with a penny of your purchase buying you approximately 1001MB, while SpiderOak gives you approximately 833MB. However, if you move up a step, the 5TB plan from SpiderOak gives better value, at a full 2GB for every penny spent.

Dropbox offering between 2GB and 16GB for free is good, but the only way to get the maximum amount of free storage is to promote Dropbox to other people and hope they sign up for it. Annoying enough, but if the other person signs up for Dropbox as a result of viewing a file you’ve shared with them, it doesn’t count as a referral according to the current Dropbox rules.

In any case, that amount of free storage isn’t likely to get you far if you’re storing anything more than simple documents as images and videos need much more space. For data storage of more than 16GB and less than 1TB, SpiderOak is the leader, with 100GB for $5 per month (200MB per $0.01) or 250GB for $9 (278MB per $0.01). Dropbox doesn’t currently have any plans in this range.

The above applies to personal accounts. When it comes to business accounts, the differences are more about the cost per user and minimum number of users that can be registered. It’s disappointing that both services are unwilling to reveal the cost for enterprise users, or how many users you’ll need for qualifying as an enterprise. SpiderOak has a lower cost per user but sets a higher minimum user count. If you have more than three or four users, SpiderOak is an easy winner.

Dropbox has to lose some points for requiring a credit card to activate a free trial of any of the paid plans. SpiderOak doesn’t request that kind of information unless there’s a reason, such as that you want to pay for a service using your credit card.

SpiderOak also offers more different ways to pay, which is a good thing, especially if you live in a country where credit card transactions can be difficult to process.

Round One Thoughts

Though Dropbox’s free plan is attractive for people with storage needs up to 2GB (unless they feel like bugging all their friends and family to enlarge it to 16GB), SpiderOak is simply a better deal for anyone that needs space for large image libraries or videos. Though it’s a narrow victory, we’ll give this round to SpiderOak.


Winner (Pricing): SpiderOak ONE
Dropbox
SpiderOak ONE
2

Speed

Dropbox is faster than SpiderOak because it doesn’t encrypt your files, relying only on TLS for security while files are in transit. Dropbox has a speed advantage from not encrypting files, because it allows the server to check if an exact duplicate of a file already exists on the server. If it finds one, the requested file is not uploaded and is copied internally instead.

Here are the results of our speed tests for 1GB worth of files, tested on each service for both uploading and downloading (in hours):


 Avg. Upload TimeAvg. Download Time
Dropbox2:010:54
SpiderOak2:212:08

Dropbox was somewhat faster at uploading and much faster at downloading. Bear in mind that connection speeds can vary due to all kinds of factors, so you can expect to have sessions where the speeds are significantly better or worse than average from time to time.

Round Two Thoughts

This round is fairly clear-cut, with Dropbox easily beating SpiderOak thanks to its faster up- and download time. That the files in question are moving faster because they haven’t been encrypted is a matter for the next battle round.


Winner (Speed): Dropbox
Dropbox
SpiderOak ONE
3

Security and Privacy

Edward Snowden has described Dropbox as being “hostile to privacy,” which is a strong statement. This is much more harsh than simply saying Dropbox is insecure. It is suggesting that Dropbox engages in behaviors that a reasonable person would feel were violations of privacy.

Dropbox actively scans for copyright (or otherwise illegal) content in your files. SpiderOak has no way of doing this, because your files are encrypted and, as it is a zero-knowledge service, it has no access to the decryption key. Should you be concerned about that? Well it depends to some extent on the nature of what you’re storing.

Both services comply with law enforcement agency demands when they are legally qualified demands, however there’s a massive difference in the amount of cooperation each service is able to provide.

Dropbox publishes a transparency report showing how many law enforcement requests are received and how Dropbox responded to them. In 2016, Dropbox received 328 search warrants and provided content in almost every case (for most of those where content was not provided, it was because the account the search warrant was for did not exist).

SpiderOak doesn’t currently publish any such report, but it wouldn’t be very meaningful anyway, since SpiderOak can’t turn over decrypted content. The information SpiderOak can turn over is data about you that a law enforcement agency could be expected to already know, plus your content is in encrypted form.

It seems the only useful information a law enforcement agency can obtain from SpiderOak is that the account definitely exists. This is where it gets interesting, because if you live in the United States, a court can order you to reveal the password required to decrypt your files. The penalties for non-compliance are currently worse in countries like the UK and Australia, but it’s not clear that courts in those countries would have jurisdiction over files located in the United States.

If you live outside the United States, the only methods that can be used by U.S. authorities to force you to reveal your password are legal extradition, illegal methods, or something really severe like extraordinary rendition. If you’re a candidate for the latter, you’d already be aware of it (and would be unable to read this from your box in Guantanamo).

When it comes to internal security, SpiderOak also is way out in front, with no publicly disclosed successfully completed major attacks against the company’s servers, no known information leaks, and no known internal security mistakes.

SpiderOak has historically been proactive in notifying users of security concerns and has always acted quickly to take remedial action before detected vulnerabilities could be exploited. Dropbox has been subjected to multiple serious attacks, has experienced embarrassing information leaks (and even more embarrassing denials of the same), and has made internal security mistakes.

Reports in the media suggest that Dropbox has not always handled security incidents appropriately. There are indications that the company is slow to learn from mistakes and has a tendency to deny responsibility. These are troubling signs, and when you also consider that Dropbox files have no encryption, it’s hard to feel confident that your files will be safe.

What most people fear when it comes to cloud storage security is that their files will be accessed by unauthorized users, but there are other ways you can suffer harm from insecure storage. Your files could be tampered with, removed, or added to.

Round Three Thoughts

There’s no real surprise here: SpiderOak is the easy winner on every count. While both services have clear and fair privacy policies, it’s easier to believe SpiderOak will actually follow through with the promises made and, because of the way the system is designed, it’s much harder for SpiderOak to violate your trust.

Dropbox has a long history of security breaches and of cooperating with the authorities, making it highly unsecure; there’s a reason SpiderOak is one of our top picks when it comes to secure alternatives to Dropbox.


Winner (Security and Privacy): SpiderOak ONE
Dropbox
SpiderOak ONE
4

Ease of Use

Both services are easy to use, but SpiderOak ONE nudged slightly ahead of Dropbox due to a few factors.

Installation of the SpiderOak client software was slightly smoother compared to Dropbox. On Linux, the installation was noticeably easier and the application was exactly the same as the Windows version, whereas with Dropbox there were a few differences.

The one area where Dropbox was the better performer was on mobile, where it can do much more than the SpiderOak app can do. The current version of SpiderOak ONE for Android and iOS is only able to view files, whereas the Dropbox app has some limited editing and file creation abilities.

The biggest benefit offered by SpiderOak ONE is the availability of true backup, and the clear segregation between backup and sync, making it easy for beginners to understand that there’s a difference between the two. The large, clear, accessibility-aware desktop interface of SpiderOak ONE is also a cut above what Dropbox offers, which is essentially just a system tray applet.

Learn to use SpiderOak like a pro
SpiderOak ONE Guide
>

Some users may find the situational awareness of Dropbox is an advantage for them. For example, Dropbox notices when you plug in a device such as a camera or when you take a screenshot and offers to automatically add the images to your Dropbox folder.

Round Four Thoughts

Though Dropbox is by no means unfriendly to users, SpiderOak has just that little bit extra to recommend it. Add to that some bonus points for improved Linux support and you have a clear winner in this round.


Winner (Ease of Use): SpiderOak ONE
Dropbox
SpiderOak ONE
5

The Verdict

Dropbox was a little lower in price than SpiderOak ONE for 1TB accounts, but the price difference wasn’t significant enough to make Dropbox stand out as a solid recommendation on price alone.

The enhanced privacy and security features of SpiderOak ONE, combined with the fact that this service also offers genuine backup instead of just file sync, means the added value more than covers the difference in price. The faster performance of Dropbox means it may be more attractive to people who don’t feel they need the security offered by SpiderOak.

Winner: SpiderOak

Thank you for reading, and remember we have lots of cloud storage reviews available to help you find the most suitable cloud storage solution for your needs. Let us know if you have any other thoughts on the differences between Dropbox and SpiderOak in the comments below.

2 thoughts on “SpiderOak vs Dropbox: Is it Time to Switch For Better Security?”

  1. We have used SpiderOak until issues began to surface. If you store critical data on SpiderOak: beware! It may just randomly delete files and folders across synced pc’s, leaving you with a lot of problems. SpiderOak service team was made aware of this issue in november 2013, in january 2014 i received the following message:

    “….I’m with SpiderOak’s engineering support
    department. I’m writing because you made a support request that was escalated and I want to let you know that we have not forgotten about you and your issue.

    We are in the process of working through our backlog of escalated ticket and are trying to get to yours as quickly as possible. We apologize for how long it is taking to solve your issue and we’re committed to making up for the inconvenience as much as we possibly can.

    As an additional apology, we have credited you one free year of SpiderOak…..”

    It took them weeks to respond even without solving the issue, and NEVER actually came to a solution or even an update. Maybe their backlog just is that large and they haven’t reached our ticket yet….

    No more SpiderOak for us, or any other cloud service for storage of critical data for that matter. Lessons learned. The hard way.

  2. I have used spideroak for several years with no problems. I need them because I have mac/windows/linux machines. Note what is really nice is that i have ubuntu running with crouton on my chromebook and I can back up my chromebook downloads folder via the ubuntu spideroak.

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