SpiderOak: Access Your Files On The Go

Ever since the word ‘data’ was first mumbled somewhere in a lab way back when calculators were the size of your average gymnasium, the words ‘back up’ have never been too far behind.

That’s because when data gets lost, stolen, corrupted or a hard drive simply decides life isn’t worth it anymore, valuable files can be lost if they’re not stored elsewhere. Imagine if a business only kept their accounts on a single laptop. It’d be a bad day at the office if said laptop were to go missing.

So we back up religiously to avoid such disasters and today we have a review of a cool Android app that helps you do just that. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, SpiderOak.

Overview

SpiderOak isn’t just an Android app. They have apps across several platforms including the desktop applications which you’ll have to download to start using the service. You’ll also need to sign up for a free SpiderOak account; this gives you all the great features SpiderOak has to offer along with 2GB of free storage space. For a more in-depth review of the desktop app check out Jarel Remick’s article over on Web.AppStorm.

The Android app which we’ll be delving into in this review gives you access to all of your files, has nice organisational functions, and is a real contender in the data backup apps market.

Competitive Pricing

Competitive Pricing

It’s free to download from the Android market. The only time you’ll have to part with cash is if you decide 2GB won’t cut it anymore and you need more online storage space; and even then pricing is set at a competitive $10 per month per extra 100GB. Other than that it’s all completely free!

Functionality

As I mentioned above, the SpiderOak app allows you to access all of your backed up files right from your smartphone and the option to download them should you wish.

Once you sign in using your SpiderOak ID and password your files will load up on the home screen. There are three simple tabs across the top as you can see in the screenshot below: Access, ShareRooms, and Favorites.

Tabbed Menus

Tabbed Menus

Access is likely to be the tab you’ll use the most. From here you can navigate easily through your devices, folders and files. Should the mood take you, downloading them is just a tap of a finger away.

When a file is downloaded to your phone it will be saved on your SD card so you can take it with you like a USB flash drive. Another way to download a file from the online servers is to favorite it. This is done by pressing the small star next to a file. The downloaded file will then be always available under the Favorites tab and can be viewed offline.

If you want to open the file there and then, SpiderOak will either choose the default method of doing this on your phone, and if it can’t figure this out you’ll be presented with a list of your apps to choose from — just like when Windows asks you to select a program to open a file it’s not familiar with.

Sharing Files

Sharing Files

The ShareRoom tab is where you can access files that friends, family or co-workers have shared with you. This is done by creating a ‘ShareRoom’ using the desktop or web app and giving people the room ‘Key’ (a password). Once in, you can download and view files just as above.

My main quibble with this app is that, rather regrettably, you can’t upload files from your Android device. So the whole app acts as as a viewing portal and nothing more really. Also, it lacks a search function. Adding one wouldn’t have exactly been a pioneering step and it’d sure make sifting through dozens of files a lot easier. Hopefully they’ll include these in the next update.

Design

SpiderOak aren’t going to win any fancy design awards for this app and it’s a good thing too. Let’s be honest, backing up a sales returns account or last week’s blog posts is a menial task and nothing we should get too excited about. Therefore, I’m glad they haven’t wasted their focus making the app look overly flashy because it’d just be a waste of time and would detract from the functionality of what is in essence, an app that serves a single function!

Minimalist Styling

Minimalist Styling

Everything looks fine and is minimalist. It’s all very easy on the eye and the black background is good when reading through dozens of files trying to find the right one. The menus are easy to navigate and somewhat customizable. All the information about the files is displayed neatly and doesn’t get in the way. Overall I like the design of SpiderOak because it’s appropriate without being boring.

Performance

In terms of getting the job done, SpiderOak works excellently. After some serious testing (okay, playing around for a few hours) I encountered no fundamental problems with the app. Files download easily and the app responds quickly to your commands.

However, for some reason, the app wouldn’t let me log in until a short time after I uploaded some files to my account from my laptop. Again this was a little annoying as I was anxious to check it out rather than wait for my back-up to be completed. I also get the idea many potential users could lose interest at this stumbling block and look elsewhere. Hopefully a fix will arrive soon.

Final Thoughts


If I were to be asked bluntly whether SpiderOak is a good app my answer would be a definite ‘yes’. It works well and does exactly what it says on the tin.

However, there are alternatives out there that can’t be ignored simply because they’re more advanced than SpiderOak; a prime example being Dropbox.

If you’re looking for a cheap and easy way to back-up your files then I suggest SpiderOak. If you’re a power-user that wants above par features and have a little more cash to spend, then I recommended Dropbox.

SpiderOak is still a work in progress and is currently at version 1.1. Answers to queries from users on their website seem to suggest that more updates and features are on the way soon. The company is oozing with potential and hopefully within the coming months we’ll start to see some of that coming to fruition; building upon the current solid foundation they’ve already laid.


Summary

SpiderOak's Android app is a great addition to their line-up of already excellent products. The app allows you to access your files anywhere using your Android phone. It's completely free, very functional and well worth a try if you're an existing or new SpiderOak user.

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