June 28, 2011

SpiderOak Looking Inward

by with 45 comments

Over the last several days, the SpiderOak team gathered in Kansas City. Of the many activities during our time together, one particular exercise involved looking internally and thinking about what each of us would improve about SpiderOak. It was left rather open-ended on purpose and the responses were varied and raw.

Given that transparency is the most important part of who we are as a company, we published these thoughts below so you might all know what we think about us. After all, internal reflection is crucial to strong and balanced growth.

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I would improve SpiderOak by tightening the focus of our application to
provide a backup-only edition, in addition to our standard product.
This would make it easier to run SpiderOak on network storage boxes and
other ‘small’ devices. – Bryon

I would have a working read/write mobile-friendly API. – Matt

I’d make it easier to control how long and how often SpiderOak stores historical versions. If users could tell SpiderOak to delete these versions after a certain amount of time, or not store them at all, it would make space management much easier. – Laura

I believe that communication is the most essential part of any successful team. Developing a better understanding of everyone’s roles and responsibilities will improve all aspects of SpiderOak. – Alli

I want to redesign the website to be more mobile friendly, especially for shares/login. It’s something we really should have to provide mobile access on platforms we don’t officially support. – Chip

I would redo the web account pages to be more intuitive and readable. It would be nice to be able to bookmark pages, easily read what’s on them, etc. – Ben

We should hire more cute women who are into scrawny pale guys like Chip because it honestly bothers me that someone so brilliant isn’t more directly benefiting womankind. – Alan1

Currently, there are very few ways to gauge how the WL Program is growing. I need to know when a new user signs up through our WL partners, conversions from free to paid users and past due users. Better reporting would help me understand what resources we can provide to our partners to maximize profits. – Michelle

I imagine there will come a day when I am unable to recollect many of my memories from childhood. If only SpiderOak could figure out a way to back up the smell of my grandmother’s kitchen when she was baking chocolate chip cookies or allow me to share the feeling of her warm hug. – Linzi

Different internal event detection and reporting for servers. – Doug

I’d like for us to improve/develop a sense of community in the workplace by getting employees more involved in work-sponsored activities. Take an interest in the personal lives and interests of employees…. Helps the creative juices flow. – Jovan

Something I would like to improve about SpiderOak is the communication to customer relations. It would be nice to know, as quickly as possible, when there are problems with the program such as server issues, or a bug. – Dana

I think it would be great if we included music videos as part of our marketing efforts. SpiderOak Journey cover band? Fans singing about SpiderOak to the tune of trashy pop songs? Yes, please. I think that would be awesome, but if you’d prefer something more serious for the blog post:I’d love to see more opportunities for users to share testimonials and stories about SpiderOak (apart from what they might post on the forums). This will also help prospective users see from other users what we’re all about =) – Gwende

We should try to double Doug’s smiling time. – Alan2

I would implement a new billing system to better handle varying payment methods (CC, PayPal, etc). And to facilitate all the various things we bill and payout for, like whitelabels and affiliates. – David

Develop easy to use, web based administration tools for internal
functionality and processes. Making build processes and administrative
tasks easier to delegate and perform independently. – Daniel

Open source the SpiderOak client software. And I would love to have an office or work space in my city. Working from
home is great much of the time, but meeting with coworkers and bouncing
ideas off of each other is priceless. – Paul

We should become better champions for the cause of privacy in the upcoming era of cloud computing. And we need a live funk band performing during all company meetings. – Alan3

We should thank all that’s holy we’re not PSN. We do things better than that. – Gareth

Improve the communication between our various departments and create more opportunities for us all to gather. – Ethan

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Now that you know what we think – let us know what you think. We always promote positive and helpful feedback from our community and look forward to hearing your thoughts / ideas / suggestions on what we can do better.

Ending with a quote from Joseph Chilton Pearce… “Seeing within changes one’s outer vision.”

Comments
  1. Alternate title: SpiderOak dating service for Chip!

    Also, cheer if you want us to open the source code. ;-)

  2. "I'd make it easier to control how long and how often SpiderOak stores historical versions. If users could tell SpiderOak to delete these versions after a certain amount of time, or not store them at all, it would make space management much easier. – Laura"
    – Preserve all historical versions & deleted files (from homepage)

  3. Vote for the easier management of versioning. Weekly/monthly removal of versioned mailbox files is painful.

  4. Managing versions would be a big win for us. We've got some huge files that would benefit from some type of intelligent retention policy (e.g. grandfather-father-son backup schedule). Then we wouldn't have to waste another minute swapping those DAT tapes, and fighting the unusable tape backup software.

  5. "I'd make it easier to control how long and how often SpiderOak stores historical versions. If users could tell SpiderOak to delete these versions after a certain amount of time, or not store them at all, it would make space management much easier. – Laura"
    YAY FINALLY!

    "Open source the SpiderOak client software. And I would love to have an office or work space in my city. Working from home is great much of the time, but meeting with coworkers and bouncing ideas off of each other is priceless. – Paul"
    How about open sourcing the whole infrastructure (both client and server software).

  6. Well, speaking personally, I would develop an app that works. I haven't been able to start SpiderOak on my Mac for weeks. And maybe I'd get Support to communicate a little more.

  7. I recently tried to restore a historical version of a large folder (few hundreds of files). It turned out to be impossible: I had to manually restore each file. I would apreciate a feature that let you restore historical versions of folders.

    Also, sharing a folder with editing rights would be really cool (now the person that you share your folder with has only reading rights).

  8. I second(third?) Laura's suggestion of refined history control or even just a check box to disable that feature. One addition I'd add would be slightly more advanced storage profiling so I know what files are my biggest memory offenders.

    Often I find large storage spikes I wasn't expecting and I end up having to manually investigate my system. If this has been added to a recent version and I just didn't notice it, please excuse the unnecessary request.

  9. +1 for the read/write API suggestion by Matt. I'd love to use a text editor / mobile media player that's compatible with SpiderOak.

  10. 2 eurocents from me:

    1) Speed. Backups and syncs take much longer than they should. Way longer. The first sync after startup takes several minutes while some other products can do it in seconds (and I'm not even mentioning how much CPU, memory and IO SpiderOak uses during these minutes).

    2) Usability. IMHO the SpiderOak client is horrible. The GUI responds slowly, the status tabs are confusing, setting up just a single sync between 2 computers takes way too many clicks (!), you can't cancel a big upload, the account pop-up shows lots of empty fields and a reference to the website instead of actual info, … You guys should hire a usability expert or four.

    I'm still a happy and paying SpiderOak customer at the end of the day though :).

  11. Add HTTP Auth to the shared folders.
    This would add another level of security, and would avoid the cases when the shares end up indexed on google by mistake :D

  12. "Open source the SpiderOak client software." Thumbs up! While you're at it, release it as Free Software with an adequate license – GPL, for example.

  13. I agree on improving the SpiderOak client, performance is slow on both Mac and Windows machines.

    Would also love a way to sync folders between 2 SpiderOak accounts, I understand there are security/encryption hurdles, but having a shared key between the two accounts would work fine.

  14. +1 for versioning control!
    Also:
    1) open sourcing the client would help getting (even more) trusted by security-conscius users
    2) letting users buy Gb by 10 Gb increments at 1$/month could IMHO help reaching users who don't need/can't afford 100 Gb, but are not happy with their amount of free space

  15. I'd like to see a notification (maybe in the tray) of when a back-up and sync are complete. I'm nervous about logging off before a sync completes, and it's tedious to bring up the client to check.

  16. I have problems on WinXP with the check boxes in the SpiderOak client. I click the box for a file I want to backup and the program hangs and I have to click the "save" button really quick otherwise the box un-checks itself. Sometimes the box un-checks even if I'm really quick.

    Other than that I'm extremely happy and feel privileged to be using the best encrypted cloud storage product on the web. Thanks SpiderOak! :)

  17. Yes please

    I'd make it easier to control how long and how often SpiderOak stores historical versions. If users could tell SpiderOak to delete these versions after a certain amount of time, or not store them at all, it would make space management much easier. – Laura

  18. I like these three a lot:

    Open source the SpiderOak client software. And I would love to have an office or work space in my city. Working from home is great much of the time, but meeting with coworkers and bouncing ideas off of each other is priceless. – Paul

    We should become better champions for the cause of privacy in the upcoming era of cloud computing. And we need a live funk band performing during all company meetings. – Alan3

    We should thank all that's holy we're not PSN. We do things better than that. – Gareth

    Also, get the Client/GUI a workover. The restore process is horrible, and knowing wether the sync process has deleted something it shouldn't is hard work…

    Also, it's rather heavy. It slows down my login from a few seconds to minutes until the PC recovers, as a result I have to start it manually once I'm logged in.

  19. Definite +1 for open sourcing the client.

    That would allow the software to be distributed easily and natively packaged and increase trust in the service. Not really much of a downside.

  20. ++ for open sourcing the client.
    Mostly the encryption part, because that way, we as customers can actually check how you're doing the encryption. This would improve the trust into your system!

  21. +1 for an open source client
    * improve the visual info displayed by the tray icon (sync complete, updating, etc. )

  22. I'm definitely going to thumbs up open sourcing the client. Besides the actual benefits from open source itself(contribution, review, etc..), there's also the added benefit of increased trust to your claims of security, zero knowledge and encryption. Useful reading is Moritz Blume comment on this article:
    http://web.appstorm.net/roundups/data-management-roundups/dropbox-vs-spideroak-file-sync-battle/#comment-55340

    Which outlines the state of mind for security conscious people when it comes to security claims from services like SpiderOak. Dropbox lied in this regard, others can too(and will for business purposes),just to give an example.

    I have another suggestion too:
    Get rid of the web based access to the data, even if SpiderOak does not store the authentication data and keeps it running in a volatile environment, this is still a big security issue and a no-no for security conscious people. For e.g. this approach would still allow attack vectors like sniffers on the wire or your servers getting owned.

    If removing the web app access is bad business practice, which probably is nowadays, you can easily get away with a Java client applet that does the decryption itself and thus keep the passwords and keys locally. Wuala does this for eg. and it works pretty well. http://www.wuala.com/en/launch/ – click on "Why Wuala is not a web app".

    The only downside to this approach is that these Java applets mostly work good on desktop platforms but that is ok, as long as SpiderOak has native approaches for the IOS/Android platforms. I don't think anyone, as a potential client, is seriously considering access to his files from Lynx as a decision point. For that, there is http://www.tarsnap.com/. :)

    Aside from that, keep up the good work SpiderOak.

    PS: I should have made this into an e-mail. Hopefully I'll get the right attention I'm aiming to from this comment.

  23. I'm with Simon.

    Instead of spending time and resources implementing versioning control or open sourcing, how about just making a product that works.

    And since that might take a while, how about providing technical support. An email a week concerning a single problem is not technical support. I could communicate with you faster via snail mail.

    Do any of you read your forums? Are you completely oblivious to what your users are saying about you?

    Have any of you checked out your competition lately? I have. I've had two weeks of non-functional cloud storage time to look around and see what else is being offered. You should be worried. I have tested 6 different services now. Yours is the only one that failed to perform and yours is the only one that doesn't offer technical support. Every other service had either a number to call, live online support or email support that responded within hours, not days.

    You looked so damn good on paper. I really wish you could back up your promises with results.

  24. SpiderOak seemed to have the best value for money on paper but ever since I signed up it's been nothing but trouble. The service has failed on me twice and I am currently without backup again for over 1 week now with nothing to do other than wait for a response from support.

    The application is cumbersome to use and doesn't inspire confidence. Even when SpiderOak does work I feel I need to check, I don't trust it to backup my data.

    This is why I am looking for another product.

  25. Love me some SpiderOak. It'd be nice to have streaming capabilities for music/video (Similar to Amazon's cloud storage) at least in the phone apps, and the ability to view files and favorite them without having to download them.

    Possibly a way to designate certain files to not show as deleted even if removed from the computer they were originally on. For example, ripping CDs I own onto one of my computers, then, after they're backed up to SO, being able to remove them from that computer (to make more space on the HD), but having them appear as normally stored files. Basically, the pure storage aspect of SO, acting like an external (cloud) hard drive. If that functionality is already there, I'm sorry if I missed it.

    Thanks

  26. Version control is overkill for most users who simply want fast, simple, secure backup. Laura's comments from the Kansas meet are spot on. Having a GUI menu option for user config of versioning would make Spideroak near perfect. As Laura says, "If users could tell SpiderOak to delete these versions after a certain amount of time, or not store them at all, it would make space management much easier." YES!! Do it baby.

  27. ++ on the open sourcing. Do it!!! But I agree that server should be open sourced as well. That'd be awesome. You won't lose any paying customers cause no one can be bothered hosting it themselves. Its just people who wouldn't pay anyway that'd do it. And you'd get more customers cause I know people who aren't using it because it isn't open.

    I'd also like a webdav function, that would be cool when I don't have spideroak installed.

  28. Being able to better manage/delete/restore backups is EXTREMELY important to me. The current ability to browse / restore to a specific backup point is less than good, which is my polite euphemism for crap. I can't imagine using Spideroak with my commercial client base until I have an easy way to see all my backup points on a time-line and be able to select backup sets for deletion/restoration. If I want to restore a discrete historical version of something I currently have to do it on a file by file basis. This is fine if I am looking to restore a non-corrupted version of a word document that got eaten and utterly impossible of I want to restore a copy of my mail directory (containing thousands of files) from two weeks a go.

    Do this functionality right and I'll probably purchase several TB of storage space. Do it wrong and I'll continue to just be a 2GB non-paid account.

  29. Revamp the client to a web UI (localhost addr access). Provide a simple server-based headless version. I know there is a headless option now, but the client cannot run along with the headless version; I'm talking a proper client-server architecture where the client connects to the server process and issues commands. Finally, make syncing larger amounts of data faster.

  30. Just a quick note — we are currently testing Carbonite and it's slow – 10GB per day for uploading. I just did a test with Spider Oak and it ran at just about 1.5MB – basically full T-1 speed. I also talked to CrashPlan and they said that they have a 10GB limit per day as well. I hope Spider Oak works out well for our cloud backup solution.

  31. More participation by SpiderOak support on the user forums. The forums are being underutilized.

  32. Would love a backup service that is reliable/works. Our Spideroak clients have stopped uploading backups for no reason….Definitely not business class.

  33. Some way to compare the uploaded files of multiple computers from one machine. Maybe an md5 or similar set of files for uploads could be uploaded to allow for a client machine to quickly compare its' files that are set to be synced against whats already in the cloud. It can help in identifying duplicate files much more easily while still maintaining a zero knowledge policy. The users files and their local machine would perform all of the work without Spideroak needing to actually know anything personal or secure about our files.

    I love the service, I'll be upgrading to a premium account sometime soon. Thank you for supporting Linux, Windows and Android. I was originally going ot go with a competitor but their linux support wasn't serious. I was using Ubuntu One but their windows client isn't up to that teams normal level of quality. I'm glad that no one isn't performing as great across all of the major platforms as you are right now. I love the amount of control and ease of use that Spideroak offers.

    I may have missed this feature, but if so it must be very well hidden. Local network syncing. A lot of my machines use the same network, I'd like to keep certain files synced locally without using any bandwidth since my ISP caps the bandwidth at 150 GB. It's only for downloads now but eventually they may start to include uploads. I believe that Comcast may do that now and I'm planning to switch to them if AT&T can't deliver service that doesn't have constant, random drops in my area.

  34. You let a hacker stealing security certificates decide for you to drop support for my operating system OSX Tiger. I could not upgrade to Leopard if I wanted to, the proprietary Apple system has me locked down to Tiger. I will migrate to Linux in time but will now become a Wuala customer, they have very good Tiger support.

    The cure is to Open-source the client, this way someone would have taken the time to fix the client for you. The market place is getting crowded and being GPL compatible would give you a much needed edge, all those free software distributions would become your friend.

    Another benefit would be client experimentation. We need secure storage systems with clients that exclude any sharing facility as they are an unnecessary security risk. People who do not need security are better of with Dropbox anyway. Look out for Bitcasa, if they decide to offer an Open Source client you are deep dodo.

    Peter

  35. Definitely open source the client. That would be very attractive to all of us paranoid people of being spied and SpiderOak would win all that customer population and that news would impact very nicely in the linux/opensource community

  36. webdav webdav webdav… The ability to have a share folder is nice, but accessibility through webdav would be so much better.