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To SpiderOak, Freedom = Blazing Our Own Trail

In yesterday’s blog post, Erin and Alan spoke a bit about how freedom means your peace of mind. We achieve that through our dedication to privacy online.

Another way we embrace freedom online is through blazing our own trail. We’re proud to say we’ve done this intentionally in several ways:

It’s smart to have ‘Zero-Knowledge’

Though it makes work for our developers and engineers a little challenging, the idea was to create an environment where Fairless and Oberman didn’t have to trust the people hired on to work at SpiderOak. So they methodically developed a system which is called “’Zero-Knowledge’ privacy.” This means, there is no point where a SpiderOak employee, even with direct access to the servers that are storing the data, can access your information. It is a very important distinction and gives you (as an individual or a business) the freedom to upload your embarrassing videos (like waving around golf ball retrievers) or backing up your grandma’s super-secret recipes. Should the government or anyone else come busting through our digital offices, asking for grandma’s recipes, we would have to give them the data by law. BUT it is encrypted and there is nothing we can do to decrypt it. Read more about this in our recent newsletter.


It’s because of you that we are so passionate and vocal about privacy. Providing a private and flexible product, with real feedback and support is something we’re proud to offer. Our customers often say, “I love working with real people!” We have a virtual team scattered around the world, and when our users can identify us as being real people who really help them, it brings smiles to our faces. Our loyal following of people like you who care about privacy is one of the things that sets us apart from the rest of the cloud storage / sync / share companies in our space.

Complete cross-platform support

In yesterday’s interview with our CTO, Alan Fairless, you probably read where he recalled there being very few online backup options during SpiderOak’s inception in 2007 that were compatible with all platforms. The need for heterogeneity has always existed, but it’s becoming more pronounced as devices proliferate, devices that run diverse operating systems, especially Linux. In fact, a large chunk of our customers run Linux OS. Being a heavy Linux user himself, Fairless saw the need. So that is where we started, and worked our way across platforms, giving our users the freedom to backup, sync, and share their important data from any device. We continue to provide flexible multi-platform support.

What’s in a name

I often get the question, “What exactly is a SpiderOak?” “Does someone in the company have a fascination with spiders and oak trees?” Believe it or not, there was actually a method in creating our name. Alan Fairless and Ethan Oberman did not want to come up with a name everyone had in the industry, but wanted something unique. At the time (and to this day) it was pretty hard to find a good domain, so they started taking concepts that they liked and started placing them together to see if they were available. They slowly started plugging in different concepts and they liked the concept of spiders and webs of data. The word “Oak” was brought to the table to mean very strong and stable. And that is how the SpiderOak name was formed. Since it is so different and not specific, this gives us the freedom to be flexible. There is also an interesting ancient story that uniquely describes the name we chose.

Let’s celebrate!

As a special thank you and to celebrate, all of next week SpiderOak is going to offer you 4 additional 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.

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!