Blockchain Future Of Cloud Storage
Most of us, if not all of us, require storage for our pictures, documents, videos, and other digital content. When storage space on our local drive is maxed out, we have to move our content to the cloud or an external data server to save space.In this article:
The Problem with Centralized Cloud Storage
Cloud services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, and Amazon Web Services offer to host our files on their servers, but at a cost. Prices can range anywhere from $140 a year for 2 Terrabytes with Dropbox to $120 a year for 1 Terrabyte with Google Drive. At an enterprise or national level, these costs can add up to significant amounts considering the huge amounts of data that is generated on a daily basis.
Costs are one thing, but centralized solutions and platforms such as Dropbox and Google Drive all have one problem. And that is, they all present a single point of failure. This means that a data outage could leave you without your files for hours or even permanently. It also means that a malicious attack could lead to data leaks and privacy breaches. Can you imagine Dropbox losing all your data or leaking user account details?
Well, it has happened.
Back in 2012, a Dropbox hack saw the details of more than 68 million users leaked, including email addresses and passwords. Affected users were prompted to update their passwords, but the breach could have led to far worse damage.
In 2014, another Dropbox vulnerability saw individuals’ mortgage applications and income tax returns exposed. But laws meant that Dropbox was not obligated to inform users of the data breach, even though it had compromised user privacy.
However, even if these centralized services do hire an increasing number of cyber personnel in an attempt to tighten up their security, it still does not solve another problem—your privacy. Your files are never fully private with a service like Dropbox because not only does Dropbox retain the right to access your files at any time, they also lack zero-knowledge encryption.
Zero-knowledge encryption means that no one—not even the host such as Dropbox—has the keys to your data.
So, what fixes all these problems? You guessed it. Blockchain-based cloud storage.
The Blockchain Solution
Perhaps you’ve heard of services like Sia, Storj, Swarm, Cryptyk, Bluzelle, and most recently, Filecoin, which launched its mainnet on 15 October 2020.
Blockchain-based file storage solutions work by storing your files across multiple computers, or nodes, on a decentralized network. With no single point of failure or single authority who has oversight over your files, these solutions provide benefits such as greater privacy, faster speeds, fairer market prices, and minimal file loss.
While there are different blockchain-based file storage models, including hybrid solutions in the space that store your files both on and off a blockchain, this is how typical decentralized file storage works:
Instead of a central server, your data is uploaded, split up or sharded, encrypted, and finally distributed across a robust worldwide network of nodes, with competitive prices set among the various nodes.
From individual users to larger organizations with unused disk space, anyone can sign up to be a node, and rent storage to other users. Prices are set between renters and users, ensuring a fair free-market driven rate, and can be transacted using the blockchain’s token. At the time of this video, renting 1 Terrabyte of space from the Sia network, for example, costs about $2 a month at Siacoin’s current price.
Retrieving your files on a decentralized file storage system works much like BitTorrent and other Peer-to-Peer clients; where you download fragments of your file from participating nodes across the network. Even if one node is offline, shards of your file are replicated and saved across many other nodes, so that it can always be accessed and reconstructed in full with no downtime. With extra copies of your files replicated and distributed throughout the network, you can be assured of little to no file loss. For example, files hosted on Sia are split into 30 pieces and geographically distributed around the world. Only 10 segments of the file are needed to reconstruct the file again.
This also means greater privacy because no single person holds your entire file, only fragments of it. And they have no idea what they are storing.
Data breaches would be impossible because not only are files encrypted, they are distributed and secured across a network with no single attack point for hackers to compromise.
Also, decentralized file storage means faster speeds because users are not reliant on a central server point, which might be located very far from you. Instead, users will be accessing storage from peers that are nearby and efficient, resulting in higher transfer speeds.
Like Airbnb and Uber, decentralized file storage brings the sharing economy to your desktop.
Users only pay for what they need and are not locked into a one-size-fits-all subscription-based model, which leaves little flexibility for when data storage requirements increase or decrease and fluctuate. For enterprises, this pay-as-you-rent model can result in significant cost savings.
For all these compelling reasons, competition is slowly but surely heating up in the blockchain file storage space, with everyone jostling to the front with the best business model. Some are targeting mass consumer adoption, while others are more focused on enterprise. Even technology giant IBM is entering the scene with its own hybrid multi-cloud blockchain storage solution.
While statistics show there’s a growing demand for decentralized file storage, there is still a way to go and complex blockchain technology challenges to overcome before mass adoption can occur.
The Blockchain Future
However, is blockchain-based file storage the future? I would give it a resounding, yes.
Would you rather trust your data with a single authority that can be hacked and leave you empty? Or would you rather put it in a totally trustless environment, backed by zero-knowledge encryption and in the hands of anonymous nodes spread across the world?
Decentralized file storage cuts out the middlemen as gatekeepers of our sovereign data, returning back ownership, privacy, security, and at fairer market prices.
Why put our precious data in the hands of a few centralized servers when we can tap into unused storage capacities around the world, create new micro-economies, and protect our data from unnecessary censorship?
Decentralized file storage can be the very backbone storage layer of the new decentralized Internet known as Web 3.0. If so, it will enable humanity’s most valuable information—our histories, knowledge and data—to be stored in the hands of everyone and not just in the hands of a few, for-profit mega-corporations.
This will turn file storage into what it is: a commodity and utility.
This content is for informational purposes only and is not investment advice. You should consult a qualified licensed advisor before engaging in any transaction.