You likely use some form of cloud storage already. Several technology giants like AWS, Google, Microsoft, Dropbox, etc. offer cloud storage services. However, you don’t quite know when hackers will get hold of your data! You also don’t know what the cloud computing majors do with your data. Can there be a way out of these uncertainties? Can you take complete control of your data? Blockchain-powered decentralized data storage solutions promise to offer that control. Read on, as we explain how they do that.
Cloud computing majors: Dominating the market of cloud storage
The global market of cloud storage solutions is large, and it’s growing. A MarketsandMarkets report projects that this market will grow from $50.1 billion in 2020 to $137.3 billion by 2025. The report estimates a CAGR of 22.3% during the 2021-2025 period.
The key players in this market are as follows:
• Alibaba Cloud;
A glance at the above list makes it abundantly clear that cloud computing giants dominate this market!
How safe is your data on the cloud?
Cloud computing giants promise robust data security. The reality often varies though. Users of cloud storage solutions need to contend with the following risks:
1. Data breaches
The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data leak in 2015 affected 87 million Facebook users. The Equifax data breach in 2017 impacted 147 million people. These are just two examples, and hackers routinely target cloud computing majors storing peoples’ data.
Cloud computing providers holding your personal and sensitive data in centralized servers expose you to risks. They indeed invest in robust security. However, hackers seem to be always a step ahead! There are errors and foul plays on the part of employees and contractors of the cloud computing providers too.
2. Unauthorized use of personal data
Can you trust cloud computing providers when you use their cloud data storage services? You don’t have a definite answer to that.
Can they view your data stored on their cloud? Can they send you targeted ads based on insights gathered from your data? One can’t answer these questions definitively. As centralized cloud computing providers, AWS or Google control your data when you use their services.
Why explore blockchain when we talk about cloud data storage?
Blockchain has specific characteristics to address the above-mentioned challenges. These are as follows:
Decentralization: A blockchain network is a peer-to-peer (P2P) network. It doesn’t have a central administrator. Nodes, i.e., computers on a blockchain network interact among themselves without an intermediary.
Security: Blockchain uses security features like digital signature and encryption. Users can secure their transactions using digital signatures. Blockchain networks store data in encrypted form, therefore, unauthorized users can’t view them.
Smart contracts: Blockchain smart contracts are open-source pieces of code. You can codify conditions of transactions using them, and they execute autonomously. No one can reverse their execution.
A blockchain-based data storage solution can make central administrators irrelevant. Its security features will deter hackers. Smart contracts contain rules on how users’ data will be used, and no one can break those rules.
Blockchain-powered decentralized cloud storage solutions: What they are
Different kinds of blockchain-based decentralized cloud storage solutions exist. However, you can generally expect the following features:
1. Decentralized storage
You may have one large file to store. However, the blockchain-powered decentralized storage provider doesn’t store it as just one file. The provider breaks your file into multiple parts. It stores these parts on multiple nodes, i.e., computers on the network.
Blockchain-based decentralized cloud storage platforms ensure redundancy. To do that, they store multiple copies of each part of your large file. These platforms store them on different nodes.
Blockchain-based decentralized storage platforms keep track of the nodes where different parts of the file reside. These platforms use their blockchain protocol program and smart contracts to track this information securely.
This solution provides the following benefits:
• Even if hackers break into this blockchain-powered decentralized storage network, they get only parts of the file. They can’t recreate the file from this part alone.
• Multiple copies of a part of the file exist. This redundancy keeps the data safe even if one node is down.
2. Robust encryption
Decentralized storage solutions encrypt the above-mentioned parts of your file. These platforms record which node has which part. This information lies on a blockchain, and it’s encrypted.
What if hackers manage to get all parts of your file? Each part is encrypted, therefore, they can’t view them. They can’t figure out how to piece together the entire file either.
3. Cryptographic tokens for incentives and payments
You pay for the services of a centralized cloud storage provider. What if you have excess space in your computer and want to store files of other users? You would want to make money by doing that too. Centralized cloud storage providers can’t offer these features to you.
Decentralized cloud storage providers offer a solution. If you have excess space on your computer, then you can join their network. You rent this excess space to store parts of the files of other people. Decentralized cloud storage providers pay you by cryptographic tokens.
Users of decentralized storage services pay for the services that they consume. They also use cryptographic tokens for this. Crypto exchanges list these tokens, therefore, you can buy or sell them.
Examples of blockchain-powered decentralized storage platforms
The following are a few notable blockchain-powered decentralized storage platforms:
Protocol Labs, a distributed organization working on open-source projects created Filecoin. Protocol Labs also created IPFS (InterPlanetary File System). IPFS is a distributed system to store and access files, websites, applications, and data. Filecoin uses IPFS.
Users can store and retrieve data using the Filecoin platform. People with excess hard drive space on their computers can join this network. They can rent out their excess hard drive space. They earn more by adding more storage. The cryptographic token on this platform is also known as Filecoin (FIL).
Sia a blockchain-based decentralized storage platform. It encrypts users’ files and stores them on a decentralized network. Users have their private encryption keys. The Sia network provides for redundancy.
People with excess hard drive space on their computers can rent their disk space. They earn money by storing files of other users. Siacoin (SC) is the cryptographic token on this platform.
Storj is a decentralized storage platform built on the Ethereum blockchain network. Users can store their files on this platform. Storj encrypts your files. It breaks these files into multiple pieces, which are stored on multiple nodes. The Storj network is spread across multiple regions.
Storj offers redundancy. Its robust security features keep hackers at bay. People with excess hard drive space can host a node on the Storj network. Storj also allows developers to build applications using its platform. Stork (STORJ) is the cryptographic token on this platform.
Can blockchain data storage solutions end the dominance of centralized cloud storage providers?
Can decentralized storage providers disrupt centralized cloud storage providers? When can they do this? These questions are hard to answer at the time of writing this. Blockchain is a new technology. Blockchain-based decentralized storage platforms are new too. On the other hand, centralized cloud storage providers have proven their mettle. They offer economy of scale and ease of use. Blockchain data storage platforms need to deliver sustained value and compete hard. This sector is worth watching!