Data-storage is a multi-billion dollar business and a lot of companies are scrambling to get a piece of the pie. The key is making it secure, fast, and affordable – usually, only 2 of the 3 can be achieved, but that might change with decentralized data storage.
As we feed more of our data to FAANG (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google) we are relinquishing our control over our data. If they find something that violates their terms of service, they could suddenly prevent you from accessing your information. A server can be compromised and leak data from millions of accounts, or a web server fails and can no longer handle the requests being made. Decentralized data storage is a more fault-tolerant system where data is not controlled by any single entity. The data is effectively shredded up (sharded) and encrypted, then sent to a wide variety of nodes on the network. Data is also duplicated throughout the network, so even if a node goes offline that held a chunk of your data, it will be stored in multiple other locations as well.
Decentralized data storage may not be the primary method of cloud storage in the future, however, it will more than likely capture a significant segment of what’s projected to be an $80 billion dollar industry by 2021. There are multiple decentralized storage solutions that are competing in the space today. The four that are talked about most often in the crypto-sphere are Sia, Storj, Filecoin and MaidSAFE. They all have their pros and cons, here’s an article that attempts to provide a brief, unbiased description of each of them.
The idea is that if you have unused hard drive space on your computer you can rent out your storage space to individuals seeking to store their data. The entity that stores the data will never know what’s on the hard drives (or SSDs) because it is encrypted and only a small segment of the data is being stored there. Most of us have unused computing power and storage, why not begin using (or renting out) these resources to create a more robust and resilient network?
Proof of Concept and Problems
I spun up my own storage host on the Sia network as a proof of concept. There were about 10 TB of storage on the server, it was really interesting to see the disks being filled up by other people on the network and getting paid for it. I earned maybe $1 or $2 in Siacoin at the time, so it was not very profitable. That may have changed since then (this was about 4 months ago) and some of the other companies may be more lucrative, unfortunately I haven’t dived deep enough to provide that sort of information. I wouldn’t expect to make a lot of money off of something like this (yet) unless you have petabytes of storage in your own data-center.
The problem that this technology leads to is security so good that those who legitimately need access to it (think National Security) will be completely locked out of it. At this point, we are overdue for the pendulum of privacy to swing in the opposite direction. Whether it is warranted or not, this technology is going to give individuals and businesses the capability of completely securing their data. The debate comes down to whether or not the government should be provided with a “Golden Key” (backdoor) to access the encrypted data. The trick is preventing abuse of that key by the powers the wield it, and preventing hackers from learning how to gain entry to it – a very difficult obstacle to overcome.