Where do you keep your important data? If you are like most people, probably either on a physical medium like a hard drive on your computer and/or on a cloud server.
Cloud computing is growing every year. In fact, according to Statista, the number of personal cloud storage users (like those using Google Drive) has doubled between 2014 and 2020 from 1,136 million to 2,309 million.
But here’s the problem with centralized cloud storage.
You don’t own it. Once your data is hosted on their servers, you don’t really own your data either.
Let me introduce you to decentralized storage.
But before, read why centralized Internet is a bad idea to get the whole picture.
Okay, so what is decentralized cloud storage?
Unlike centralized cloud storage, where your data is stored on a single cloud server, owned by Google (read here why you should drop Google) or Amazon, for instance, in decentralized cloud storage, your data is stored across multiple servers.
These servers are hosted and maintained by multiple users and groups, rather than a single company and they all work to keep your data accessible and secure.
In a decentralized storage system, your data is stored on a decentralized network, on so-called “nodes”.
Nodes are physical devices in a network (like a computer), which can receive and forward transmissions from and to other nodes in the network.
In a centralized storage system, you can download or upload files from or to a centralized data server, which in turn receives and forwards data from multiple servers.
Things work a little differently in decentralized storage.
Here, you don’t receive the entire file at once from just one server. Instead, each node in the network holds a piece of it and you download these pieces until you have the full file.
Now, why would you have your data stored on some random nodes, run by random people?
Isn’t a multi-billion corporation like Google or Amazon safer?
No. Because those random people can’t read your data, while Google or Amazon (or any other centralized cloud provider) can.
How is this the case?
On a centralized cloud server, your data is encrypted using 256-bit encryption. Which is fine.
This means that your encrypted data can only be read if you have the decryption key.
Guess who owns that key?
Hint: it’s not you.
On the other hand, in decentralized storage, you’re the only one that has the decryption key. This means that not even those that are running the nodes can read your data.
They are only there to safely store your data.
And, even if they somehow managed to get ahold of your decryption key, it wouldn’t matter too much. Remember, it’s “decentralized”? They would only be able to access a fraction of the data and not the whole.
Decentralized cloud storage has its pros and cons, so let’s take a look at these.
- It’s faster One big problem with centralized storage is that it can create a bottleneck.
Think of it as having only one road that leads to a big city. If the traffic is too high for that road, it will eventually get jammed.
Now think of having multiple roads to that same city. If you see one road getting a bit slower, you can just switch to another one and get to your destination faster.
- Better security and privacy
We already explained a bit how your data is encrypted on centralized vs decentralized cloud storage. But let’s reiterate:
- You’re the only one who has the decryption key and can therefore access it and read it
- Your data is stored in multiple locations, in pieces, rather than in a single location
- Cheaper storage Of course, there are free cloud storage options that you can use, but it’s usually very limited.
For instance, Google Drive offers 15GB, iCloud 5GB (for Apple users only), One Drive 5GB, Amazon Drive 5GB (for Prime subs) and Dropbox only 2GB.
A few big files, like video games or movies and you’re all out of space on your drive.
So what then?
Then you have to start paying for storage. The problem here is that storage is limited. Which means higher cost.
Now, decentralized storage relies on nodes as we said. Individually, these nodes are small and so don’t have a lot of storage space. But, there are millions of available nodes to host your data (remember, each node holds only a piece of the data).
This leads to lower storage costs when compared to centralized cloud storage platforms.
- Reduced file and data loss Centralized storage is like putting all your eggs into one basket. What happens when that basket gets stolen or damaged?
You’ll lose all your eggs, of course.
Decentralized cloud storage is like putting a few eggs in one basket, then a few in another and so on. If you lose some of your data/eggs, no worries, there are copies of it in other nodes/baskets.
- Lack of legal accountability With centralized cloud storage, if your data is lost, the provider is held accountable.
But if your data is lost or stolen in a decentralized cloud storage? Which node in the network is accountable?
- Technology still isn’t “ quite there” Decentralized storage is still very much in the experimental stage. And this means that a lot of people and businesses will be reluctant to migrate from the relatively stable centralized cloud storage to it.
In fact, at the moment, 94% of businesses are using centralized cloud storage, according to Cisco Global Cloud Index (2016-2021).
- Is decentralized cloud storage superior to centralized? There’s still no definitive answer to this question and there probably won’t be for a few more years.
This means that decentralized storage is fighting an uphill battle on the market. Centralized storage providers are already well entrenched and won’t give up their positions that easily.
Even though decentralized cloud storage is still very much in its infancy and there are a lot of things to get right, the potential is clearly there, especially when it comes to security and privacy.
At Telios, we are firm believers in decentralization. Check this article on the benefits of decentralized Internet to understand why. The same, of course, goes for decentralized storage options.
Over time, we believe that more and more people and businesses will see that the benefits outweigh the problems and will turn to decentralized cloud storage.
What do you think?