Genuine and Decentralized Cloud Storage: Storj

Wednesday 09 April 2014

Lately with the failures of many notable bitcoin exchanges, there has been an increased interest in decentralizing services we deem important. Most of the focus has been on creating peer-to-peer decentralized exchanges, but can this idea of decentralization be carried over into other areas? Most likely we use Dropbox and/or Google Drive for our cloud storage needs, which at the moment suit our purposes well. But with a growing desire for privacy, security, and decentralization, BitScan took a look at the latest project, which aims to provide just that for cloud storage: Storj. 

Storj cloud storage

What is Storj?
Storj is a project that aims to bring trustless decentralization to cloud storage which, according to the whitepaper, will be done in two parts. The first part involves software by the name of BitCumulus, which is “a file hosting web application that provides an interface to non­technical users and a development platform for the storage network”. The second part will require a new cryptocurrency named Storjcoin, which will serve “as both an incentive payment mechanism and a datastore for file information and location”. Given this and the fact that each Storjcoin client will act as a node in the network (similar to any other cryptocurrency), it is clear on what this trustless network will be built on.

Can we redefine “the cloud”?
Storj also seeks to change the meaning of cloud storage, as currently it really is only a marketing phrase. The “cloud” is a term that represents something new and sophisticated, but traditional cloud storage services are simply using technology that has already existed for years prior; connecting to a host server and uploading/downloading data freely isn’t exactly new. Plus, with a host server, there is the ever present central point of failure and easy political target. These factors don’t exactly chime well with an amorphous entity like a “cloud”.

Also, theoretically cloud services like Google Drive and Dropbox

can see anything that you transfer onto their servers.

If governments coerce these organizations enough,

they too will gain access to your privately stored items.

If you don’t want the above to occur, then you may want to look forward to this kind of decentralized solution.

What is BitCumulus and how will file storage work?
As stated earlier, BitCumulus is a user interface designed to allow users to easily upload and download their files to and from the Storj network. If you’re a new user, then it will generate a public/private key combination for you automatically like you would expect a wallet client to. In order to replicate the 3x redundancy that is considered industry standard in cloud storage, BitCumulus will transfer your then-encryptyed file to 3 separate locations on the network. Each time an upload takes place, a record of the upload and where they are stored will be created and confirmed on the blockchain. Due to the public/private key structure, third parties will not be able to access your files without the appropriate private key associated.

BitScan cloud storage

What is Storjcoin?
Currently the whitepaper details that Storjcoin will have various uses as well as a solid backing, that being the actual cloud storage functionality and all files stored on the network. It will be scarce and most likely follow the SHA-256 hashing algorithm. Immediately it is intended to have the use of being able to pay providers for bandwith and storage across the network, but there would be testing required to find a way for this design to be sustainable. Storjcoin also is planned to use a different way of validating activity stored on the blockchain.

Bitcoin uses Proof of Work, PeerCoin uses Proof of Stake,

but Storjcoin will use what is called Proof of Resource.

Proof of Resource is based around the knowledge of two laws: Neilson’s Law and Kryder’s law. The former predicts that bandwidth capabilities will double every 21 months, while the latter predicts that storage capabilities will double every 12 months. Given these laws, it is clear that bandwidth required to handle higher volumes of activity will be the scarcer resource. Essentially it relies on the amount of providers that join the network. The more providers join, the more a Storjcoin increment will be worth. However, this also means that in order for providers of bandwidth/storage to obtain more Storjcoin they will need to provide more bandwidth/storage resources. This aspect is meant to parallel how mining bitcoin provides an incentive for people to contribute more hashing power, thus making the network more secure. By creating an incentive for people to provide bandwidth/storage resources, the network will become more robust and useful for a larger volume of activity.

Where does Storj stand now?
Currently the project has yet to become fully functional, but will be open for alpha testing soon. Given the blockchain foundation and the incentives put in place, there is potential for this network to be self-sustaining. Similar to how Electrum relies on various server providers to sync to the bitcoin blockchain, the Storj network will rely on bandwidth and storage various non-affiliated providers to contribute to the network’s functionality. No doubt this will be difficult and time consuming to fully implement, but once more people value decentralization, anonymity, and more robust security, Storj just may be able to serve those people.

Daniel Mestre

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