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Decentralized Cloud Storage Services

Cloud storage is a popular service and a growing industry. As people's use of computers continues to shift away from desktop and laptop machines towards smaller tablet computers, being able to store all of your pictures, music files and documents 'in the cloud' rather than on your own machine is likely to become ever more attractive to a growing number of people. Apart from anything else, when you buy a tablet one of the main factors which determines the price you will pay is the amount of storage space you want your machine to have – cloud storage allows people to pay less for their hardware and still enjoy the same level of functionality. Of course storing all of your files in the cloud also means that you can access them from any machine, and that you don't need to worry about time consuming and annoying transfers of data when you buy a new gadget.

But the current cloud storage options used by most consumers, such as Apple's iCloud or the popular Dropbox service, suffer from a number of problems and limitations. Although many of these services do offer free starter services if you only want to use them to store a small amount of data, the first problem is still expense: as soon as you go over the limits of your free plan and have to start paying for these services, they are actually quite expensive for what they offer. The second problem, which for some privacy conscious consumers is a much bigger issue, is the fact that you are effectively handing over control of your data when you use these services. Most people never read the terms and conditions, but if you do you will most likely find that you are giving the company who is providing this service the full rights to your media and files, allowing them to spy on you, and to seize or delete your files at will.

Both of these problems can be solved by the use of decentralized cloud storage. Like most other decentralized software products, a decentralized cloud storage service will encrypt your information and store it on a distributed network of computers run by your peers. You therefore retain full control over your data and remain the only person or entity able to view or modify your files. In addition to privacy, there are also huge potential costs benefits. Many people have spare space on their hard drives which they don't need, and would be willing to 'rent it out' to other people using one of these decentralized solutions for a lot less than the big companies charge.

As a result of this a range of start up companies are now racing each other to provide consumers with the best solution for decentralized cloud storage. In this article I will provide a list of these potential solutions with some publicly available information on each one. The products listed here are at various different stages of their development, so may not include a finished consumer-ready product, but I've still included them for your information. If you are a Devtome writer please do feel free to add any I've missed out!

MaidSafe and Safe Coin

I've actually written about Safe Coin and MaidSafe's Safe Network before, as it is one of my favourite upcoming projects at the moment – feel free to click through to that more in depth article before you continue reading, but make sure you come back as there are plenty of other exciting things to read about here!

The SAFE Network is actually about more than just cloud storage, although that is one of its main uses. According to MaidSafe, the company behind the SAFE network, its about creating a whole new decentralized internet. The idea is that 'farmers' will provide disk space, internet bandwidth, and also processing power to the network in return for Safe Coins. End users will then buy Safe Coins and use them to pay for a range of services which may include cloud storage, but will also include private secure messaging, website or app hosting, distributing computing projects and more.

The whole network is encrypted as well as being decentralized, meaning that it is private, secure and resistant to any kind of censorship.

In a way the service offered by the SAFE Network is something like what privacy services such as TOR offer, but it is hoped that the performance will be much better as the people providing resources to the network will be able to earn compensation in the form of Safe Coins.

At the time of writing this article a series of SAFE Network test-nets are being run and battle tested prior to the launch of the live network in the next few months.

Storj

Storj is a new start up company which launched an IPO to raise funds through the CounterParty protocol. It is focussed much more specifically on cloud storage than the SAFE network, at least to begin with. It already has beta versions of its 'drive miners' through which users will be able to contribute disk space to the network in return for Storj Coins, as well as its 'Meta Disk' app through which other users will be able to purchase cloud storage services.

While MaidSafe is concentrating on providing a back-end protocol through which other developers can produce app, Storj is concentrating its resources on producing front-end apps which the end user will actually download and make use of. This makes the two projects perfect canditates for co-operation, and indeed the Storj development team have stated publicly that they are working closely with Maidsafe and hope in the future to develop a close-knit integration between the two projects.

That doesn't mean, however, that Storj does not have big plans. They have also expressed an aspiration to produce decentralized versions of popular websites like YouTube and Imgur in the future, and have said that all holders of Storj coins will receive a share of any new coins created if they launch additional block chains for these projects in the future.

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DataCoin

While the grand and ambitious projects listed above are still some way away from producing a finished consumer product, there are projects out there which have already launched complete solutions for storing data using a decentralized block chain.

One of the most notable examples of this is DataCoin, which provides a way for users to store so-called 'small data' – enough for torrent trackers or encrypted messaging software – in an ecrypted form on a public block chain.

DataCoin will probably never be able to handle large file sizes that would be necessary for, say storing a movie file in the cloud, its developers hope that it will eventually be able to handle file sizes big enough for something like a html web page.

Categories: Software | Open Source | E-Currency | Cryptocurrency


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