When you think of the blockchain, Bitcoin comes to mind first. Over the past few years, the decentralized ledger system that underpins Bitcoin has been copied and modified to solve issues other than currency.
Industry specific blockchains have sprung up and are starting to gain popularity. One such space that blockchain tech is threatening to disrupt is the cloud storage game.
The traditional taxi model was turned on its head with the advent of Uber & Lyft. Peer-to-peer (P2P) ride sharing services are now widely accepted and well loved. Airbnb implemented the P2P model for room rentals, dealing a significant blow to hotels. As blockchain tech evolves, the cloud storage space is set to become the next victim of P2P efficiency.
The choices today for cloud storage are seemingly endless. Dropbox, SpiderOak, Google Drive, iCloud, OneDrive, and Amazon all offer personal cloud solutions at a cost of around $100 per year for 1TB. Each year humans desire to store more data. Those precious pictures of the kids, smartphone videos that must be saved and shared, and important documents you don’t want to lose in case of a computer failure all must be backed up to the cloud so we can sleep well at night.
Blockchain technology threatens to upend the storage model and take its rightful share of business. The idea is simple – individuals with extra hard drive space rent out their personal storage resources to those wanting to store data. This P2P model using blockchain tech will be cheaper for users wishing to upload and save files, and offer those with extra storage resources the ability to make money by renting their unused drive space. With government spying becoming a concern, storing files in an encrypted, decentralized system with no trackable payment information is quickly becoming a desirable feature.
Sia, StorJ, and Filecoin are three big players that have emerged to vie for the distributed file storage market. All three have identified that tons of storage space sits unused on hard drives around the world. Each hopes to connect buyers and sellers of storage, although none of them are ready for mainstream use today.
Sia is the first of the big three to have a graphical user interface (GUI), although it is still lacking features and functionality. Dropbox is the current king of cloud UI – simply drag and drop your files, then sit back and watch the system do the rest. Sia offers the closest experience to that, but it’s still tough to get your files into the decentralized cloud. First you must download and sync the walleting software. Then you must acquire the currency, Siacoin (SC), and set a reserve amount that will locked up for 3 months to pay your storage costs. If you don’t have your Sia wallet open and unlocked, your balance could deplete and your files could be lost. To host files and make money, the process is painful. Here are the instructions to sell your unused storage space on the Sia network. Hopefully this process will keep getting easier, but for now it’s not ready for the masses. At the present time, there isn’t much money to be made from renting your storage space, given the demand has yet to take hold.
Storj has yet to offer a Dropbox-like GUI for storing your files, and the pricing model is a bit tough to understand. The Storj token was released on the Ethereum network earlier this year, but their pricing page lists services in USD. It’s unclear how the Storj token will be used to buy and sell storage space, but one could assume the token will be central to the system in the future.
To illustrate how difficult it is to store your files on the Storj network today, see the Storj quick start guide. There is better news on the hosting side, as a GUI was recently released to quickly share your drive to the network. As with Sia, Storj will need time to build out their platform before the network becomes something that is usable by the layman wishing to save pictures and videos.
Filecoin is even further behind Sia and Storj. It doesn’t have a platform yet, but raised over $250M in an ICO earlier this year. While it’s possible big things will come from Filecoin, considering it’s large war chest, we will have to wait and see.
These three projects have all identified the same problem and taken a similar approach on how to solve it. Disrupting a market worth tens of billions per year won’t be easy. While Dropbox and the traditional cloud storage providers aren’t shaking in their boots quite yet, over time we could see an evolving landscape as the distributed storage providers build out their platforms.