What is Web3 decentralized cloud storage?

What is Web3 decentralized cloud storage and what are its advantages over regular cloude storage or keeping files on your computer hard drive?

Storing files on the blockchain or peer-to-peer networks is possible. But why would you want to? Here is the lowdown decentralized Web3 web storage

Storage is simple. Either save files on a local hard-drive, or if, dealing with larger files, use one of the many cloud options. AWS, Microsoft Azure and IBM Cloud offer near limitless storage for a reasonable fee.

Problem solved. Yet a deluge of Web3 solutions has hit us. These decentralised systems store data across nodes.

There’s IFPS, Filecoin, MaidSafe, Tardigrade, Utopia, and more.

But why does the world need Web3 storage?

The logic of Web3 cloud storage

“We use IPFS for our storage,” says Daniele Servadei, CEO of Sellix, a crypto payments company.

“Decentralised storage protects against data breaches, as data is distributed across numerous nodes. Users maintain control over their data, preventing unauthorized access or surveillance by third parties.”

Web3 storage is, as the name suggests, decentralised, meaning the data is held across multiple repositories. If a government agency, or hacker, wanted to obtain confidential data, there’s no single location to raid. Unless granted the user’s keys, there’s no way to unlock data held on Web3 storage. Security and privacy are guaranteed.

‘For a company looking for resilient, low cost, and predictable storage … Web3 storage is now undeniably a viable – if still unusual – proposition’

Web3 cloud storage scales well. Local storage can run out, but with Web3 there is always room for more (even if you may have to pay to access the extra space). “It can also scale horizontally, accommodating the increasing demand for data storage without centralised bottlenecks,” says Servadei. Access speeds are acceptable. “It’s going to be slower than you’d have a normal hard-drive or CD. But it stores data the same way Amazon S3 stores data.”

Decentralised storage also a more permanent way to store files. Hosting sites don’t last forever. Anyone wanting to access historic websites on Geocities or 4sites or Xanga will know the annoyance of web hosts going bust. Link rot is a curse of the internet.

Web3 ensures there’s no central point of failure, so files can be accessible so long as the underlying blockchain or network functions. Neither a government regulator nor a single host can “switch off” the storage. This makes it particularly well suited for file types that users want to retain long-term, and may want to transact in the future, such as non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

Furthermore, Web3 matches the ethos of NFTs: decentralised and hosted on the blockchain. Buyers therefore know that their acquisition is hosted in a secure way, and their treasured asset won’t simply disappear when a web host goes into receivership.

There’s also an environmental angle, says Servadei: “Users can also utilise existing resources, reducing the need for large, energy-intensive data centres.”

Even the cost can be cheaper. “There is cost efficiency. Because people are sharing the cost.”

The Web3 ecosystem

Users of Web3 storage are spoiled for choice. The range of web storage is large and expanding.

The most popular is the Interplanetary File System, or IPFS. An open-source project maintained by Protocol Labs, IPFS is a peer-to-peer network, with files stored by users all over the world. Files are split into chunks, and assigned a hash so users can locate the data. This helps secure the data – it is more than merely storing whole files in a remote location, so is superior to cloud storage.

Filecoin is a service built to work alongside IPFS. It uses its own cryptocurrency and digital payment system to charge and reward users who participate in the Filecoin network. Users can rent unused hard-drive space. Fees are monthly, rather than one time only, hence the nickname “the Airbnb of storage”.

There are niche offerings, such as Utopia. This is a peer-to-peer network designed to maximise online freedom and anonymity. Files are in containers encrypted with 256-bit AES, and the network is funded via the Crypton cryptocurrency.

Storj and Tardigrade are two related projects, both offering secure Web3 cloud storage. Storj is open-source file-sharing across a blockchain. The main aims are speed, cost, and privacy. Tardigrade is the enterprise version, targeted as a rival to Amazon S3 (Amazon Simple Storage Service). In theory enterprises can use Tardigrade as a backend storage layer.

MaidSafe and the Safe Network is a blockchain-free Web3 project. Files are broken into at least three segments and copied multiple times to ensure redundancy. Maidsafe is the company behind the Safe Network. The project is funded by the Safecoin cryptocurrency. The main objective is payments and secure communication, with encrypted text, voice, and email, but storage is a useful aspect of the Utopia platform.

The latest big project

One of the most exciting Web3 projects to emerge is TON Storage, launched in January 2023 by the TON Foundation. A classic Web3 concept, TON is a decentralised storage and file sharing network, which uses the TON blockchain. The main selling point is the use of financial incentives – node operators and users create a smart contract, so the user pays a fixed amount in Toncoin for a predetermined period of time to store files.

Anatoliy Makosov, founding member of the TON Foundation, says: “The technology is universal. TON Storage can store both public and private data. The more nodes you choose to store, the greater the guarantee that the file will not be lost under any circumstances.”

Pricing is variable on TON. “The price is market based. The nodes that store data offer their services, such as disk size, geographical location, etc, and set the price in Toncoin. Users and consumers choose what they need.”

Best of all, is the user interface.

Makosov explains: “The nonstorage.ton project creates a TON Storage interface similar to Dropbox or Google Drive. Similarly, the creation of a torrent-like application to free share files in TON Storage is another project aimed at ordinary users.

“In time we expect to get great Dropbox-like and Torrent-like products for ordinary users, as well as infrastructure APIs like Amazon S3 for business customers. Decentralised analogues of cloud storages and user applications for file storage and sharing will be created based on TON Storage technology.”

Ease of use is vital. When Web3 offers applications as easy to use as standard desktop applications there is a genuine chance for this tech to win mainstream appeal.

Genuine rival to local and cloud storage

Overall verdict? Web3 is awash with hype, but for storage there are good omens for commercial success. There are many reasons to go with Web3 storage, including privacy, resilience, permanence, cost, and even ease of use. The interfaces for some of the leading platforms really are easier than running an AWS or Azure contract.

The downsides? It’s hard to find experienced IT support – the tech is just so new. And dabbling with cryptocurrencies to fund the storage may not be to everyone’s taste. Furthermore, this is an immature sector. Opt for a solution and it may be obsolete in six months’ time. The winners of the Web3 storage wars are not clear (although IPFS is looking extremely strong right now).

But the fundamentals are formidable. For a company looking for resilient, low cost, and predictable storage, especially for projects which rely on decentralised tech such as NFTs or payments, Web3 cloud storage is now undeniably a viable – if still unusual – proposition.

More on Web3

The promise of Web3: can DeFi dethrone TradFi?Decentralised Finance or Web 3 DeFi makes it possible to pay, trade, borrow and lend outside traditional institutions. Here’s how DeFi is progressing in its mission to overthrow the old order

Is Web3 tech in search of a business model? – For a business to benefit from Web3 means having to change your entire business model, argues digital transformation guru David Galea

Four UK Web3 start-ups making waves – In this article, we explore the Web3 infrastructure innovations of four UK start-ups that are making waves in the space

Five key job roles we’ll be seeing more of in Web3 – In this article, we identify five key job roles that we’re set to see more frequently going forward in the Web3 space

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Charles Orton-Jones

Charles Orton-Jones is a business and tech journalist. He's a former winner of the PPA Business Journalist of the Year Award, and currently edits BusinessAge.com and Forward magazine, a journal devoted...

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