Six benefits of using decentralized storage
Decentralized cloud storage (DCS) offers the following six advantages:
Information security is a critical consideration for individuals, enterprises, and developers of decentralized applications (dApps). Centralized storage systems hardly provide robust security guarantees. If anything, using traditional cloud storage exposes user information to safety risks.
Traditional cloud storage services mostly store information in a handful of data centers around the world. Those same data havens are, however, honeypots for malicious actors who can effectively pilfer stored information. It’s also easy to prevent users from accessing information by spamming servers via DoS attacks or hijacking admin access.
Decentralized storage benefits from the security guarantees of blockchain technology and offers safer storage alternatives. Copies of information are held by various nodes in the network, eliminating single points of failure. Moreover, stealing user data or restricting access is theoretically impossible due to the distributed architecture of DCS networks.
This has several implications for users:
Individuals can trust that their data is stored securely and safe from unauthorized control. Companies will spend less time worrying about the safety of customer information and preempt malicious attacks and costly data breaches. DApp developers can create robust, secure, and censorship-resistant applications and websites.
While modern cloud storage has brought certain benefits, efficiency isn’t one of them. These platforms still rely on a handful of data farms worldwide to deliver content to users across the world. The result is an inefficient storage model that makes information retrieval unappealing.
Users in remote areas may have to expend more bandwidth to download information since they lack proximity to data centers. Not only does this incur higher connection costs, but it also affects download speeds.
Due to the client-server architecture used in centralized storage, such systems are prone to service failures. This can happen if too many users try to access the same server or a malfunction affects physical hardware. Facebook’s crash in 2021, GitHub’s extended outage in 2020, and Microsoft’s multi-week downtime issues in 2020 are all proof of the inefficiencies of centralized data management.
What makes decentralized storage different is that it uses peer-to-peer networks for sharing files. Every node can store, request, or send information to other users. As a result, the loss of one node (i.e., a “mini-server”) cannot affect the system. This assures users that information will always be available without interruptions.
Thanks to the global distribution of storage nodes, decentralized storage platforms can reduce bandwidth usage for users. Instead of sending information requests to distant servers, DCS users can connect to nearby nodes to share files.
The result? Faster file retrieval speeds and less money spent on bandwidth costs.
3. Cheaper data storage
Another problem of traditional cloud storage relates to the high cost of usage. In many cases, storage services are offered via rigid price plans—leaving developers to pay for unused storage space. Further compounding the problem is an acute lack of alternatives and widespread vendor lock-in.
Decentralized storage fixes the problem by operating on a pay-as-you-go basis. Users have control over how much they pay storage nodes for storing files, potentially reducing the cost of storage for developers.
Moreover, DCS providers are rewarding people to rent out underutilized storage. The implication is that decentralized application (dApp) users can pay lower fees because storage providers don’t incur the overhead of running dedicated data centers.
When using a cloud storage solution, you’re trusting the company to keep your information intact and available. But, as a Web3 developer, you likely understand the dangers of putting trust in centralized intermediaries.
Files can mysteriously disappear from a server, websites can be censored, and applications shut down by rogue governments. Blockchain technology removes the need for trust, making decentralized storage for developers necessary.
Many DCS platforms have built-in mechanisms, such as smart contracts, for ensuring storage providers and users adhere to agreements. For instance, Filecoin uses proof-of-replication (PoRep) and proof-of-spacetime (PoSpacetime) protocols to verify that nodes are holding copies of stored files as agreed.
With decentralized storage for developers, you don’t have to trust anyone to keep your files, applications, or websites accessible. As long as the platform is running, your information is always ready to be served on request.
“Privacy” and “centralized cloud storage” are two words that rarely mix well. As explained before, centralized servers are frequently targets of coordinated hacks, leading to the loss and theft of sensitive information. But the problem is more than just servers and boils down to the lack of privacy-protecting features.
Most decentralized storage services use encryption to prevent information from unauthorized access. Furthermore, they all use a sharding mechanism to split files into multiple fragments, which are held by randomly assigned nodes.
This has several benefits for privacy. First, only the holder of the cryptographic keys—that is, you—can decrypt the files. Second, no peer has access to the complete file. You can, however, choose to fetch the various file shards and reconstruct the file.
Privacy is a huge consideration for Web3 users, and the least any decentralized application developer can do is assure users their information is kept away from prying eyes. As such, decentralized cloud storage is a core part of the Web3 development stack. Building a dApp on a centralized storage infrastructure defeats the purpose of decentralization in every sense.
6. Information integrity
A common problem you’ll likely confront while using a centralized storage provider is poor information integrity. According to Digital Guardian, data integrity refers to “ [the] accuracy and consistency (validity) of data over its lifecycle.” It adds that: “Compromised data, after all, is of little use to enterprises, not to mention the dangers presented by sensitive data loss.”
Centralized data management cannot guarantee data integrity for the simple fact that storage assumes a ‘location-centric’ approach. To find a file, you’ll need a URL or Universal Resource Locator that points to where it’s stored.
Take, for example, this link to a picture: https://mycutepet.com/dog.jpeg
We assume that this link points to where an image of a cute puppy is stored. But what if that isn’t the case?
There’s no way you’ll know if the file hasn’t moved, nor can you tell if the file has been altered or replaced, whether due to human error or malicious activity. This explains why users often run into broken links (Error 404) or get served a file wildly different from what they expected.
If you’re building in Web3, you want to make sure data, such as NFT metadata, retains integrity forever. Decentralized storage can make this possible because they adopt a ‘content-centric’ approach to information storage and retrieval.
A content-centric approach means that DCS platforms address resources by content, not location. Each file is run through a hashing algorithm, with the resulting hash (a long string of alphabets and numbers) serving as its unique ‘fingerprint’ or Content Identifier (CID).
Instead of using unreliable URLs, users can find information using CIDs. With a CID, you can request a specific file from peers in the network—and it encourages accuracy since you can cross-check the CID against the hash of the file you received.
More importantly, this approach can eliminate problems like missing NFTs for Web3 users. With well-designed incentive structures, DCS providers can ensure your files remain intact for as long as possible.