Blockchain Cloud Storage

Our lives for the past two decades have gradually become more and more digital. With this increasing reliance on data, there is an increasing reliance on places within which we can store that data. Providers of cloud data storage enable users to store their company’s data, their music and e-books, as well as data from their online scheduling tool and calendars. In this case, the users are able to synchronise their online calendars across their devices via a cloud storage platform. The platform can manage its users’ client bookings and customer timetable, and can even update it in real-time and synchronise those changes across all devices.

Although the embryonic beginnings of cloud storage can be traced back to the 1960s, cloud storage as we know it now is used in part as a substitute for our PC’s hard drive. What does this cloud form of storage bring in comparison to its cold storage counterpart? It allows users to utilise programs in order to synchronise their devices, share records, and more easily access the contents of their smartphones.

Although traditional cloud storage providers take precautions to ensure that their users’ data is protected and unavailable to view by other members of the cloud network, they still reserve the right to access your files: 

‘Like most major online services, Dropbox personnel will, on rare occasions, need to access users’ file content (1) when legally required to do so; (2) when necessary to ensure that our systems and features are working as designed (e.g., debugging performance issues, making sure that our search functionality is returning relevant results, developing image search functionality, refining content suggestions, etc.); or (3) to enforce our Terms of Service and Acceptable Use Policy. Access to users’ file content is limited to a small number of people. We have strict policy and technical access controls that prohibit access to file content except in these rare circumstances.’

The realm of blockchain technology promises to make changes within the cloud storage domain as well. New blockchain-based, decentralised cloud storage platforms aim to provide their users with fully decentralised cloud storage which is more affordable and more robust than their traditional cloud storage competition. For example, they encrypt and distribute their users’ files across a decentralised network, preventing access to those files by third parties. One new decentralised platform charges $1-2 per 1TB of storage, compared to a traditional provider which charges $23 for the same amount of data. 

Another player in the blockchain cloud storage game charges $4 per TB for their standard plan. Moreover, they offer a free plan which they aim at developers looking for storage for smaller projects. Their free plan allows a storage limit of 150GB per month for a maximum of 3 projects (50GB allowance for each project). Users’ files are encrypted and stored on geographically diverse nodes, making data breaches virtually impossible. From these nodes, each stored file is then split into 80 pieces. So, why split up the files? The company explains: ‘Splitting files yields unparalleled performance and durability. Our decentralized architecture offers improved out-of-the-box security and privacy for our customers and enables more reliable performance than traditional cloud storage providers.’

These file object pieces are then globally distributed across the thousands of nodes which operate alongside the blockchain. There are over ten thousand nodes across 84 countries worldwide. Furthermore, you only require 29 pieces of your 80 piece file in order to retrieve it. That means that if one of the nodes storing your file pieces goes offline for whatever reason, your data is still retrievable. The platform also boasts an ‘automatic repair process’ which is activated if too many pieces of your file are lost. And unlike traditional cloud storage, this platform has multi zone functionality built into its system, meaning that you won’t pay extra for increased availability. 

This means entirely tamperproof cloud storage for your files:

‘We like to think of it as a completely new standard for data security. You don’t have to trust us, that’s just how it works. It’s what we call trustless—we’ve taken trust out of the equation entirely. We couldn’t read your data even if we wanted to. If someone else wants to access your data, they would need to first constitute your file from the network—already a tricky and complex task without strict authorization from our system—then they would need to break AES-256-GCM encryption, which protects the world’s most sensitive data and classified information. It’s not going to happen.’

AES-256-GCM looks terrifying to any lay reader. If we break it down briefly into simpler terms, we are better able to understand why we are told it is unbreakable by current computing power. The 256 in the code refers to its key length of 256 bits, which means it supports the largest bit size (256). If we operate with encryption of a key length of 1 bit, in contrast, there are 2 possible combinations with which to break the encryption. If the encryption is 2 bits, 4 combinations; 4 bits, 16 combinations. This exponentially increases with every key length until we reach 256 bits which corresponds to 1.1×10^77 possible combinations. 

So even with the most advanced current computing power available to us, the number of possible combinations required in order to access files stored on these encrypted cloud storage blockchains is unthinkable. Legacy storage companies are certainly facing competition from the new chains on the block.