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    Decentralized Storage: The Importance of Distributing Data

    As social platforms took reign in the last decade, data safety has become a major concern, especially for businesses. With our current version of the internet, storing data means that you’re entrusting a third party with your valuable information. Fortunately, decentralized storage networks have emerged as a solution for addressing data privacy issues in centralized systems. But, what exactly is decentralized storage? And why is it so important?

    The Issue with Centralized Storage

    Decentralized storage systems have appeared as a solution, however, a solution for what exactly? Let’s take a look at how businesses and individuals store their data in the current iteration of the internet. 

    As the days of storing data on hardware infrastructure have passed us by, cloud storage was developed as a solution that brings scalability, security, and efficiency. These cloud storage platforms have allowed individuals to store their data off-site location through the internet. Dropbox, Sync, and Google Drive are widely used as secure and efficient storage. However, these cloud-based systems have major flaws. They are centralized. 

    When using these cloud storage, individuals and enterprises are storing their sensitive data on centralized servers. These servers are controlled by one entity that has the right to disclose data to a third party without consent. These cloud-based entities or companies have the freedom to even sell sensitive data to third parties. 

    Centralized Storage

    Not to mention, the centralization of these storage systems creates a single point of failure. Meaning, any attack or network failure can result in the loss of data. In addition, if the server gets down, users can’t access their data. 

    So, we can deduce that centralized storage has many disadvantages:

    • Censorship: Data held in certain centralized storage can be subject to censorship. 
    • Control of Data: Third parties control users’ data, which can lead to non-consensual disclosure of sensitive information. 
    • Lack of Security: A single point of failure can place users’ data at a high risk of being lost, hacked, or corrupted. 

    What Is a Decentralized Storage?

    A solution to these pressing problems would have to be decentralizing storage systems. Decentralized storage systems rely on a peer-to-peer blockchain-based network instead of a single centralized entity. Decentralization means the distribution of control to several entities instead of concentrating it on a single point.

    In decentralized storage, data is stored across a network of nodes, known as peers. In a peer-to-peer network, each computer doubles as both the client and the server, which eliminates the need for central servers. 

    Decentralized storage gives back users control over their data rather than entrusting third-party storage systems. In addition, decentralized storage doesn’t have a single point of failure, instead, the data propagates to thousands of nodes in a way that if one peer fails, other peers keep going. 

    Decentralized storage security

    In centralized storage when the server shuts down, users can’t access their data, however, in decentralized storage, if one node shuts down, others continue to operate. 

    How Does It Work?

    Okay, so how does decentralized storage work? When users send their data off to be stored in centralized storage, the file gets directly uploaded to the storage server. However, it is more intricate than that when it comes to decentralized storage.

    Decentralized storage leverages the security of encryption, as they are based on public-key cryptography. This means that users’ files are encrypted using a private key. 

    Let’s break this up into steps:

    • Upload: A user sends their files to the decentralized storage platform.
    • Encryption: After creating an account, the platform generates a private key and encrypts the file.
    • Fragmentation: The file gets broken into smaller parts.
    • Distribution: These parts are then distributed to thousands of nodes around the world operating the network. 

    Files fragmentation decentralized

    The user can reassemble the file using their private keys. Only the user can decrypt the file upon retrieval, which means that nodes operating the network won’t have access to the files they are storing. In addition, if in any way a node successfully decodes a file, it will only have a fragment of the file and not the entire file. 

    The Benefits of Decentralized Storage

    It’s clear now that decentralized storage offers many advantages over regular cloud-based storage systems. Let’s see look at the various benefits decentralized storage offers. 

    Improved Security

    Considering there are no points of failure in decentralized storage systems, it makes them less vulnerable to cyberattacks. The distribution of data across multiple nodes in fragments creates an extra layer of security that safe keeps users’ data. Even, if one node shuts down, the network keeps multiple copies of each fragment of the file in storage. That way, users wouldn’t end up with a broken file. 

    Data Control 

    Nodes don’t have access to users’ data, and thus, they cannot sell or disclose sensitive information to other parties. Users have complete control over the data they’re storing in decentralized systems. This also means that decentralized storage provides data integrity. 

    Faster Speeds

    If you’ve ever used a peer-to-peer network before, such as Torrent, you’d know that it is much faster than centralized servers. Centralized storage can become too slow when the traffic is heavy. 

    Inexpensive

    Centralized storage platforms require regular maintenance, advanced cooling systems, and employees to operate them, which can make these platforms expensive. However, decentralized storage doesn’t require extensive upkeep, and therefore, it is much cheaper than centralized servers. 

    Does It Have Limitations?

    It does. Although decentralized storage has many benefits, it has its drawbacks. These limitations are often contradictory to the advantages. For example, since the data gets propagated to thousands of nodes, access to the data stored maybe sometimes slow. 

    The lack of trust in decentralized storage systems is a double-edged sword. Although it gives power back to the users, the peer-to-peer network makes it hard for users to trust it as it lacks accountability for lost data. In addition, the performance issue of these new decentralized storage systems puts a strain on their mass adoption. 

    Centralized vs. Decentralized Storage

    Let’s look below at the key differences between centralized and decentralized storage systems. 

    Decentralized vs. centralized storage

    Decentralized Storage Providers

    Many enterprises have emerged that are working on developing blockchain-based decentralized storage. Here are some of these well-known platforms:

    • IPFS: InterPlanetary File System or simply IPFS is the most popular decentralized storage system. It is a peer-to-peer network that allows users to store and share files across a distributed network of nodes. 
    • Storj: Also a peer-to-peer network, Storj allows users to rent out their spare storage space and earn cryptocurrency in return. It also ensures privacy by using encryption and provides a built-in redundancy system to protect against the loss of files. 
    • Sia: Sia is very similar to IPFS and Storj, it allows users to rent out their storage space and earn money. As well as it ensures security by fragmenting the files into pieces. 

    Is Decentralization the Best Option?

    For now, decentralized storage systems seem like the solution to all security issues that centralized platforms face. However, due to their scalability issues and their complexity, they are still far from mass adoption. Cloud storage systems take the reigns in the meantime. However, there are endless possibilities in the future to make decentralized storage appealing to the public eye. Especially since centralized storage systems are costly, prone to censorship, and have single points of failure.

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