This is a project that has been in the back of my mind and on my to-do list for some time now. Both from an interest standpoint and a project idea. I'll go more into the technical setup in my next Raspberry Pi Project article. For now, however, lets take a look at the overall project goals and where it fits in the crypto-sphere.
What is the Project about?
In order to take a dive into the basics of the project the best place to start is the whitepaper, the goal of which is to set out the current landscape as well as to introduce the project and how it fits into this landscape. However, they also provide a really nice executive summary, that helps to introduce to project as a concept in a less technical manner.
Immediately from the introduction of both of these papers the team set the stage for their solution by discussing the shift in recent years to cloud storage. It will be no news to anyone that cloud storage is, for the most part, becoming the standard data storage solution. As we accumulate more and more data rather than increasing our own personal drive space a lot of people now rely on the cloud, which is effectively a big server somewhere with loads of storage space a portion of which is allocated to you. However, the Storj team believe that this heavy reliance on a centralized third-party for housing your data poses some potential risks to business continuity, performance and data security. They also go on to highlight that many storage devices at currently operating well under capacity.
The Storj project sas looked at all of the unused storage capacity globally then taken the concept of cloud storage and effectively decentralized it. So, rather than a singular point of contact for the server they operate a series of inter-connected storage solutions of varying sizes that together form a storage network. This, as the Storj teams see it, offers the following benefits over a traditional centralized storage solution:
- Reduced risk of data failures and outages
- Increase security and lower risk of data breaches
- Reduce overheads and therefore reduced cost to end users
In essence they have set themselves up as a cheaper (and possibly better) alternative than centralized solutions, while maintaining S3-compatible object storage (the standard used by amazon).
A little History
The project began back in 2014 with the V1 concept but it wasn't until 2017 that they released the V2 of the system. Since then V3 was released which introduced to meet scaling issues (over 100 PB peak storage capacity in V2, that was) with a future focus on:
- Visibility - data on the network itself
- Durability - how much data is lost over time
- Bandwidth - the network traffic used by the system
- Latency - How fast the connection between you and your data can occur
How does it work?
In essence the Storj storage solution is a peer-to-peer networks of individual storage nodes (termed 'farmers'). The general process flow is like this:
- User send an item for storage through the Storj gateway application
- The data are encrypted on the user side (you keep your own private keys here)
- The item is broken up the object into 80 pieces distributed to the farmers storage nodes in an 'uncorrelated' manner meaning the are stored over a wide range of farmers with varying owners, power supplies, hardware and ISPs
- The satellites monitors storage nodes for up time to maintain the object (effectively performing audit/repair of the files)
- When the user then go to download your object the network contacts the 80 nodes and the first 29 that respond are used to recreate the file
- The farmers maintain their storage provision and up time resulting in payment via STORJ tokens (payment systems being managed by the satellites)
One thing that cannot be overstated here is maintenance of security. There have been a lot of high profile data breaches that unfortunately have resulted from hacks of centralized storage solutions. However, given what we know about how the Storj network stores files this would be much more difficult. Consider the hacker scenario here though in order to get just 1 file a hacker would first need to break into at least 29 of the 80 nodes storing the file, providing they could trace which nodes had the part of the file they wanted. Then there would be a need to break the users private key encryption to just open the file. This makes it a mammoth task to get just one file which means for the next file they need to repeat the process, making it extremely difficult and time consuming. This ultimately make the network very secure.
Can anyone get involved?
Everyone who has extra storage capacity (min. 500 GB), a good internet connection, and a computer or server that is online 99% of the time will be able to contribute to the network. Effectively you can offer up your spare storage to be used by the network by running a node, which is comparable in some respects to mining cryptocurrency (without the need for GPUs). What I will say though is it isn't for the faint of heart, I will go through this as Raspberry Pi Project soon as I believe this to be one of the best ways of running the node in an energy efficient manner. That said on the surface it does look quite technical so definitely, take your time before jumping into this one.
What is in it for you?
As with mining the payment here comes in the form of the native cryptocurrency STORJ. This is an ERC20 token operating on the Ethereum network that is currently sitting in the top 200 of the coin market cap. Because the coin was designed with a solid use case in mind it has a relatively stable position, though it is dependent on the success of the Storj Project in disruption of the current storage solution market.
As a node operator you get paid for the following services:
- Storage capacity - $1.50 per TB per month
- Egress Bandwidth - $10 per TB per month, this is effectively how much data are downloads that is stored on your node
- Repair Bandwidth -$10 per TB per month, this is the amount of data downloaded by the system and used to repair files
If you are looking into this though you should also consider it as a longer term solution (another reason I like the Pi as it is plug, play and forget). The reason I say longer solution is that Storj want to maintain a stable system and as such have certain rules about holding back funds initially to incentives a longer term provision of storage.
Take a look at the calculator here to get a rough estimate of earnings from operating a node.
If I am honest I've looked at this solution for ages and not got around to it. That said the more I dig into it the more I like it and the more I see it as effective use of decentralization. There is currently a reasonably technical hurdle for users to get over so they can support the network, but the plus side is all you need is spare storage capacity and a solid internet connection. As a result I likely that almost anyone can get involved without needing to fork out a load of cash monies on mining equipment. Plus the Raspberry Pi offers a nice energy efficient way of getting involved at relatively low cost.
Hope you enjoyed the summary, good luck y'all!
Donations Welcome (STORJ): 0x46B756702b865AF30Cc0edba27e6d550e775A904