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How To Build A Decentralized Cloud Storage Solution Like Storj.io

Building a Decentralized Cloud Storage Solution
Aran Davies
Blockchain Expert | Developer | Writer | Photographer

Interested in building a decentralized cloud storage solution? 

This is one of the areas of IoT infrastructure that has the most promising growth potential.

Currently, cloud computing is a completely centralized environment where the service provider has complete control over the data stored in their cloud.

In this guide, I will look at how to develop a decentralized cloud storage solution as well as analyze some of the existing decentralized cloud storage providers who are set to become big players in this marketplace so that you get an idea of what type of market-competitive decentralized cloud storage solution you are going to build.

All these providers use blockchain technology to implement even more secure cloud storage data centers.

How to create a decentralized cloud storage solution using the Storj platform:

An illustration of interconnected buildings

Let’s examine how companies can use the Storj platform to create a decentralized cloud storage network. After which I will analyze the Storj decentralized storage network as an example of a leading decentralized blockchain file storage platform.

Developers trying to build a decentralized network for cloud storage can adopt an easier process by using the Storj toolkit to save massive amounts of time.

There are three main tools, as follows:

StorjShare: This is the reference farming client of Storj. Developers can use this in their proposed blockchain file storage system so that the farmers are able to set up their machines for the network.

The non-technical farmers can use a ’graphical user interface‘ (GUI) to set various parameters such as the amount of storage space they can share, the location of the storage, crypto payment address, etc.

Each farmer can allow the system to collect their telemetry data so that the system can identify available farming nodes for a new file storage request using this data.

The StorjShare tool also handles contract negotiations, audit responses, and other network messaging. For more technical farmers, there is a ’command line interface’ (CLI) available, and the GUI is just a wrapper around the CLI.

Bridge: This is the tool that developers can use in their proposed decentralized cloud storage system to facilitate the access by renters.

In the production system, this tool will allow the renters to negotiate contracts. This also addresses auditing, payments, availability, and other aspects of renters’ interaction with the network.

The developers use this to let the renters store data in their blockchain storage. It presents the above-mentioned services and storage resources via ’application programming interfaces (APIs).

There is also a client component of the Bridge. It encrypts the files at their points of entry, takes care of the sharding, and sends the shards to multiple farmers.

The centralized component of the Bridge handles the entire gamut of the P2P network communications.

It‘s important to note that the bridge doesn‘t store files, it only deals with the cryptographic algorithms for hash references of the files and their shards.

The instructions to configure the Bridge are available on GitHub.

The Storj API: Developers will finally need to provide the core service of decentralized file storage in their system, and for this, they can use the Storj API.

When the renters upload their files to the new system, they will interact with the system using the bridge, which will involve the API.

The API will find the farmers who have earlier set up their farming nodes using the StorjShare, negotiate contracts, and manage audits and payments.

In short, the services that the renters access using the Bridge and the ones the farmers access using the StorjShare are all provided by the Storj API and operate in the background.

The API documentation can be accessed here.

There is also good documentation on the overall took kit in the Medium channel of the Storj project.

How to build a blockchain-based distributed storage solution from scratch:

Creating a decentralized storage system from the ground up is a very complex and time-consuming project. Developers need a high level of programming skills if they aren’t using any existing platform like Storj and its’ APIs.

If your team doesn’t have this expertise then you should seek outside help.

The development team needs the following broad skillset:

  • UI/UX – for designing and developing the UI for the renters and farmers;
  • Networking – to build the P2P network;
  • Encryption – to enable the system to encrypt the data;
  • Database management – to implement sharding of files and patching the files back from the shards;
  • Blockchain distributed apps (DApps) and smart contracts – to build the decentralized framework that will oversee the decentralized storage solution including enforcing contracts.

The developers need to accomplish the following while hand-coding:

  1. Develop the UIs for the renters and farmers including CLI.
  2. Build the P2P network, so that the renters can upload their files while the farmers can download and store them on their computers.
  3. Develop the module to encrypt the file before the renter uploads it to the network, with only the renter being able to decrypt the file after getting it back using the private key.
  4. Implement the redundancy in the system: A P2P network may have unreliable farmers, and sufficient redundancy is needed to ensure that the file is stored in multiple locations.
  5. There are two distinct concepts that can be used for ensuring redundancy in a P2P network, and these are called ’simple replication‘ and ’erasure coding‘.
  6. In this guide, I recommend the simple replication method where multiple copies will be replicated in different farming nodes. The reason is that the erasure coding method is highly complex and adds additional overheads to the file upload and download stages.
  7. Implement the sharding of the renters’ file: Developers need to evaluate various sharding options, e.g. sharding by keeping the size of a shard constant, and sharding by keeping the number of shards constant.
  8. They need to balance the trade-offs. The development team will also need to build a module to keep track of the shards.
  9. Implement an audit process to prove that the file is retrievable from the shards.
  10. Build the blockchain DApp that will run the smart contracts so that the renters can enter into a contract with the farmers, the quality of the farmers’ service can be audited, and the payment can be made (in cryptocurrencies) upon fulfillment of contractual terms and conditions.

This will be a complex project, and we recommend the following learning resources for the developers:

  1. tutorial on how to build a P2P network;
  2. This Hackernoon article on using encryption in an app;
  3. This guide to implementing simple replication in a P2P network;
  4. This guide to understanding and implementing sharding;
  5. The Ethereum development tutorial;
  6. This Blockgeeks online course for Solidity, i.e. the proprietary language of Ethereum for coding smart contracts;
  7. The website ’dappsforbeginners‘ for the developers to get guidance on how to create DApps.

Examples of decentralized cloud storage networks:

The decentralized cloud storage platform market is most certainly a lucrative one. The potential to disrupt the existing cloud storage behemoths is real and enormous. Blockchain start-ups are already racing to gain market share.

Here are a few examples of such start-ups:

Storj: In addition to providing the platform I described above, Storj has built impressive decentralized cloud storage capacity, making it the market leader.

It follows the technical and operational model I described above and provides an elegant user experience. Signing up is easy for the renters as well as farmers.

Renters can pay in USD while farmers are paid in the STORJ token. This token is built using the ERC-20 standard because the Storj network is itself a DApp on the Ethereum blockchain. There is no crypto mining for the STORJ tokens.

Although Storj controls the access to the network, it’s far more decentralized than the current centralized service providers, because Storj can’t access the data renters upload.

Sia Network: Sia is a competitor to Storj, and ranks second in this market. It works like Storj, i.e. uses encryption, sharding, redundancy, and audit. However, it has its own blockchain network, which supports smart contracts.

Sia doesn‘t accept fiat currencies so renters must pay for the services consumed by Siacoin (SC). The farmers are paid in SC, too. Siacoin requires mining.

Filecoin: This company hasn’t yet launched its services. However, their model is likely to follow the Storj and Sia networks.

Unlike fixed pricing offered by Storj and Sia, Filecoin will offer a marketplace with bids and asks. The team behind Filecoin is the same one that built the famous InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) protocol.

MaidSafe: They are still working on their platform, which is currently in the Alpha stage. In addition to a decentralized cloud storage solution, they also plan to provide computing resources in the cloud.

People can put their excess network bandwidth for rent on this network. The project promises complete anonymity for the users, and transactions will take place using the MaidSafe (MAID) coin.

MaidSafe has made available their whitepapers here.

Planning to Build a Decentralized Cloud Storage Solution?

The cloud storage market is expected to grow to $222.25 billion by 2027. The market is currently dominated by technology giants Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and IBM.

If you, as a business CEO or CTO, are planning to invest in decentralized cloud storage solutions, you will require a competent team of software developers experienced in cloud technology, cloud tools, platforms, etc. to keep up with the big players and build a market-competitive cloud storage solution.

If you are lacking such field-expert developers, DevTeam.Space can help you with its software developers community. Write to us a few details about your cloud project via this form and one of our technical managers will get back to you to discuss how we can help.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is decentralized cloud storage?

Decentralized data storage on the cloud is when data is stored on a set of computers and not a network that is controlled by one central authority as in centralized cloud storage. Multiple computers store the data, acting as participants or nodes on decentralized storage networks.

What is Storj?

Storj is a decentralized cloud storage services provider platform that uses end-to-end encryption to ensure that data is kept private with increased data security.

Is decentralized cloud storage technology safe?

Provided the platform has been well-designed and implemented, decentralized cloud storage is safe, if not safer than centralized cloud solutions such as those offered by AWS, for example.

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