Centralized versus decentralized storage
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February 25th, 2022

With blockchain technology changing the way we store data in the cloud, many organizations are now exploring the benefits of decentralized storage.


Today’s enterprises are generating more data than ever from a constantly expanding range of sources. These days, most of that data is stored online thanks to the high scalability and cost effectiveness of cloud storage. However, most of this data ultimately falls under the control of a relatively small number of technology giants, such as Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, and their respective jurisdictions.

That’s changing now that we’ve entered the era of Web 3.0 — or the third stage of the evolution of the World Wide Web. While Web 2.0 is largely centralized, owing to the fact that most data is ultimately controlled by the world’s leading tech companies, Web 3.0 is heavily focused on decentralization. The main driver is that decentralization will give individuals, companies, and even entire countries, more control over their own data and digital destiny.

Decentralized storage solutions, such as Storj, IPFS, and Filecoin, are set to transform cloud computing by providing higher levels of durability, performance, and control. Decentralized storage is conceptually similar to Blockchain in that no data is stored in a centralized location, such as a data center belonging to a particular organization. Instead, the data is stored across a network of computers known as nodes, thus eliminating reliance on a single vendor, data center, or network.

Here’s what that means for your digital strategy:

Availability

One of the key selling points of centralized cloud storage vendors is that their services have a near 100% uptime, allowing users to access their files from any internet-connected device at any time. In reality, however, there will always be a risk of downtime due to the fact that data is stored in data centers owned and controlled by one vendor. Moreover, downtime is often caused by factors beyond the vendor’s control.

While conventional cloud storage services also use plenty of redundancies to minimize risk of data loss, decentralized storage has redundancy built in. The networks are built to ensure that data remains continuously available by storing multiple copies of each individual data fragment in nodes across the internet. These copies are typically updated in real time.

Security

Information security is the concern of the century, and cloud storage vendors have invested vast sums of money into protecting their clients’ digital assets. However, even though these storage providers have the resources needed to protect their data centers from attacks, most threat actors instead target weak access controls, which are the responsibility of the end user.

Decentralized storage is inherently more secure because it uses zero-knowledge encryption. Even if an attacker were to compromise a particular node on the network, they would only be able to get their hands on a small part of a much larger data set. Furthermore, the fact that the data will be encrypted means it will be useless to them anyway.

Control

One of the biggest shortcomings of centralized cloud storage services is that it means giving a degree of control over your data to a particular vendor. In other words, your data loses some of its sovereignty and ownership. For example, the vast majority of data belonging to European companies and governments is stored in data centers that are owned and operated by those based in the US. This ultimately means it is subject to US jurisdiction.

Digital sovereignty is a top concern among today’s governments and organizations, since it ensures greater control and ownership over their digital assets and, ultimately, control over their own digital destinies. To that end, decentralized storage offers greater equitability while also preventing companies and individuals from accidentally giving up control of their data for advertising and other purposes.

Costs

Data storage devices might be getting larger all the time and the costs per gigabyte of storage lower, but the sheer volume of data is still an expensive challenge. Regular cloud storage vendors also have complete control over their own pricing structures, and they routinely charge significant fees to clients wanting to move data back in-house or to another storage vendor. This so-called vendor lock-in can quickly end up being enormously expensive.

By comparison, the freedom and scalability of decentralized storage systems like Filecoin and IPFS translate into far lower costs. Storage and bandwidth is already provisioned, as it exists across a vast network of thousands of nodes. Decentralized storage works on a peer-to-peer basis, so there is no upfront investment required. Moreover, there is a thriving marketplace of companies and individuals incentivized to offer high-quality storage, which creates a healthy and more equitable competitive environment. The cost-savings involved are then passed on to the end user.

Performance

With a traditional cloud storage platform, users download their files from a single location. This means that the available bandwidth is limited by the service provider. While a lack of sufficient bandwidth isn’t likely to be an issue with vendors like Amazon or Microsoft, bottlenecks might still occur in certain areas or at certain times of day. This is due to the inherent limitations of serializing data transfers.

By contrast, decentralized storage works much like the peer-to-peer torrent network, in which multiple fragments of a file are downloaded simultaneously from different sources. What you end up with is a situation where you’re downloading the file from the fastest possible locations at the same time. That way, your download speeds are only limited by the bandwidth of your own internet connection.


Mineral is a storage connector that allows you to centrally manage your entire cloud storage environment, including both centralized and decentralized services. Sign up today to our early access program.

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