One of the main aspects of life has become how and where individuals and companies store their data online. Putting things in the cloud has become a mainstream trend in recent years, even though that term means users are hosting files elsewhere on centralized servers. With so many servers and services being affected by hacks and breaches, blockchain technology may hold the key to solving this problem.
Cloud Storage Is A Centralized Service
Storing important data on a computer, hard drive, USB stick or even on paper are all forms of pure centralization. There is usually only one, or sometimes a handful of persons, who can access the stored data whenever needed. If said data would go lost for whichever reason – fire, stolen, lost, misplaced – lot of damage could be done.
In the past few years, the term “storing data in the cloud” has gained mainstream traction, as it removes the need for dedicated hosting at the location of the individual user or business. All of the sensitive data can be transferred to a cloud hosting provider, and they will ensure the data is accessible by multiple people at any given time.
From a business perspective, it seems to make sense to move all of the company or sensitive data to the cloud, as it is a cost-cutting measure compared to maintaining dedicated storage at the facility. Plus, most cloud storage providers present a more elegant way of accessing files compared to an in-house solution, which can only be beneficial to productivity.
As a result of this major shift to relying on cloud-based services, multiple companies have been offering their services to customers around the world. To this very data, most of the data consumed and shared, is stored in cloud-based solutions. While this is a very user-friendly solution, there are several issues with relying on these types of services as well.
The data being stored “in the cloud” is transferred to servers belonging to the cloud service company. However, their servers are all centralized, and provide a central point of failure, in the same way, in-house storage solutions would do. Plus, cloud servers are always connected to the internet, making them a high-profile target for hackers.
Granted, several cloud service providers will make offline backups of all the data being stored to restore any missing data if needed. But when a company stores sensitive consumer information in the cloud, such as personal records and verification documents, cloud-based hosting providers are not the solution most people think it is.
In the unfortunate event of something going awry with the data stored in the cloud, the affected individual or company can put the blame on the third-party cloud service provider. Looking at this from a responsibility perspective, putting the blame on someone else is a natural human trait, as no one wants to take the blame when something goes wrong.
Centralized Cloud Storage – The Story of Kim Dotcom and MegaUpload
To give a perfect example of how centralized cloud storage is, look no further than the story of Kim Dotcom and Hong Kong-based MegaUpload. Even though MegaUpload was originally advertised a cloud-based hosting solution for files of all types and sizes, it didn’t take long for copyrighted material to make its way to the servers.
Once government officials had enough of the service provided by MegaUpload, the domain name was seized, and all associated websites were shut down by the US Department of Justice. Shortly after, all owners and operators of MegaUpload were indicted and arrested, and assets worth over US$40m were frozen by Hong Kong’s Customs and Excise Department.
One person escaping the dance was none other than Kim Dotcom himself, as his court case remains subject to major controversy regarding its legality. It remains to be seen whether or not the case against Kim Dotcom will ever make it to court, but at the time of publication, that situation seemed highly unlikely.
After MegaUpload had been shut down, the question remained as to what would happen with all of the files stored on company servers. Even though none of the servers were in control of the United States Department of Justice, they remained at the premises under the control of a third party. That same statement was later countered by the third party themselves in a press release. In the end, all data stored on MegaUpload servers was deleted by Leaseweb.
The moral of this story is that, even though MegaUpload provided cloud storage for all types of files, it was far too easy for the US government or other third parties to shut down the service. All of this was made possible because the servers were centralized in one location, making it easy to close off access to any of the files being stored.
Blockchain Technology and Decentralized Cloud Storage
A possible solution to the cloud storage debacle comes in the form of blockchain technology. The blockchain is best known for powering the Bitcoin network, as a transparent ledger recording all past, present and future transactions. But the technology is capable of so much more than that.
Blockchain technology can be adapted to a cloud-based service model, where transferring and storing data is completely decentralized. Similar to how the Bitcoin network uses dedicated Nodes to broadcast transactions, the same model could apply to cloud storage. Using a few dedicated Nodes all over the world where the full data is stored, plus Light Nodes, which store chunks of the data. In the end, all of the data is spread throughout servers and computers running all over the world, with no central point of failure.
Additionally, Bitcoin could play a factor in this business model as well. Individual users could become Light or full Nodes themselves, in exchange for Bitcoin payments every time data is stored or accessed. Allowing individual users to become part of the cloud-based service would boost decentralization, and allow these users to use any spare storage they may have on their devices for a small monetary gain.
What are your thoughts on using blockchain technology for decentralized cloud storage? Can Bitcoin play a role in this business model? Let us know in the comments below!
Images courtesy of Wired, MegaUpload, Business Solutions Hawaii, Shutterstock