We have already written a bit about projects seeking to decentralized data storage, including MaidSafe and Permacoin, although the latter isn’t really a fully decentralized storage model. 

Add to that list Storj [PDF whitepaper], and we can get an interesting idea as to how decentralized storage might look in a year’s time, perhaps less. 

MaidSafe and Storj are both open-source projects that include a protocol and a cryptocurrency. Both break up data into pieces and distribute those across a network. Users can verify ownership and thus access their data with a token, the same way a Bitcoin user verifies and access his/her money. 

The difference is in the details, but that might not matter too much: Storj and MaidSafe developers have been working together for a while and hope to achieve cross-compatibility. 

“It would be great if you could store a file on the Storj or Maidsafe network, and access that file through either one,” writes StorjTalk forum administrator super3. 

Why this is important 

Decentralized data storage offers two huge benefits to the average internet user: Security and cost efficiency (e.g. it would be cheaper than Dropbox). 

First, security. Centralized storage means someone, somewhere is going to have access to your data. That’s only useful insofar as you can trust the person/people holding your data. Decentralization eliminates the need for trust, just as Bitcoin first did with money. 

“It’s no secret that the last few years have been a turmoil for the security and privacy of web users,” reads a post on the Storj blog

“Enormous file hosting sites like Megaupload have been shut down, government organizations like the NSA having the capability of monitoring any user’s internet activity and being able to access any files or data that have been put on seemingly ‘secure’ cloud storage hosts like Dropbox or OneDrive, could make any person that wishes to store personal information on the internet to think twice about doing it, with good reason.” 

MaidSafe seems to be operating under a similar idea. 

“I thought the internet had become a very unnatural design and could not bear to see people lose control of their identities and personal thoughts,” MaidSafe CEO David Irvine told us back in April

“I figured that with all the computing resource available in people’s personal computers that we could do a much better job with what we have. MaidSafe seemed like an obvious answer, rather than creating large server farms, use peoples own computers. Create a large network that all computers join and allow people to access this network and store their information there as well as communicate, etc.” 

Then, there’s the issue of money, and how much of it a user can save (or even earn) through decentralized storage. 

Storj’s developers note that, once their system goes live, they think that users can store 100 GB of data securely for about one-quarter of what Dropbox charges per month

“Storj plans to drop the cost of cloud storage dramatically. The user would only have to pay for used space and not capacity. The operating costs of the network would already be much cheaper than a centralized provider, as a majority of the network will run on users computers. The users don’t have to pay for full time employees, office space, heating and cooling, shareholder profits, etc.” 

What’s more, both Storj and MaidSafe will reward nodes (end users) for sharing their bandwidth to enable decentralized storage. This includes payment in each project’s own cryptocurrency — Storjcoins and Safecoins, respectively — as well as in other currencies, potentially. 

Storj’s developers note this might not be a huge sum, but it’s something anyway: “For a person who could run their own public Storj node, the monthly revenue that could be reached with a world-average 2.1 MB/s connection, 3x redundancy and Dropbox prices comes to a rough $150 per month.”