While different cryptocurrencies like as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Lite coin have taken over the financial world, dominating the headlines of many media outlets, it is not every day you hear about blockchain, the technology powering cryptocurrencies platforms.
The blockchain technology is one of the leading technologies in the planet right now as its basic structure greatly limits the possibility of being hacked and the fact that it is a distributed and decentralized system makes it more secure and fast.
What is Blockchain?
With almost every outlet out there throwing around technical jargons that dwell mostly on cryptocurrencies, it will be best if we can break down what blockchain really is to the most basic term as it relates to data storage.
In basic terms, blockchain is just an ever-increasing list of records/data/files/transactions linked together, grouped and stored as a record or in folder like ledger called a “block”, secured by being encrypted using cryptography, stored and distributed in client computer systems called nodes in the blockchain network after it has been verified. The stored records cannot be altered under any circumstances.
In an even less practical term, let us say you got a new job and your job description is to visit web pages. Now think of the blockchain system as your browser which is without the “delete history” button and any page you visit on the internet is permanently saved in the history tab as a record, encrypted, broken into parts and distributed across nodes in a network you are a connected to.
The role of the nodes is to verify (or act as witnesses) that you truly visited that webpage and if 51% (being the majority) of the nodes accept (with proof of work that they actually verified) that you visited the webpage, the record is added to other records and saved as a new block, and the new block linked to another old block, thereby creating a chain hence the name blockchain.
A stored block cannot be modified again and those who have a copy of the block cannot in any way try to edit without the approval of the nodes connected to the network and must possess a private key to prove ownership of the data in the block to enable them to make changes to the file. Now, edited records cannot overwrite old records but simply create a new record which must pass through the systems verification process to make sure that it is authentic before it is added to a new block and stored.
Cloud storage falls under the “Infrastructure as a Service” category of cloud computing which deals with providing storage services via the internet to clients. Cloud storage actually refers to the process of storing data in remote servers instead of local hard drives and local servers and can be accessed via the internet. Some good examples of cloud storage services are Google Drive, Amazon Web Services, and Microsoft OneDrive.
The era of cloudification (migrating offline systems and data to cloud computing) has brought about serious changes in the technology sector as almost every area of computing has either migrated to cloud computing or is planning to but cloud storage systems with all its security features poses a big risk to data owner as data is stored in a centralized server that is either susceptible to hacking attacks or being targeted by hackers and there really isn’t much you can do but rely on the cloud storage service provider for data security. Cloud storage servers have been targeted quite a number of times especially last year and that have left many cloud storage service providers looking for a lasting solution.
The Concept of Securing Cloud Storage Systems with Blockchain
Organizations providing cloud storage services usually keep their storage and security methods under wraps to avoid data breaches and over the years researchers have tried creating their own security model but none comes close to the blockchain technology.
The blockchain system has not been successfully hacked making it a hacker’s nightmare thus making it good for securing cloud computing systems.
This storage format may have been developed from the old peer-to-peer file saving and sharing system used by torrents sites to create seeding for their data by allowing users save a copy of a file on their (the user’s) systems and which serves as a database or servers.
Now unlike the old peer-to-peer system where files can be edited by anybody and nobody knows, the blockchain groups the participating systems into a network consisting of about 10 personal computers (nodes) or more per network and every change made must be verified and accepted by the majority on the network before it can be accepted. Each network is connected, creating a mesh and nodes storing data must repeatedly pass tests that they still have the data and it is unmodified.
When a file is uploaded, the file is verified, encrypted and added into a data block which is then broken into parts, duplicated and stored in the hard disks of the various nodes in the network hereby creating a decentralized server.
The data blocks stored across different nodes in the network cannot be modified by anyone other than the owner or the person who has the private key to decrypt the data blocks. This makes sure copies of the file are saved and spread across the network and should a node fail, the data is still available.
Cloud Storage Security Using Blockchain in Practice
Some tech startups and companies have already started using blockchain to secure cloud storage systems and it has proven itself to be sustainable, reliable and cheaper than normal cloud storage systems.
Storj Labs, a startup backed by FileZilla allows clients to save files in blockchain protected peer-to-peer cloud system for a small fee. The nodes where encrypted data are distributed and stored are owned by other users in the Storj network who rent out part of their hard-drives to serve as decentralized virtual servers for the Storj system. Uploaded files are encrypted then broken into parts called shards before they are distributed among nodes in the network.
Another Startup that has implemented the Blockchain Cloud storage is Sia.Tech. Information culled from the StartUp’s website reads “Sia encrypts and distributes your files across a decentralized network. You control your private encryption keys and you own your data.
No outside company or third party can access or control your files, unlike traditional cloud storage providers. Sia distributes and stores redundant file segments on nodes across the globe, eliminating any single point of failure and ensuring uptime that rivals traditional cloud storage providers.” Like Storj, Sia leverages underutilized hard drive capacity around the world to create a data storage marketplace.
Advantages of Blockchain Cloud Storage Systems
It is secured when compared to traditional systems. Since it is a decentralized system, the risk of being attacked by hackers is rare and Files are repeatedly verified and encrypted to protect data integrity.
It is cheap. Blockchain Cloud Storage systems do not rely on large servers but underutilized space in nodes hard-disks to save encrypted data thus eliminating the possibility of incurring a high cost as Server fees.
It is relatively fast as the file is pulled from different sources at a time increasing uptime and eliminating failure.