Most computer users are familiar with the leading online file storage services, including Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, SugarSync, SpiderOak, Apple iDrive, Amazon Web Services S3, and a number of others. However, many people are reluctant to use any of these services because of concerns about security, privacy, and/or expenses. Sia plans to meet those concerns by providing low-cost file storage capabilities that are even more secure than any of the above-mentioned services. In fact, the company plans on building the largest storage superserver on the planet. However, the superserver will not be in one location. Instead, it will be distributed amongst thousands of homes, offices, and data centers around the world.
That is a lofty goal, but reading about Sia convinces me that the company might be able to meet its objective. If it does, and if you want to safely store files off-site for backup and security purposes, you probably will want to investigate Sia. The software is available for Windows, Macintosh, and Linux.
First of all, Sia won’t own many servers. Sia is a new approach to cloud storage platforms. Instead of all datacenters being owned and operated by a single company, Sia opens the floodgates and allows anyone to make money by renting out space on their hard drives to other Sia users.
As for privacy concerns, Sia aims to be even more private and more secure than other file storage services. Sia splits files apart, ENCRYPTS, and distributes your files across a decentralized network. Since you hold the keys, you own your data. The only person who can see the encryption key(s) is you, the person who creates and stores the files in Sia’s distributed network. The system administrators at Sia will never see the encryption keys nor will the other customers of Sia who are saving file snippets for you.
All the other users who are storing the small segments of your files only have possession of a small snippet of each file, and even that snippet is encrypted so that no one can decode it without the encryption keys that you create. In fact, the users who store encrypted snippets of files cannot even see the file names or any other information about the owner(s).
No outside company can access or control your files, unlike traditional cloud storage providers.
Don’t trust the software? Not a problem. Sia is completely open source. The source code is published and is available to you and to everyone else. Anyone with programming skills can examine the code themselves and even compile it on their own computers and run it there. It’s tough to hide “back doors” or any other secrets when everyone in the world can examine the source code!
Sia’s decentralized cloud claims to be an average of 10 times less expensive than the other current cloud storage providers. For instance, storing one terabyte on Sia costs about $2 per month, compared with $23 a month on Amazon S3. Payment is made via Siacoins, a new cryptocurrency invented by Sia that runs on an open and yet anonymous blockchain, somewhat similar to Bitcoins, Ethereum, and other cryptocurrencies. Anyone who wants to store files on Sia’s decentralized network needs to first purchase Siacoins in order to pay for the file space used. Likewise, those providing the storage space will be paid in Siacoins. Of course, anyone can do both: be a provider and simultaneously be a user.
The blockchain is also used for security and privacy. Cryptographically secured smart contracts ensure the encryption and transfer of data with no possibility for a third party to interfere in any way.
To make sure your files remain available to you at any time, even if one or more other users turn off their computers, Sia stores tiny pieces of your files on dozens of nodes (individual computers) across the globe. This eliminates any single point of failure and ensures highest possible uptime, on par with other cloud storage providers.
Other companies are also working on somewhat similar ideas. For one, see my earlier article about Storj.io at http://bit.ly/2scaf81.
The biggest drawback that I see is the use of the new Siacoin cryptocurrency. (Storj.io uses a similar cryptocurrency as well.) Finding, purchasing, and using cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin or Ethereum, has proven to be rather difficult for many people. Many people do not use cryptocurrencies simply because they do not know how to do so. I see the use of Siacoins to be a similar stumbling block unless Sia can find a way to simplify the process.
Will Sia succeed and become the largest storage superserver on the planet? I have no idea, but I do believe this will be an interesting “race” to follow. Having good competition almost always results in better products and lower prices for customers. I will be watching this competition closely.
If you also have an interest, take a look at http://sia.tech.