Blockchain has revolutionised the Internet. This new and ingenious technology allows blocks of data to be distributed across ledgers, without any central administering authority, but with the essential requirement that the data be validated by participants. This makes the data flexible and secure. Blockchain technology can be used to great advantage in cloud storage solutions
Blockchain technology is one of the greatest inventions of today. You would have heard about digital currency, cryptocurrency or Bitcoin. These exist because of blockchain technology. In this article, we will first understand what blockchain technology is and how it works. Then we will look at how we can correlate cloud computing with blockchain technology.
Blockchain was invented in 2008 by a person or a group using the name Satoshi Nakamoto. Till date, no one knows the real identity of Satoshi Nakamoto. Blockchain has evolved into something very powerful since then.
Blockchain technology is built using peer-to-peer networking. Anyone can join the network and there is no central authority to manage it. It is operated by people, called miners, who lend their computing power to the network to solve complex algorithms. Machines run by miners perform the necessary functions to solve the algorithms, and for that they are rewarded with a fee (for lending their computing power). In the case of Bitcoin, that complex algorithm is SHA-256.
In a blockchain, each block stores data of the transaction, its hash code and the previous block’s hash code. So whenever a new block is created, it is validated by a majority of peers or miners on that network. If anyone tries to change the data in one block, the entire blockchain becomes invalidated. So it is nearly impossible for an individual to change any of the attached blocks. This is how a blockchain remains secure and managed. Also, all data are encrypted for security purposes.
Bitcoin works on the same technology. It is a virtual currency that is mined using blockchain technique. The value of one Bitcoin is approximately ₹ 469,636, at the time of printing. As you can imagine, it is virtually like gold.
Blockchain technology is not just used for cryptocurrencies but can be used in many other sectors also. Potential use cases are video or audio streaming, cloud storage and much more. Today, a lot of research is going on to study how to tap into the power of this technology and apply it across various verticals.
Google Drive, Dropbox and Gmail are basic examples of cloud storage. Cloud storage allows users to store data online and, hence, access it anywhere and at any time—that is the biggest advantage. Nowadays, we store most of our data in digital format, having moved beyond the stage of managing bundles of physical files. Government agencies are also leveraging the advantages of cloud storage and availing the benefits of public and private clouds to store, manage and manipulate data. All data stored in the cloud is encrypted, and cloud services are available under a range of SLAs, covering data integrity and privacy. Many companies have shifted their entire data centres onto the cloud. They enjoy advantages like elasticity, load balancing, redundancy, availability and integrity.
This market is expanding exponentially, currently, with majority of cloud storage being provided by large companies like Google, Microsoft and Amazon. Even companies like Samsung and Apple now have their own cloud storage offerings, such as Samsung Cloud and iCloud, for end users.
Blockchain in cloud storage
A blockchain cloud storage solution takes a user’s data and breaks it into small chunks. It then adds an additional layer of security and distributes it throughout the network. This is possible using blockchain features like hashing function, public/private key encryption and transaction ledgers. Each chunk of data is stored in a decentralised location. If intruders try to hack into it, they first get encrypted data and then get only a chunk of data and not the whole file. This secures documents in blockchain-based cloud storage.
Another benefit is that the owner is hidden since the node does not store owner’s data. The miner only gets a chunk of data; hence, all sensitive information is protected. Data redundancy and load balancing mechanisms are applied for high availability and quick access. Whenever a user tries to fetch data, all chunks of data are first validated. If any alteration is found on a data chunk, then the miner who altered the data chunk is removed from the network, and that altered part is taken from another redundant copy. Thus, all users get original and identical copies of the data.
Many new companies have jumped onto this blockchain cloud storage market, and the entire business is taking a new shape. Blockchain is the newest and possibly the cheapest way to get cloud storage because many small entities participate in cloud storage by providing their computing power and space to store data. Hence, cloud storage costs are lowered and all entities that participate also get paid.
Companies like Sia, Amazon and Storj are creating systems for paying a small amount to such participants for providing extra storage from their computers. So in the near future, we will see many more cloud storage providers moving to this technology.
This article was first published in October issue of Open Source For You