TLDR; One of the oldest attempts at providing decentralized cloud storage via blockchain, Sia does its job well and is respected within the industry, but it’s more complicated to set up and operate than an ordinary user will want to deal with.
The idea behind Sia was to disrupt the cloud storage monopolies by getting rid of the need for any sort of middleman broker. A user who needs cloud storage space could use the Sia platform to contract directly with a provider in the world. Using a unique backup system, Sia provides users with a means of ensuring their data is always safe, easily accessible at top speeds, and is purchased at a cost that beats out all the high-end competition.
Overall, Sia is actually pretty great but it’s not for the faint of heart. If you’re an experienced techhie looking for a data storage solution, Sia is something you should totally explore. The community behind Sia has proved by this point that this is not just another blockchain catchphrase project, but something that really does have the dedication and collective will to succeed. But it’s a work-in-progress system and users who expect a simple “sign up and use” experience will probably need to sit back and prepare themselves for a bit of a learning curve.
Sia also doesn’t currently have any mobile apps at the moment which will be a dealbreaker for many. There are, however, neat linked projects like SiaStream that allow for ultra low-cost secure storage and streaming solutions for media (optimized for Plex), making Sia a special case for low-cost media storage.
I love the idea behind Sia and I think the project is great, as a whole. Due to the lack of simple multi-platform software that handles things with a nice GUI (there is a desktop program with a graphical user interface but that’s it), it’s just too much work to deal with and my needs are more simple than what this is intended for. I liken this to projects like FileCoin and Swarm, all of which are superb but none of which have quite reached the level of mass appeal yet.
TLDR; Despite Internxt’s high-minded advertising, members in the privacy community remain skeptical, in part because Internxt pushes their product in a slightly skeevy manner.
Internxt offers great deals on storage, from its basic 2GB (free forever) plan, to various other seemingly generous hosting plans (including a “lifetime” plan that costs about $400 for 2TB of data space). On its face, this all seems great. They’re a growing company trying to leverage a new technology in a competitive market.
However, users around the Internet and especially those on privacy-centered Reddit forums, have raised numerous concerns about the company’s ability to provide the services it says it wants to offer, as well as regarding various unfortunate advertising campaigns made by the company. Poor promotion standards are not necessarily a reason to egg a service, but they are an indication that something isn’t as polished as it should be, and when you’re relying on a service to protect your valuable data you really need to make sure there’s trust between you and the provider.
There are further concerns that users online have raised about the founder of the company.
I tried out Internxt just as they were transitioning to a new app design so I got to experience both their earlier design and their newer. There’s totally an improvement, speeds seemed reasonable to me (I uploaded and downloaded a 1GB video file in comparable time to what Google Drive would have taken). But note that my testing of the service beyond that was pretty limited. Where I ran into real trouble was when I contacted the company and asked them to delete my account — something they told me they could not do.
They offered me a workaround but that was supremely unsatisfactory. I don’t know why this issue happened (but my guess is that it’s because lost users would deflate the current user number that the company can leverage for backing), and I can’t say 100% if all the criticisms I found were accurate, but I do know that I found it worrying and certainly wouldn’t store important data through this service.
TLDR; Storj is probably the best bet for a true alternative to the major cloud storage providers. They’re focused on “trustless” security, too, which is the buzzphrase of the day in security circles, and they do a good job of protecting your data. That said, their focus on providing a cloud space for developers means they’re not super easy to work with for a normal user.
A hundred and fifty free GB of storage is noting to laugh at, and Storj provides that upfront for new users. With a clean and simple web interface, Storj provides the closest in terms of reliable service for any of these platforms at an extremely reasonable cost.
Storj is a powerful decentralized system that focuses on matching the ease-of-use of big cloud storage providers like Amazon, at a lower cost, with far greater security. Your data gets split, distributed, and stored all around the globe using advanced cryptographic security measures. There’s a lot to love here from both a security and privacy standpoint. Even cooler* Storj’s core code is open source, allowing a number of potential apps to be built by anyone to access the data — that way you’re not beholden to any one group who might change permissions or raise costs for access.
Storj is fast, simple, and friendly enough to a non-developer like me that I could probably use it to store files like those from my video projects quite easily. That said, the lack of Andorid apps for the Storj system cuts this off at the knees as an everyday replacement to something like Dropbox.
There are a lot more options than just these three but there’s a reason why these platforms have yet to take off: they’re new. Some of these projects are extremely legit and functional, with a cost and power that threatens to totally topple the monopoly that the tech giants have on cloud infrastructure. At the same time, there a dozens of pop-up companies that are promising things that are too good to be true.
A good reminder when you’re exploring these hosting options is to take note of any time buzzwords are used. Military-grade encryption, blockchain security, etc., are all phrases that don’t necessarily mean much on their own--they just look cool.
Blockchain isn’t as difficult to understand as some might think, but neither is it a simple thing to grasp, and it comes with potential complications. If it’s not understood well, it’s easy for people to fall prey to potential scams, or, even if using a legitimate service, to mishandle their own security and lose their data or open themselves up to bad actors on the net.
This isn’t to say that blockchain-based, or otherwise decentralized cloud storage isn’t something to consider. It’s likely that this sort of technology will go on to revolutionize how we experience the internet in time.
Projects like MaidSafe’s Safe Network have the ability to fundamentally alter the balance of power on the internet, revitalizing human communication and interaction. So do projects like Sia, Storj, and Filecoin in their own ways. But for the average use I recommend sticking with one of the traditional secure file storage providers I write about here, or using BoxCryptor or a similar product to encrypt the files that will be stored on a classic provider like Dropbox.
File encryption and security is vitally important and you always want to approach this with a “trust no one” perspective, but don’t let your search for alternatives to the brand names lead you down a rabbit hole that doesn’t solve the problem at hand.