Storage services on top of a blockchain have piqued the interest of quite a few developers and investors alike, with the three most popular solutions being Storj, Sia and Maidsafe. Although all three promise a similar product, the means in some instances is quite different to the end and what follows is a short analysis of all three with their strengths and weaknesses.
Having the largest market cap of all three, Sia took the cryptomarket by storm this year, growing from a price of 24 satoshis and peaking to 844 satoshis, settling down to 435 satoshis at the time of writing. Their solution promises to be fast, ridiculously cheap and secure; uploaded user data is fragmented and distributed among the network, with replication of your data fragments introduced for good measure to protect against any nodes who happen to be offline when you request your data to be “re-assembled” and accessed by you.
Sia utilizes its own native crypto by the name of Siacoin, which is required to buy storage on the Sia network, and likewise the hosts/contributors are rewarded in Siacoin. Hosts set up their own prices, making it a free-for-all market with the best hosts being those who can offer maximum reliability (online availability) for the cheapest prices. The only caveat is that you need to lock up funds in order to buy storage, with any non-utilised funds being returned after 3 months. I can’t say I’m much in favour of this solution; users should be free to have a top-up-as-you-go facility, even in micropayments if need be. That is the beauty of crypto after all.
The fact that they’re going to introduce proof-of-burn for hosts (I’m a big fan of PoB) is a big plus in my book, and having their own blockchain is another one. The UX can do with some streamlining, and their latest development, Obelisk, has been met with criticism rather than praise; ASICs do strengthen the mining “loyalty” of a network but it also concentrates mining power into the hands of fewer people. Still, Siacoin is proving to be a strong project and one of the contenders for best-performing crypto in 2017.
With the smallest market cap of all three, Storj has been a long-undervalued project in my opinion. It is more enterprise-based than Sia, and has a fixed-pricing pay-as-you-go model which I personally see as being better. Their UX is simple and intuitive and hosting (“farming” in Storj’s instance) is as easy as 1-2-3. Storj also utilizes file-sharding/fragmentation to store data and protect it with end-to-end encryption, but the network leans more towards decentralization rather than distribution as in Sia’s case; Storj utilizes bridges which act as trusted third parties and basically take care of finding farmers to hold your data, essentially acting as middlemen. Yes, one of the strengths of crypto is to eliminate middlemen, but it does allow a much faster and easier solution than Sia’s (albeit less secure than Sia’s).
One of the main bones I have to pick with Storj is their less-than-smooth transition from SJCX, their Counterparty-based token, to STORJ, their Ethereum-based token. The move to the Ethereum blockchain was well conceived but ill-executed, with SJCX tokens still being more valuable than the STORJ ones. I would say that the problems in the transition were mainly two: the STORJ tokens ICO which took place before the transition from SJCX to STORJ, and the pricing of STORJ tokens being a lower one than SJCX’s price at the time, leading to an instant dip of SJCX’s price which caused investors some anguish. If the transition picks up pace a bit and SJCX is weeded out soon, I strongly believe that Storj will pick up the pace again.
I’ll be straight – I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with this one since it’s taking longer than the Pyramids to build. Good things take a long time to be ready, but this one might just be taking the cake. Still, it’s my favourite project out of all three and it is by far the most ambitious one of them all as well. Maidsafe doesn’t just promise a decentralized storage solution; its aim is to create a new backbone on which data can be stored, accessed, and exchanged. In short, Maidsafe is a new network made up of all the participants who contribute their computing capacity in P2P fashion. dApps (Decentralised Applications) can be built on Maidsafe, with one of the most prominent ones so far being Project Decorum, a social media platform built on the SAFE network.
It is quickly cycling through its alpha testing stages and beta stage is being targeted by the end of 2017. Each testing stage is being meticulously studied, with the latest one having taken place this week (which predominantly focused on the front-end of things; hopefully, that means the back-end is getting somewhere at last!). On the negative side of things, the immensity of Maidsafe’s project is hard to understand even by tech-savvy people, and it is often dismissed as another storage-focused project which is taking too long to deliver on its promises, having spent more time in development than Bitcoin itself. Connecting normal browers to the SAFE network is not a process which beginners can easily follow; however, I have tried out their SAFE Launcher which connects the user to the SAFE network, and the UI is simple and performs well; it then becomes a question of adoption i.e. whether users would actually switch to a custom browser to access the SAFE network.
Maidsafe should be releasing Safecoins as the currency of choice for the platform sometime in the near future, with the existing MAID tokens being exchangeable for the Safecoins. Hopefully their transition from Maidsafe tokens to Safecoin will be a lot smoother than Storj’s.
In reality, comparing Maidsafe to Storj and Sia is not the fairest of comparisons, as Maidsafe’s objective is not storage but creating a new, more secure Internet. Although it is my pick of the bunch, development has been frustratingly slow and has only picked up pace in the last 14 months or so.
Choosing between the two storage-focused coins is difficult. Both have their pros and cons, and both aim at slightly different markets. Until Storj sorts out its tokens debacle I would stay away from it, but be careful not to miss the rollercoaster once it sorts out that. Sia has been more consistent and better-met by the crypto-community, but its slower speeds and transition to ASIC mining have chipped away slightly at its otherwise strong performance. All in all, all three can be rated as SAFE investments (sorry for the pun), with Storj promising the best returns.