“Let’s take all of these existing spare hard drives out there, all of that existing space, and package it up into an easy-to-use cloud solution.”
Let’s talk about space. Not outer space, though I do have a lot of thoughts on stars and their infinite mysteries. No, today we’re going to talk about hard drive space, specifically who has it, who doesn’t, and why it’s all relevant.
If you have a hard drive, which pretty much everybody does in this day and age, you fall in one of two categories — you have a ton of space, or you don’t. The ones who don’t are typically people who download and play with all sorts of large files, such as videos, photos, things of that ilk. These are also people that delve into the cloud for more storage, paying money to Amazon or Google so they can have access to large amounts of cloud storage. That’s all fine and dandy, but it does nothing for people who have a hard drive with copious amounts of space and it also gives Amazon and Google access to all of your data.
In college, Shawn Wilkinson ran into this space dilemma: he needed more hard drive space, many people within his dorm room had available hard drive space, but there was no way of connecting the two parties. Alongside three others — Tome Boshevski, James Prestwich, and John Quinn — he began working on a way to solve this dilemma. In August 2015, Storj was born.
“That was the conception of the idea,” said Prestwich. “Let’s take all of these existing spare hard drives out there, all of that existing space, and package it up into an easy-to-use cloud solution.”
Rather than entrusting your data with Amazon, Storj combines object storage with block chaining to connect computers in a manner similar to torrents — you join with different peers and share data in a parallel manner. Instead of relying upon a single connection, like Amazon, Storj allows you to link simultaneously through multiple connections, in theory allowing quicker access and data exchange than current cloud storage providers.
“It all gets served seamlessly behind the scenes so that no user has to think about it or worry about it, said Prestwich. “Instead of it living in a big data center somewhere that Amazon owns — and instead of Amazon having access to all that data, having access to your keys, having the ability to stop you from using it — it lives out in this distributed system that exists on any computer anywhere. Anyone can add their hard drive to this network and they can get paid for sharing their space. To the developer, it should look exactly like Amazon S3. It’s a simple storage service that they upload and download data from.”
Taking on the goliaths of the cloud storage industry isn’t easy, especially considering how many new data centers seem to be thrown up daily. Storj remedies this by “harvesting stuff that would go unused,” taking existing hard drive space and using it to their (and their customers) benefit. And, as always, cost and security are factors.
“We can do it cheaper, we’re not building a data center and buying enough hard drives to stock it,” said Prestwich. “We don’t have to employ architects, network technicians, security guards. We don’t have to pay for heating, ventilation, AC, that sort of thing. We can do it more securely because we’re spreading across a number of computers, rather than having a single point of entry, a single point of control. We can be more secure because only the customer has access to their encryption keys, not us, not Amazon. So even if we get compromised or if we turn malicious, our customers data is safe from us.”
Storj recently moved from Atlanta to Salt Lake City, where they are currently stationed at Impact Hub. They launched beta mode over a month ago, have begun onboarding users, and are excited to get involved with the Utah startup community.
“Utah is growing really rapidly,” said Quinn. “There’s a great tech market here, you see it developing on the Silicon Slopes and down in Provo. There’s great developer bootcamps, DevMountain, DevPoint Labs, that kind of thing. There’s great tech programs at BYU and the U of U. It’s a market that is on its way up.”