CLOUD INFRASTRUCTURE

  • 02/04/2015
    8:00 AM
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Peer-To-Peer Cloud Storage Promises Security, Reliability

Cloud storage services that use a decentralized model for storing data offer a viable alternative, especially for SMBs.

Several new peer-to-peer cloud storage services are beginning to appear on the market, claiming strong security and reliable storage. Because data is stored in different locations, broken into blocks, further shred into fragments, it is nearly impossible for anyone besides the data owner to gain access to it. Let's take a closer look at these services and what they can offer businesses.

I've come to think of peer-to-peer cloud storage as something similar to the BitTorrent file distribution system. Torrent users speed up the file transmission by storing the same file, or portions of it, in multiple locations. When new users start to download any file, they also start sharing it the moment some blocks are downloaded. Since there is no “official” directory of BitTorrent file locations, it's almost impossible to stop distribution. 

A  peer-to-peer cloud storage service has several security and other benefits over a private cloud:

  • Data is stored and replicated in multiple locations and different countries, but divided into smaller “pieces.” This ensures data integrity while making it difficult for hackers to obtain a copy of the entire file.
  • The ability to download data from several sources simultaneously increases network speed.
  • International users get better performance by accessing data from locations in different regions.
  • It is more reliable because no single location stores the entire file, and no single company is responsible for it. Even if the provider (or tracker) stops working it will still be possible to retrieve the information.

BitTorrent Sync is a simple peer-to-peer cloud storage service. It offers unlimited storage capacity and the ability to sync files between devices using unique keys. If a user has several devices in the Sync network, the files are distributed across them, using the fastest path. This is different than traditional cloud services, which have to send files through centralized data centers. BitTorrent Sync is basically free; a premium service offers some additional features such a virus protection, video streaming and file conversions.

Another company using this concept, but focusing more on security is Tresorit. The Switzerland-based cloud company uses peer-to-peer cloud to distribute full encrypted files across its European network of servers. While the data is stored across several countries, they are protected by Swiss privacy laws. According to the company's website “No Tresorit admin, hacker or government can access your data. Hacking even just one file takes lifetimes.” To prove its point, the company offers a $50,000 bounty to anyone capable of breaching its service.

One of the leading peer-to-peer cloud storage companies is Symform. The five-year-old company is currently storing petabytes of information in a global peer-to-peer cloud composed of millions of server drives, NAS boxes and computer desktops across more than 180 countries. Each customer also becomes a node in this massive network, sharing storage space in exchange for better pricing. 

The company’s technology supports seamless scalability and provides benefits such as self-healing and self-protection that enable simple, non-disruptive technology migration. Everything is managed by means of a 100% web-based, centralized management cloud dashboard. Applications such as file-sharing, backup and archive are easy to setup, including user access, device management and bandwidth limitations. 

Last year, the Symform platform was acquired by Quantum, a  provider of specialized data protection and scale-out storage products for capturing, sharing and preserving digital assets.

Companies such as Google and Amazon are already distributing their cloud storage in different locations, offering fast access from different regions. But the data itself is stored in the companies’ servers, which makes them a potential target for hackers trying to obtain access to that confidential data.

Peer-to-peer cloud storage is probably not suitable for large corporations that need to manage huge amounts of data and need specialized services such as virtualization. But peer-to-peer is very attractive to SMBs looking to have easy access to their files online and share information with different office locations, providers and customers.

Still, I wouldn't encourage companies to trust peer-to-peer clouds as their only depository of data. Daily, or hourly, offline backups will provide peace of mind. 

Attend the live workshop, Making Cloud Storage Work for Your Organization, given by storage guru Howard Marks at Interop Las Vegas this spring. Don't miss out! Register now for Interop, April 27 to May 1, and receive $200 off.

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