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New service wants to rent out your hard drive's extra space

Lucas Mearian | Jan. 13, 2015
Storj would allow anonymous users to store data on your drive.

While not a new concept, a new decentralized service is beta testing a peer-to-peer network that would "rent" unused capacity from your computer's hard drive as part of a cloud service to store files from other users.

The service, called Storj, uses the network and end-to-end encryption to allow the transfer of data to and from your computer's drive. Your hard drive is literally used to store other people's data.

During a crowdsourcing campaign last year, Storj garnered 910 Bitcoins valued at $461,802, according to the CoinDesk Bitcoin Price Index.

Users who rent out space on their hard drives earn "Storjcoin X" (SJCX), a form of currency that can be used to purchase capacity on Storj's "Driveshare" service.

Users earn the SJCXs by selling excess hard drive space with DriveShare, or use it to purchase space on the Storj Metadisk network using the company's file sharing app.

 Storj Metadisk file sharing app
Storj's Metadisk file sharing application main page

Users who want to store files on the peer-to-peer network simply drag and drop them into the Metadisk app, where they're then listed for viewing or retrieval. If a user wants to share a file with someone else, they simply click on a "copy URL" icon and send along the resulting URL.

The peer-to-peer cloud storage network allows users to transfer and share data without relying on a third-party data provider. Storj claims that by removing any form of central controls, it eliminates most traditional data failures and outages, "as well as significantly increasing security, privacy and data control."

The service works by first uploading a file-sharing application onto a user's computer then breaking file data into small 8MB or 32MB blocks, or "shards," as Storj calls them. Each block of data is encrypted with a unique hash, and then the pieces are distributed throughout the cloud network, according to a white paper the company published on its peer-to-peer storage technology.

The file blocks get distributed throughout the network on nodes called "DriveShares" located all over the world.

Storj uses hash chains or Merkle Trees, as they are sometimes called, to verify the contents of a file after it has been broken up into blocks or "leaves" off of a master or root hash.

Storj's file sharing process
An illustration of how a file is broken into blocks, each assigned a hash, and then distributed throughout a peer-to-peer file sharing network. Click on image to enlarge. Credit: Storj


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