Cloud Storage and the Sharing Economy: The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship

The future of the internet is decentralization. Centralized cloud storage is when a “cloud storage provider has one or a few data-centers located in a small geographical area” but decentralization of the internet is the concept of taking “the power of the Web away from powerful corporations and governments and [putting] it back in the hands of users.”

Whether it be social media, online lending, or search engines it is becoming clear that decentralization is cheaper, faster, and safer than the current status quo. This is not just a pie in the sky fantasy revolving around the dismantling of big business; decentralization is real and it is happening now.

One of the most prominent frontiers on the decentralization landscape is cloud storage. While the concept of the cloud sounds nebulous to most people, those who are well versed in cloud computing know this is not the case.

Having centralized data storage means that some entity such as Google or Amazon has ownership of the data in the cloud, usually in an unencrypted form. This centralization of data means one person or organization is in charge of what happens with said data and that data is not very well protected. We live in a time where data breaches are par for the course, and centralized data storage contributes to this.

When a cloud storage provider has its data centers in one area, it means that the entirety of one’s data exists in one jurisdiction. This means that if one’s data is subject to investigation, it is fairly easy for the government to obtain it all in one fell swoop. This can be the same issue within any centralized entity: it is inefficient and typically not well protected or monitored.

Enter the sharing economy. Most people are familiar with the sharing economy whether they know it or not. Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, and TaskRabbit are relevant examples of companies that are well known and occupy the sharing economy. An up and coming solution to the centralized nature of cloud storage borrows concepts from the sharing economy and involves block chain technology.

“Block chain, a public and decentralized ledger, is the simple, natural conclusion of any desire to record any human activity long-term without a centralized governing body.”

States should seriously consider using cloud storage in the form of block chain registries due to the problems created by centralized versus decentralized cloud storage. Privacy protection should be a priority but decentralized cloud storage means more efficiency and cost cutting for state and local governments in more ways than one:

“It is expected that with block chain registries, it will be possible for one person to verifiably transfer ownership of a car, a home or some other asset to another person without having to visit a government office or other third-party validator to confirm the transaction.”

One of the companies using block chain technology for cloud storage is Sia, which operates like Uber for cloud storage. On the Sia website, the mission statement reads in part, “Instead of all data centers being owned and operated by a single company, Sia opens the floodgates and allows anyone to make money by renting out their hard drive.” Instead of ride sharing, Sia is hoping to implement “storage sharing.” One can rent out the unused data on their devices to anyone in the world through a heavily encrypted peer-to-peer network.

This technology will make data storage cheaper and safer which, in turn, should make it an interesting proposition for businesses and individuals alike. Data breaches are very expensive for companies. Breaches are much cheaper to prevent than the cost of recovery after they happen.

While this should sound appealing to individuals who value the privacy of their data, state and local government should also take note of this burgeoning technology. There are a number of states already using cloud technology in the form of hosted services like email through Office 365 and there are CIOs from states like Ohio that have said they are looking into cloud storage.

Cloud based application hosting is not the future, it is the present. Almost every individual who is online utilizes the cloud. Many state governments use cloud based hosting apps. The next frontier is block chain in the form of decentralized cloud storage. Whether or not states and municipalities utilize the technology themselves, they must be cognizant of it. The cloud is not new, but block chain and decentralized cloud storage are. Attempts by state and federal agencies to regulate these technologies could prove disastrous for the innovation and widespread implementation of this revolutionary way to store and exchange data.

In Depth: Innovation

Whether improving processes, creating products or developing new ideas, the application of technology can enable real changes in how state government works, both in quality of services delivered to constituents, cost savings and quality of life. States have the opportunity in our national balance of government power, to address policy…

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