A Solo Staker’s Guide

Constantly checking your Ethereum validator status?
Here’s some help to avoid this latest addiction.

Daniejjimenez
SafeStake

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It’s been just over a year since The Merge successfully replaced Ethereum’s energy-intensive Proof-of-Work (PoW) mining consensus mechanism with the more eco-friendly and community-oriented Proof-of-Stake (PoS) one.

To keep this PoS model as decentralized, secure, and resilient as possible, Solo Stakers, or those running validator nodes independent from centralized third-party staking services or staking pools, are required.

However, frustration may ensue for solo stakers. It is not necessarily easy to configure a node or keep the node online, and solo validators will almost surely lack the frequent block proposals that validators controlled by the large staking services such as Lido, Binance, and Coinbase enjoy.

Therefore, it is the solo stakers that stand out in the crowd of “decentralization killers,” proudly wearing a badge of honor and ensuring their nodes will not censor transactions, in an effort to stay true to the spirit of the Beacon Chain’s genesis.

The percentage of decentralized solo stakers (~7%) vs. centralized staking services (~93%)

Since the proper configuration and operation of a solo staking node requires the owner/operator to ensure the validator’s security and keep it online, it has become common for solo stakers to check their validator’s status over and over and over again.

However, real money is involved (and quite a bit of it!), and the fact doesn’t change that a solo staker’s validator is held to the same high standards that professional node operators are:

  • be online 24/7/365 to attest
  • keep the private key secure

However, given the scarcity of competent resources as compared to large centralized staking services, when something goes wrong for a solo staker, it may not be as fast or easy for them to fix.

At SafeStake, we believe it is some combination of the level of difficulty and risk associated with running a solo node that has led most stakers to choose a large centralized staking service.

Solo staking variables

In Ethereum’s Proof-of-Staking (PoS) model, there are some variables that every node operator must do their best to control in order to avoid penalties or slashing for their validator.

One of the most basic yet challenging requirements for solo stakers is to maintain a stable connection to the blockchain. This means ensuring a stable and fast internet connection to maintain node availability and avoid penalties for being offline or delayed.

If a node is frequently disconnected from the blockchain, the validator’s efficiency and effectiveness will be reduced, negatively affecting its overall staking rewards.

Just as uptime is crucial, monitoring and updating the software that runs a validator node is essential to avoid incompatibilities that could cause the node to underperform or be slashed.

Should solo stakers be worried?

To a certain degree, it is normal and warranted for solo stakers to be anxious about their validators, especially when they are solely responsible for their performance and security.

At the time of writing this article, the price of one ETH was around $2,250. Since 32 ETH must be staked to run a validator, each solo staker is risking a little over $72k for each validator they run. When this much money is on the line for each validator, uptime and security become paramount.

  • Uptime maximizes staking rewards (the reason for staking in the first place) by minimizing the small penalties the Beacon Chain hands out to validators that are offline when called on to attest.
  • Security (in the form of securing the validator private key) ensures a bad actor can’t steal the validator’s deposit or rewards, set a new withdrawal address, or use the validator in a malicious manner that could result in it being slashed. If a validator is slashed, it risks losing all of its funds and being forcibly removed from the network.

Tips to help solo stakers stay sane

If you’re a solo staker, there’s a lot you need to stay focused on. To help you avoid paranoia and the need to constantly monitor your validator nodes, we’d like to offer some simple tips:

1 Have a backup power source
A properly sized UPS (uninterruptible power supply/battery backup) for the machine that runs your validator node and internet connection can offer significant peace of mind, especially in areas with serious and constant power problems. A backup power source will help ensure the highest level of availability for your validator node to maximize staking rewards and minimize penalties for missed attestations.

2 Open a beaconcha.in account and turn on notifications
In addition to power problems, your validator node may experience outages due to Internet issues, unplanned software updates, or unanticipated network events. As such, these events affect the uptime and performance of your validator node. Knowing that beaconcha.in is always watching your node, a simple push notification on your smartphone may help you avoid the temptation to keep checking it yourself.

beaconcha.in validator monitoring

3 Other validator monitoring solutions
Beyond beaconcha.in, there are other simple validator monitoring solutions, such as rated.network, that can help you monitor your validator performance and rewards, and offer benchmarking services for professional node operators. This allows you to expand the range of options for configuring and customizing alerts for your validator, and show you performance metrics to shoot for to maximize rewards.

4 Use Distributed Validator Technology (DVT)
DVT solutions, like SafeStake, are gaining traction with solo stakers because of the enhanced security and high availability they offer, without the need for technical ability or expensive equipment. SafeStake is a game-changer for solo stakers, offering a low cost way to run a validator in a highly decentralized environment that provides greater than 99.97% uptime and where the validator private key is no longer required for the validator to operate properly. Compromising a validator becomes an impossible task, validator uptime is maximized, and constant monitoring isn’t necessary.

Learn more about SafeStake in this short video:

Final thoughts

To an extent, the anxiety many solo stakers feel in the current staking ecosystem is understandable and warranted. However, this anxiety can also lead to some potentially unhealthy behaviors when checking validator status becomes a full-time job in and of itself.

Currently, while a large number of solo stakers are technically savvy users of blockchain technology, it is important to remember that mass adoption will be driven by a new group of users who do not necessarily wish to engage with the technology beyond connecting a wallet and making a few simple choices.

Solo staking is the Gold Standard for a healthy, decentralized Ethereum. To improve the rather centralized Ethereum staking market that we see today with dominant players like Lido, Coinbase, and Binance, and avoid censorship and single points of failure, solo staking must evolve into something easier and more secure.

SafeStake is launching on Ethereum mainnet in February. When it does, we believe it will offer the best and most decentralized environment for solo stakers to run their validator nodes, and finally eliminate the need to constantly check validator status.

Want to test drive SafeStake? Visit https://testnet.safestake.xyz/

About SafeStake

SafeStake is a pioneering technology company focused on revolutionizing Ethereum staking. With its cutting-edge, decentralized Distributed Validator Technology (DVT), SafeStake provides an ultra-secure, fault-tolerant environment for Ethereum validators, maximizing staking rewards and minimizing penalties. SafeStake is committed to driving the growth, innovation, and decentralization of the Ethereum network while ensuring the security and prosperity of its participants.

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