A look at Filebase, a S3-compatible object storage built on Sia
As decentralized storage projects mature, actually working products built on top of them are being released. During one of my recent research days, i was contacted by the Filebase team.
This article documents my testing of Filebase, a new service built on Sia Tech that aims to provide a S3-compatible object storage. At a fraction of the price you would pay with Amazon and with a nice UI for the initial setup.
As usual, all my public work is available for free. I didn’t receive anything for my testing.
Before i present the impressions from my first few tests, let’s get some terms out of the way.
What is Amazon S3?
Amazon S3 has a simple web services interface that you can use to store and retrieve any amount of data, at any time, from anywhere on the web. It gives any developer access to the same highly scalable, reliable, fast, inexpensive data storage infrastructure that Amazon uses to run its own global network of web sites. The service aims to maximize benefits of scale and to pass those benefits on to developers.
While S3 is aimed at developers, the service can be used pretty much by anyone looking to store data. S3 became so popular among developers, that a lot of free, open source and paid alternatives exist today. Check the official documentation if you want to learn more about the technical details.
What is Sia?
Sia is one of the few legit projects in crypto that simply keeps on developing and expanding their offerings. While it still has a lot of room to improve, it is likely the leading decentralized cloud storage platform.
The Sia network is special because it has no signups, no servers, no trusted third parties and is the backbone for a data storage marketplace that aims to be more robust AND affordable than traditional cloud storage providers.
What are Filebase goals?
This quote by the Filebase team nicely summarizes their goals imho:
With Filebase, users don’t have to worry about the complexity that comes with storing data on the Sia network. Things like managing Siacoins, syncing the blockchain, and keeping a machine online to maintain file contracts are all taken care of for you.
Questions for the team:
Before digging into the actual setup i wanted to get a few answers from the team to see how they related to the Sia project and what their long term goals for the products are. Especially since Filebase pretty much came out of nowhere. I sent these questions to the team a couple of days ago and answers were kindly provided by the Filebase team via email.
Question: What makes Filebase an interesting alternative to other providers?
Some of the primary benefits to use Filebase over other cloud providers out there today are:
- Flat-rate price structure — Starting at $5/mo for just 1TB
- No request or egress fees — People take this for granted and assume a pay-as-you-go model may be cheaper, but we’ve found customers like to interact with their data…. a lot.
Being charged for each API request and download doesn’t make sense to us. Cloud storage costs should be predictable, and we feel that simple, especially in the cloud — Is always is best.
Question: How can I verify my files are actually on Sia? — Would I be able to restore my data if you went out of business tomorrow?
Answer: Short Answer — as of today you cannot with our current version.
With the release of upcoming versions of Sia, we expect that our customer’s interaction of “their data” will become easier to manage and present. We’re focused on delivering a brain-dead simple way for our customers to store their data *without* interfacing with the Sia daemon etc — Our business model is tailored towards keeping things simple and easy to use/understand.
We understand situations happen where customers become concerned about the “longevity” of their data and we’re focused around that as-well.
Question: What new features are on your roadmap in the next few months?
Answer: Very focused currently around Customer UI. Things like public file sharing, more usability within buckets, adding support for more API commands and a better mobile experience are at the top of our list.
We don’t publicly share our roadmap but we will be developing and highlighting new features to the Sia community and our customer base immediately.
Question: What is your relationship with Sia / NebulousLabs?
Answer: We’re very excited to be apart of the Sia community and look to become through-leaders over the next few years in our own way.
We’ve been long-time supporters of the community lurking in the background over the years while we’ve been building this project and as we’ve only been out of stealth mode now for a little over a week, there’s a lot we can do to engage closer with the community moving forward. We appreciate the support of Nebulous and the core team to-date, plan on staying in close contact with them — Assisting however possible in improving the platform as we uncover or experience issues working to help everyone build a better experience.
Today we interact with the public community in a variety of ways:
- Sia Discord Channel (under @filebase)
- Twitter (@_filebase),
- r/siacoin reddit sub (@filebase)
- Can always be found at hello@filebase for immediate replies.
Question: What does your infrastructure look like (in layman terms)?
Answer: We’re very lucky to have amazing partners that support us. We’re built on DigitalOcean and partner very closely with them to provide our back-end needs.
By taking advantage of cutting edge technologies such as Kubernetes, we’re able to quickly scale and manage Sia daemon instances. This allows us to create storage capacity to meet the demands of our users.
Setup & using Filebase
After this baseline research, i wanted to see how they actually implemented the first iteration of the product. I know the standard Sia experience very well and was keen to see how a commercially oriented service built on top of the Sia network would look and feel like.
This first test will probably be followed by a more in-depth article after the setup is up and running for a while. I also want to learn more at the technical details of the solution like encryption used and replication.
Filebase comes with a free 5 GB plan, i picked that one for testing. All you need for the sign-up is the typical data most internet service providers request. Name, e-mail and a password.
Creating your first bucket
After login, the first thing to do is create a bucket to store our files. Click the “Create bucket” button and give the bucket a name.
Some restrictions apply:
Bucket name must be unique across all Filebase users, be between 3 and 63 characters long, and can contain only lowercase characters, numbers, and dashes.
This is not a limitation of Filebase btw, but something that Amazon also imposes for S3 buckets.
Adding files and folders to your bucket
Since Filebase is compatible to S3, we have a couple of options how to interact with the service.
To access the S3 bucket via 3rd party tooling, you need some credentials that can be found on the account settings page of your Filebase account.
GUI access test
For my first tests i used the software that was available on my laptop already. Cyberduck and Arq are both solid pieces of software and i happily paid for both.
No surprises during my basic testing, you can see the required settings for both programs below.
Command line access with s3cmd
I couldn’t get this to work during my first tests and asked the team for some pointers.
CloudMounter / Transmit / S3CMD and as you can imagine a laundry list of others are on our near-term focus list….
Currently we have “certified” and are working to publish “how-to’s” shortly for the following: Cyberduck, Arq and Duplicati
AWS CLI works as-well. :)
So it seems they are currently working on improving the compatibility for various tools. That’s great!
The Sia network keeps growing and more and more service are being developed and deployed by service providers. Filebase is a nice and convenient service powered by the Sia network that you want to keep in mind. The free 5GB plan is enough to backup the most important documents. Personally, i’d recommend to encrypt the data before storing it on their service to be on the safe side.
Additionally, right now there is basically no way for us to tell if the data is actually stored on the Sia network at all. The provided answers by the team are encouraging though and the MVP looks great overall if you consider what magic is supposed to happen behind the scenes of the simple web interface.
Con: Not able to verify Filebase is actually using Sia. Terms of service might not be for everyone. Initially mounting the service with external tools requires some technical expertise.
Pro: Quite attractive pricing, free 5 GB plan and easy to use once setup.