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Cubbit offers 'green' distributed cloud storage option

New EU startup aims to offer alternative to major cloud storage with a distributed model, offering increased security and potentially less environmental waste for a lower cost.

A cloud storage startup is looking to break the distributed storage mold in both the personal and commercial spaces.

Cubbit plans to make use of excess hard drive space in your computers, smart devices and other internet-connected products to store and share encrypted and sharded object storage among other Cubbit users. Customers can increase their total storage space in the cloud by allocating more of their own storage to other users.

Currently, however, the service's storage locations are limited to the company's own Cubbit Cell, a custom ARM-processor powered device with capacity ranging from 512 GB to 4 TB. These devices directly connect to users' routers and must remain on to continue storing and sharing data.

Customers can opt to buy the cell, which range in price from $341 for the 512 GB model and up to $588 for the 4 TB version, or pay for the amount of storage they want from Cubbit directly on a monthly basis using Cubbit as SaaS. Regardless of the chosen method, stored data is sharded into 36 object storage pieces and encrypted into the shared Cubbit network.

This initial buy-in and requirement to share using the Cubbit Cell also eliminates the need for incentives for users to share data, such as some kind of blockchain currency reward. The company also hopes their network will encourage a more "green" form of cloud computing by utilizing already existing hard drives and storage devices.

The company completed a funding round earlier this month after raising about $7 million, which follows successful Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns in 2019, which combined raised about $1.7 million.

Stefano Onofri, joint CEO and co-founder of CubbitStefano Onofri

The company said they have distributed a total of 3,500 Cubbit Cell devices thus far with the network active in 70 countries, storing 15 million files.

We spoke with Stefano Onofri, the CEO and a co-founder of Cubbit, to learn more about the service for enterprise users as the company rolls out "Cubbit for Teams."

Mind giving some background of how the company came to be?

Stefano Onofri: The journey of the company officially started when we incorporated in July of 2016 and the big R&D started back then.

Flash forward to today, thanks to the fundraising, we have just a bit more than 40 people working at the company. We have now finally shipped the first version of our software in cloud storage service for individuals and now we're launching for businesses too.

The software is active in 70 countries. We are ahead in shaping the software for the business. We are out to launch more enterprise services soon, thanks to the funding.

What businesses are you looking to target with "Cubbit for Teams?"

Onofri: Our target is not going to be huge corporations in order to get petabytes of infrastructure.

What we're doing is, we are gathering 50 to 100 companies and providing them the Cubbit Cells. They're going to have a dedicated network, we're going to reproduce the same technology which connects Cubbit cells in the home ... in order to build a dedicated network for these companies.

What's the resiliency and compliance of Cubbit's distributed network?

Onofri: The Cubbit Cells are the backbone of our distributed data center -- that's where your data lies. The cool part is the redundancy. We encrypt the data with an AES 256 key and we never, ever own the encryption keys which are related to [a] password. This is how Cubbit is a zero-knowledge system.

We never, ever put all our eggs in one basket. We split the data into 24 pieces, [we then] break the pieces from 24 to 36 in total. We spread the 36 pieces of data on 36 Cubbit Cells. In order to retrieve your file, you need any subset of the 24 pieces out of the 36 to restore your file.

The Cubbit Cells are the backbone of our distributed data center -- that's where your data lies.
Stefano OnofriCo-founder and CEO, Cubbit

We have developed a back-end solution that whenever we feel there are eight pieces of a file offline at any given moment, we restore the file and make sure it is duplicated with other nodes that are online.

The best way to make sure you're not vulnerable is to cooperate with other Cubbit Cells rather than trying to put all your eggs in Amazon's basket or using any limited on-prem technology.

The system allows us zero knowledge. Most of the requirements asked by the European Union, the GDPR, are met. For the way we build our architecture, we can make sure the files are sent to IPs within certain countries. ... If one of the variables you'd like to optimize is the geographical position of the nodes, you can optimize that.

What happens to my data if Cubbit goes under?

Onofri: If Cubbit ceases to exist as a company, you won't lose your data. It is very similar to what would happen in case a traditional cloud provider ceased to exist.

Users own the [Cubbit] Cells where their data is encrypted and stored. Cubbit runs the coordinator server that only manages [encrypted] metadata. And the coordinator can still keep running without the company being operational, as it can be released fully open source (which is exactly what we'd do in this scenario).

Also, always remember that you can download your data off Cubbit network at any time to save your local copy, just like any other cloud provider.

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