With recent advancements in blockchain technology, people are wondering what real-world problems this tech can solve. One area that blockchain seems poised to disrupt is data storage.
How much data can be stored on a blockchain? Data stored on a blockchain varies from megabytes (MB) to petabytes (PB) depending on the blockchain. The most popular blockchains - Bitcoin and Ethereum - store very little data. But other blockchains like Arweave, Filecoin, Storj, and Sia have been purpose-built for next-generation data storage.
In this blog post, we will explore how blockchains are being used to store data and the capacity that they have to hold data.
The first blockchains: Bitcoin and Ethereum and data storage
Bitcoin data storage
The Bitcoin blockchain is often lauded for its security and transparency. Every transaction that has ever taken place on the Bitcoin network is immutably recorded on the blockchain. This means that you could go back and look at every single transaction that has ever been made on the Bitcoin network.
But is Bitcoin good for data storage? While Bitcoin faithfully records an open ledger of all the transactions that happen on it, this requires a relatively small amount of storage.
In reality, the Bitcoin blockchain is not very efficient when it comes to data storage. This is because every transaction recorded on the blockchain must be verified by the network before it can be added to the chain. This verification process requires a lot of computational power and processing time. As a result, the Bitcoin blockchain is currently only able to store around four transactions per second.
While some have hidden secret messages on Bitcoin, it's not the place for serious data storage.
As of December 2022 the Bitcoin blockchain has 440 GB of data stored on it. For comparison's sake, Dropbox gives 2000 GB of storage to its starting personal account.
Ethereum data storage
The Ethereum blockchain is home to digital money, global payments, and applications. The community has built a booming digital economy, bold new ways for creators to earn online, and continues to be at the forefront of computer science innovation.
Ethereum also supports data storage. Unlike Bitcoin, Ethereum has no limit on the size of its blocks. This means that the Ethereum blockchain can theoretically handle an unlimited number of transactions.
However, like Bitcoin, it's not a great place for data storage. High gas (transaction) fees and the high cost of storage make it impractical for most users. In Feb 2022, it cost $20,000 to store just 500KB on Ethereum.
Ethereum's main purpose is to record financial transactions and ownership changes - not data storage.
As of December 2022, the size of the Ethereum blockchain is 1055 GB. Again, this is much less than the introductory personal account on Dropbox.
In sum, Bitcoin and Ethereum are not well equipped for significant data storage. But other blockchain options available that are more suitable for data storage. Let's look at some of the blockchains that are focused on storage and how much they can hold.
ArDrive: Blockchain file storage app
Data storage on other blockchains
With the technical breakthroughs that Bitcoin and Ethereum provided it was only a matter of time until developers turned their eye toward using blockchain technology to store large quantities of data.
And why wouldn't they? There has to be a market for decentralized, low-cost data storage that is immutable, right?
By the mid-2010s, efforts started pouring into creating blockchains that made storing data in large quantities cost-efficient. The main blockchains that resulted from these efforts are Arweave, Filecoin, Storj, and Siacoin.
The total storage capacity (the amount that these blockchains can hold) involve numbers like 2.5 billion GBs or put another way, several times the size of today's internet. As well, each of them can upload files from small to large.
Let's take a look at these blockchains and see how much data you can store on each.
How much can you store on these blockchains?
The main players in the storage space are Filecoin and Arweave. Filecoin (like Siacoin and Storj) is based on a monthly subscription fee similar to what Amazon or Google would offer, whereas Arweave offers a one-time fee for permanent storage.
Let's look at both options to see what they offer in terms of storage.
Filecoin is a decentralized storage network where users pay miners to store their files on servers and nodes across the world. Filecoin is, at this time, the largest decentralized network.
The backbone of Filecoin is IPFS (InterPlanetary File System) which is a peer-to-peer distributed file system that allows users to store and share data in a decentralized manner. Filecoin is built on top of IPFS and uses it as a data storage layer.
The way to pay to get your files onto Filecoin is through a subscription service similar to the ones you would find with Amazon or Google. In the end, Filecoin is designed to compete with centralized storage providers such as Amazon S3 and Microsoft Azure, and will most assuredly have to become a low-cost producer of storage to survive.
What is the capacity of Filecoin? The Filecoin Network has reached 18 exbibytes (EiB) of data storage capabilities
What size of files can you upload to Filecoin? 64GiB or 68,182,605,824 bytes per file.
What if your dataset is too large? You can do an offline storage transfer for datasets over 64 GiB
Arweave is a decentralized storage protocol that backs data with sustainable and perpetual endowments, allowing users and developers to truly store data forever – for the very first time.
Arweave is a decentralized network that allows anyone to store data permanently and securely. It is designed to be censorship-resistant and allows users to upload any size of file.
Arweave is backed by a novel endowment model that provides perpetual funding for storage costs. This means that users only need to pay a one-time fee to store data permanently on Arweave.
Arweave has already stored more than 110 TBs of data on its blockchain, making it the largest blockchain in terms of data storage. You can check out all of the Arweave uploads stats here.
If you're looking for a blockchain option that is more suitable for long term data storage, Arweave is a good option to consider.
How much data can be stored on Arweave? Arweave has no limits on the amount of data that can be stored on it
What are the size limits for files on Arweave? There are no size limits for files on Arweave but you may be limited by the tools or apps you are using to put your files onto Arweave.
How can I use Arweave? There are many apps being built upon Arweave to help people get their files onto the network. Check out ardrive.io or arweave.net for help.