What is Permanent Data?

We throw around the term permanent data a lot at ArDrive. However, there is often confusion by the term permanent data.

We are all used to the items in our lives including our data not being permanent. Where have all of those school assignments, photos, and business records gone? So, with permanent data does that mean our data will never go away?

What does permanent data really mean? Data permanence means that the information stored on a blockchain – referred to as on-chain – will continue to exist just as it is, without any changes, continuously verified, and replicated. 

This does not necessarily refer to the length of time – only the character of the data stored: unchanging, replicated, and verified. The data will only be saved as long as the network that it is on is secure.

With this being said, the network that permanent data lives on has been designed to be extremely resilient so the data will remain unchanged and secure for long-periods of time.

Let’s take a deeper look at what makes up permanent data, and the confidence any person can have that this data will, even, outlive them.

What does permanence mean within blockchain data?

Permanence is a term that might sound complex, but it’s actually a simple concept, especially when we talk about it in the context of blockchain technology. Let’s break it down for a better understanding.

Firstly, permanence means:

  • Immutable: something that doesn’t change 
  • Verified continuously 
  • Replicated numerous times.

This is a key feature in blockchain technology, which is like a digital ledger or record-keeping system.

Imagine blockchain as a chain of blocks, where each block is like a digital box containing information. Once this box is filled with data and added to the chain, it can’t be changed or removed. It’s like writing something in pen in a notebook, where you can’t erase it.

This leads us to the idea of data permanence in blockchain. Data permanence means that the information stored on a blockchain – referred to as on-chain – will continue to exist just as it is, without any changes, for a very long time. It’s like storing a piece of information in a super secure digital vault that keeps it safe forever.

Why is this important? In today’s world, where we do so much online, having a place where information can be stored permanently and safely is really valuable. It’s especially important for things like financial records, legal documents, or even personal information. Think of it as a way to ensure that this data remains untouched and always available, just like a time capsule for digital information.

In summary, permanence in the context of blockchain means that data is permanently recorded on-chain and preserved in that state. 

Permanent Data: on-chain, immutable, verified, replicated aka can never be deleted

So we’ve figured out how to make data permanent but how do we make sure it will be stored for long periods of time?

What does permanent data mean for the longevity of the data?

The longevity of the data is as important as anything – we don’t want a storage system that lasts for a few months, or even just a few years. We have enough of those. 

So what is the best way to keep permanent data stored for long periods of time?

The data will only last as long as the strength of the system that it is in and hardware it is on.

Here are some of the systems and hardware we have used up to this present time:

  • Scrolls, paper, books, library
  • CDs, tapes, DVDs, VCRs, Blu-ray
  • USBs, RAM, hard drives
  • Cloud storage, corporations, subscription payments

These have all had successes, pain points, and failures in passing data from one year to the next. As any archivist knows – the problem of long-term data storage and preservation is a difficult one to overcome.

So can permanent data be part of the solution for long-term data storage? 

We think so. Here is why.

The permanent data on the Arweave blockchain that ArDrive is built on is a decentralized network with a compelling incentive structure to keep it going.

In other words, there are a lot (thousands and thousands) of different people storing the data and they have an ongoing monetary reward for doing so.

As expected the Arweave tech and economic model is robust and detailed and you can read a full explanation in the Can data really be stored forever article, but for now let’s go with the abbreviated version.

Economic model

The economic model of Arweave can best be described as, ‘pay a little now, save most for a rainy day’.

With each purchase of storage a little bit of it (16.67%) goes to fund the immediate storage.

But what about the future years?

The rest (83.33%) is put into an endowment as a rainy day fund if it is needed to cover costs.

So, when will the endowment be used? Not anytime soon.

In fact, the economics work out that the size of the endowment right how has enough to pay the holders of the data for 100s of years so they can cover their costs and make a profit.

As more data gets added to the Arweave network the size of the endowment keeps going up. The endowment provides a safety net payment for the data if storage prices go up. However, with falling storage price (as they almost always do) the Endownment may never even be needed.

How do you know if it is going to be around in 200 years?

The promise of the Arweave network has been that storage will last for 200 years. Obviously, nobody knows what things are going to be like in 200 years – so how can this promise be made?

We can’t transport ourselves into the future to see what things are like. However, what we can do is model different scenarios (many, many different scenarios) and create systems that will account for these.

The models and the systems that have been created give confidence that the data will live on for long-periods of time

Let’s compare some of the current systems to Arweave and see how they stack up.

Some of the other methods/systems that have been used for data storage: 

  • Paper – How many books, scrolls have been lost through the ages? Additionally, the sustainability of these is harder to preserve.

  • USB – On average a USB lasts 3 to 5 years; Hard Drives last 5-7 years. how many times have these failed? How well does the average person do at monitoring the state of these storage devices?

  • Cloud Storage – Cloud storage has seen tremendous use because of its utility. Even with this there are countless examples of lost data. Can a single corporation alone be trusted to store the data? What happens when you stop paying your monthly subscription?

All of these methods speak to the need for alternatives to help with long-term data storage.


What can we learn about how data is preserved on the Arweave network?

If all of the aforementioned methods and systems have their weaknesses how does Arweave compare in reliability for long-term preservation? With Arweave it is easy to check how any piece of data is doing.

Any transaction on the arweave network can be checked based on the transaction ID. When we look up the transaction number we can see:
  • What the actual data is (if it is public) and when it was uploaded to the blockchain
  • Number of confirmations of existence since being uploaded
  • Number of replications (how many copies of the set there are)
  • What the Permanent URL is
Here is a random sample of data from five years ago: So let’s take this transaction and compare it with the other methods of storage for the past five years and next five years to come in terms of reliability.

Comparison Chart of Data Storage Options

First Five Years of Storage

Storage Type Redundancy Verifications Payment
USB Depends on how many you have How often are your USBs checked? Purchased additional USBs
Hard Drive How many hard drives were made? How often is the hard drive checked? Purchase of hard drive
Cloud Services 2-3 copies Regular interval checks Monthly subscription
Permanent Data 15+ copies 6,000 per day One-time payment

Next Five Years of Storage

Storage Type Redundancy Verifications Payment
USB USBs typically last 10 years. Replacements may need to be purchased. How often is the USB checked? Purchase more USBs
Hard Drive Hard drives typically last 3-5 years. New ones may need to be purchased. How often are your hard drives checked? Purchase more hard drives
Cloud Services 2-3 copies Regular interval checks Keep on paying subscription
Permanent Data 15+ copies 6,000 per day No additional payment necessary

So comparing Permanent Data to a USB, Hard Drive or Cloud Account that you put on there 5 years ago, and looking at the next five years:  

  • What do we have more confidence 5 years from now, your USB or Arweave? 

  • Is your Hard Drive going to last another 10 years?

  • Can we trust a single cloud company with all our data? What happens when you stop paying your monthly subscription? Is this a good method for passing on data to future generations? Cloud solutions are part of the solution, but what needs to enhance this?

As we have compared storage solutions it is telling that on-chain permanent blockchain data it should give us confidence that permanent on-chain data storage will be with us for not only the next five years but will, most likely, outlive us.

This is truly helping the problem of long-term data preservation. 

Part of the Storage Solution

As time passes it will continue to show that permanent data is reliable as a long-term data solution.

Not only because the network supporting it is viable but, even more so, that it has kept the data it said it will keep while other systems continue to show their weaknesses.

As adoption of permanent data continues to increase we are eager to see it become more and more part of the storage solution for long-term data storage.

So when you try ArDrive and upload your first file, as we like to say, feel the difference permanence makes. Have the confidence that your file is safe, secure, and will last unchanged well into the future. 

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