Peer-to-Peer Technology to Trump Traditional Cloud Storage

On a lovely Thursday afternoon in June, I sat down with Sarah Koo, a data scientist with BitTorrent. I grew up in a time and place where Peer-to-Peer (P2P) transfer was almost commonplace, and I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to learn more about this unique technology.


When Peer-to-Peer transfer is mentioned, the subject of copyright protection is the first thing to come to mind. Though P2P transfer is used, at times, to download Game of Thrones, the technology itself is an innovative protocol designed to efficiently transfer large files. I want to make an explicit statement that neither I, Sarah, nor BitTorrent, condones any forms of illegal file transfers. I am advocating the technology itself, which is commonly used in both academia and business. 


Bram Cohen created the Peer-to-Peer transfer protocol about a decade ago. This genius literally coded the program by himself in his bedroom, like many of our city’s tech entrepreneurs. Traditional file transfer protocols connected downloaders to a single server for direct file transfers. If there were 100 users downloading the same file, all these users would connect to the same server. Such traditional methods resulted in significant speed reductions and heavy server strain as demand for the file increased. Cohen's application created a distinct virtual network per file that allowed any invited users to help with distribution.

a protocol that created a virtual network based on the file itself, thus anyone within the network can help distribute the file

Lets say UC Berkeley is working on a massive database, and it needs to distribute it to 10,000 researchers across the country. If each of these 10,000 researchers downloads the file directly from the Cal server, the strain on the single server is intense and extremely inefficient. P2P transfer creates a network that links all invited researchers together, and once any researcher finishes downloading the database, he can act as a file distributor for other researchers within the network. Thus, the strain of distributing the database is crowd sourced to all its participants. 

BitTorrent, the most popular P2P transfer application, breaks down large files into small segments for even more efficient distribution. If the database described above is 20-gigabytes; BitTorrent could break down the file into 20 equal sized 1-gigabyte files. “If I request the file from peers, I can be getting it from 20 different people at the same time.” Thus, each peer only needs to distribute 1/20th of the overall load.

breaks down large files into small segments for more efficient distribution

Because BitTorrent breaks down files into many individual segments, peers can act as distributors the moment they finish downloading any piece of the overall file. Once all the segments are downloaded, BitTorrent reassembles the original file as whole. The ability to deconstruct files and then reassemble the segments after the transfer protocol is complete is groundbreaking, especially in the field of cloud storage.

BitTorrent has utilized this technology to build sync applications that are commonly used in industries such as video editing. In Hollywood, uncut video files run in the hundreds of gigabytes. If multiple video editors are working on the same film, it’s inefficient to retransfer the whole video anytime a minute change is made. Many editors utilize this segmentation technology to transfer and sync only the portions that were altered. Instead of retransferring the whole 100gb video, Hollywood only transfers the 1gb scene that was actually edited. Now that’s efficiency.


In our current age of NSA surveillance and CISPA interrogation, privacy and security has become a major concern. BitTorrent is unique among cloud storage applications, because it’s only a protocol, and not a storage system. “There’s no copy of (your files) on our cloud.” “If the government would be to subpoena our records, we wouldn’t have anything to turn over.”

“If the government would be to subpoena our records, we wouldn’t have anything to turn over.”

The lack of centralized storage acts as both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, your files never leave your possession; on the other hand, there’s no backup other than your own. Obviously, there are ways to alleviate this issue, but it’s something to keep in mind. I want to emphasis again that BitTorrent is only a protocol, not a storage service. 

Finally, I want to mention another firm that utilizes a similar technology, or at least one that I found to be of some interest. Bitcasa acts as a traditional cloud storage service, but it’s developing a technology called Infinite Drive: When a duplicate file is uploaded, the protocol searches its database for preexisting files, and earmarks the original without uploading the duplicate. 

If two teenage girls upload the same Justin Bieber album, only one copy is actually stored on Bitcasa's servers. When the album is downloaded, both users access the same file. The technology is interesting, but there are significant areas of concern. If one user alters the album, how would it affect related users who share the same download address. I don’t think this technology is ready for widespread use, but it’s something to look out for in the future.

the word “traditional” to describe cloud storage

It’s funny; it seems like it was only yesterday that Dropbox launched, but this Generation Y technology has already become old news. Earlier in this article, I, inadvertently, used the word “traditional” to describe cloud storage; might as well get out the cane and monocle while at it. The future of file storage will take advantage of Peer-to-Peer transfer protocol. It’s an ingenious method that enables crowd sourcing to distribute large files, and it's capabilities are greatly magnified by BitTorrent’s segmentation technology.

Peer-to-Peer file transfer is secure; but more importantly, it’s efficient.

  • The Next Wave Of Enterprise Software Powered By Machine Learning

    Jul 27, 2015 | 20:00 pm

    The Next Wave Of Enterprise Software Powered By Machine Learning  Enterprise software is about to undergo radical transformation — a substantial change that will make the shift to software as a service (SaaS) look like a simple facelift. This transformation is being powered by machine learning. Read More

  • China's answer to the Tesla Model S: The Youxia X

    Jul 27, 2015 | 18:42 pm

    China's answer to the Tesla Model S: The Youxia X What happens when you combine a Tesla Model S with KITT from the TV show Knight Rider? Answer: The Youxia X. Chinese startup Youxia Motors announced its first ever production car, the all-electric X, at an event Sunday evening, according to Car News China. See also: Tesla's Ludicrous Mode will push Model S from 0 to 60 mph in 2.8 seconds The Youxia X isn't quite as blatant a rip-off as some other Chinese cars, but its design inspiration should be obvious to anyone who has seen a Tesla. It looks mostly like a Model S — down to the tall touchscreen center console and the retracting door handles — with design cues from Lexus, Audi and Maserati thrown in for good measure. Read more...More about China, Tesla, Electric Cars, Tech, and Gadgets

  • Smithsonian’s Giant Leap Into Kickstarter Pays Off

    Jul 27, 2015 | 18:05 pm

    Smithsonian’s Giant Leap Into Kickstarter Pays Off  Millions of Americans gathered around small black and white television sets in the hot July of 1969 to watch Neil Armstrong step off the Apollo 11 spacecraft and set his left boot onto untouched moon dust. Armstrong would go down in history as the first man to ever walk on the moon. Armstrong’s suit is now much older and in bad need of repair. So the Smithsonian launched a… Read More

  • Restaurant Delivery Startup Deliveroo Raises $70M Series C

    Jul 27, 2015 | 18:01 pm

    Restaurant Delivery Startup Deliveroo Raises $70M Series C  Deliveroo, the ‘on-demand’ startup that offers food delivery from premium restaurants that don’t traditionally offer a take-out service, appears to be on somewhat of a roll. Today the company is disclosing $70 million in new funding, money it plans to use for further international expansion. Read More

  • London’s Deliveroo devours $70M in fresh funding to grow its premium meal-delivery service globally

    Jul 27, 2015 | 18:00 pm

    The U.K-based food-delivery startup is fattening up for aggressive expansion across Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

  • Samsung event invite teases the Galaxy S6 Edge Plus

    Jul 27, 2015 | 17:49 pm

    Samsung event invite teases the Galaxy S6 Edge Plus Get ready for some new Samsung Galaxy devices. The Korean electronics giant sent out invitations to the press Monday for another one of its "Unpacked" events to be held on August 13 in New York city. The event will start at 11 a.m. ET. See also: Smartphones don't get more utilitarian than Samsung's Galaxy S6 Active The minimalist invite shows a bunch of waves in a rectangular outline. It's possible the invitation is teasing the much-rumored Galaxy S6 Edge Plus. The way the waves taper off in the invitation are reminiscent of the curved edges of the S6 Edge, suggesting we'll soon see a larger version Read more...More about Android, Samsung, Smartphones, Galaxy, and Tech

  • Operative launches online eye exams, so you can get a prescription right from your desktop

    Jul 27, 2015 | 17:42 pm

    Running a mobile phone app in conjunction with a desktop app, consumers can take an online refractive eye exam in less than 25 minutes.

  • Up to 950 million Android devices are vulnerable to texting hack, report says

    Jul 27, 2015 | 17:38 pm

    Up to 950 million Android devices are vulnerable to texting hack, report says A major security flaw in some Android devices would only require the attacker to have your cell phone number, according to security research firm Zimperium. The flaw involves a remote code execution that could be initiated by sending the target Android smartphone user a text message See also: Revealed: The NSA's plan to 'hijack' Android app stores "Attackers only need your mobile number," Zimperium's security report said on Monday. "Using [that] they can remotely execute code via a specially crafted media file delivered via MMS." Even more troubling, the firm says that the message could be deleted before the user even gets to read it — with nothing but a notification appearing on the handset Read more...More about Hacking, Android, Tech, Apps Software, and Dev Design

  • Opternative’s Online Eye Exam Gets You A Glasses Prescription From Home

    Jul 27, 2015 | 17:30 pm

    Opternative’s Online Eye Exam Gets You A Glasses Prescription From Home  The annoyance of going to the doctor keeps tons of people from finding out if they need glasses or updating their prescription. But it turns out you don’t need one of those giant multi-lens machines to do an eye exam. Opternative has passed its clinical trials and today launched its $40 online eye exam. All you need is a computer, smartphone, wifi, and 25 minutes to take its test about… Read More

  • PragueCrunch IV Is Coming

    Jul 27, 2015 | 17:15 pm

    PragueCrunch IV Is Coming  PragueCrunch IV is an annual celebration of all things central European and startupy and it’s coming back on Friday, July 31, 2015 from 7:00 PM to 11:00 PM (CEST). We’ll be holding the event on the terrace at Střelecký Ostrov. If you’ve been to any of the previous events you’ll know it’s a good time. We have special early-bird tickets available now right here so… Read More

  • Musk, Wozniak, top scientists sound the alarm about Artificial Intelligence 'arms race'

    Jul 27, 2015 | 17:06 pm

    Musk, Wozniak, top scientists sound the alarm about Artificial Intelligence 'arms race' Robots probably won't kill people, but people could kill people with robots. That's the concern of an open letter signed by scientists and other interested parties — including Elon Musk, Steve Wozniak and Stephen Hawking Here's what the letter said: If any major military power pushes ahead with AI weapon development, a global arms race is virtually inevitable, and the endpoint of this technological trajectory is obvious: autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow. See also: Team KAIST won the 2015 DARPA Robotics Challenge, so now what? The Future of Life Institute, the volunteer-backed research organization which posted the letter, aims to "maximize the future benefits of AI while avoiding pitfalls," according to its website. In January, it published an open letter, also signed by Musk, Hawking and Wozniak, on the need to make AI systems both "robust and beneficial." Read more...More about Steve Wozniak, Robots, Artificial Intelligence, Elon Musk, and Tech

  • Behold: A mouse and keyboard designed for your PlayStation 4

    Jul 27, 2015 | 16:57 pm

    Behold: A mouse and keyboard designed for your PlayStation 4 Gaming consoles keep things simple. You don't have to fiddle with the operating system, and user-friendliness always comes first. And, perhaps most importantly, joysticks and buttons control everything. Hori's looking to change that for PlayStation 4 fans with the upcoming Tactical Assault Commander 4, which is basically a reduced-sized keyboard that has a USB mouse attached to it. If you've ever wanted to pair smooth, reliable console gaming with PC-style mouse/keyboard controls, take note. See also: Using your mouse on Xbox One may soon be possible The unusual-looking controller uses a keyboard-lite layout for basic movement and interaction controls. It looks like the button layout works best with Call of Duty-style first-person shooter controls, but it's hard to say how customizable the whole thing is at this point. The Amazon UK listing indicates there are "programmable buttons," but there's no product listing yet on Hori's UK website. Read more...More about Entertainment, Gadgets, Gaming, Tech, and Hori