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Secure NFT Storage: Which Solutions Provide the Best Long-Term Preservation?

Monisha Fernando
May 24, 2024
Decentralized Cloud Storage

In March 2021, music artist 3LAU made headlines by auctioning 33 audio-NFTs for $11.6 million USD. Each NFT owner could redeem it for an autographed vinyl and unreleased music. However, shortly after the auction, the NFT content became inaccessible online, raising concerns about its storage and discoverability. The implications of such occurrences are profound, especially for creators and owners whose digital assets are at stake. They emphasize the need for robust storage solutions.

According to Nasdaq, the global NFT market had surged to a valuation of $370 billion in 2022 alone–with projections indicating a 1,000-fold increase within the next decade. However, amidst the fervor of financial transactions lie pressing concerns regarding NFT preservation. Without adequate storage solutions, NFTs worth billions are at risk of disappearance. Recent analyses shed light on the severity of this issue. 

For instance, research by NFT.Storage revealed that approximately 6 million NFTs, valued at $345 million, are missing within the Ethereum NFT ecosystem. Additionally, Hedera’s examination of over 400,000 NFTs highlighted that nearly 20% lacked accessible metadata and artwork. These figures are indicative of suboptimal storage conditions. 

This isn’t a risk worth taking, particularly after investing significant time and effort in creating an NFT, or spending valuable resources purchasing it. With that in mind, continue reading to discover strategies that ensure the longevity and accessibility of your valuable digital assets.

The NFT Storage Options Available Today

It is crucial to note that NFTs themselves don’t store the digital asset. They function as unique tokens on the blockchain, linked to the actual content stored elsewhere. Such a separation requires robust storage solutions to ensure accessibility and preservation of the related digital asset. 

  • On-Chain NFT Storage

Here, both the smart contract code and the metadata, including the NFT definition and basic features, reside directly on the blockchain. This ensures their permanence and immutability, as they become part of the blockchain’s permanent record. 

However, on-chain storage faces limitations due to the inherent storage capacity constraints of blockchains. Additionally, relying solely on the blockchain for storage can impact transaction speed and efficiency. This makes it impractical for storing large amounts of data associated with extensive NFT collections.

  • Off-Chain NFT Storage 

In this approach, the actual digital content represented by the NFT is stored in external systems like centralized or decentralized servers. The smart contract on the blockchain acts as a bridge, containing information that points to the off-chain location where the content resides. This method offers greater flexibility for storing large files. 

Within off-chain storage options, you can choose between centralized and decentralized servers. 

Centralized storage consolidates all data in one location, making it vulnerable to outages, data breaches, and censorship, and often these servers are prime targets for cyberattacks which can compromise data integrity and accessibility. Additionally, users rely on the provider for data security and accessibility, limiting their control. 

In contrast, decentralized storage disperses data across multiple servers in a distributed network, enhancing security and making it more difficult to hack or tamper with. This approach eliminates single points of failure. It ensures continuous access even if some servers fail, and grants users full ownership and control over their data, with the flexibility to switch providers or increase redundancy as needed.

As evident, the vulnerabilities that come with centralized storage make it a less ideal option. Off-chain decentralized storage, today, is the best path to take when deciding where to store your NFT assets. The section below offers some excellent options for off-chain decentralized storage providers. 

Top NFT Storage Providers 

1. Züs Blimp Storage

Züs is a pioneering platform specifically designed to meet the rigorous demands of enterprise web applications. Unlike traditional decentralized storage protocols which may struggle with enterprise workloads, Züs protocols offer exceptional performance, security, and scalability. Züs real-time storage app, Blimp, exemplifies its enterprise-grade capabilities. Blimp surpasses the capabilities of AWS S3 and Glacier in security, availability, faster upload and download speeds, and lower cost. Additionally, Blimp scales effortlessly to accommodate the growing storage demands of large NFT media, ensuring Züs remains a future-proof solution for changing data requirements. 

PROS

  • High Upload and Download Speed: The data is split into fragments and uploaded and downloaded in parallel and the speed is only limited by the wire speed of the client, which in the case of a consumer would be close to the speedtest results.
  • High Transaction Speed: Features the fastest blockchain finality in its class with a block generation rate of 0.429s and a finality of 2-3s, enhancing user experience through rapid transaction processing for processes such as allocating storage, file operations, and changing settings.
  • Enhanced Security: Incorporates robust security measures, including a unique two-factor authentication (2FA) split-key technology that safeguards against mobile hacks and cyberattacks. In addition, Zus enables encrypted data sharing to ensure a secure and easy way to share private data, and immutable allocations to prevent ransomware attacks.
  • Customizable: Users can customize their storage experience by adjusting the number of data and parity shards in their allocations, as detailed in Züs’s allocation structure documentation. Users can also add and remove shards at any time to add redundancy, increase performance, or lower cost. 
  • Decentralized Control: Offers a truly decentralized platform with complete user control over file access.
  • Transparency: Provides full transparency on file storage locations. 
  • Free Egress: Allows free egress, making it cost-effective for users to access their data.
  • Lower Carbon Footprint: Comprises eco-friendly architecture using less disk space as opposed to traditional cloud providers, while still offering higher redundancy and availability. 
  • Cost-Efficient Geo-Redundancy: Facilitates the incorporation of geographically diverse backups at minimal cost, eliminating the need for full data duplication employed by traditional replication strategies.
  • Enhanced Robustness Through Geographic Distribution: Utilizes geographically distributed servers to bolster its resilience against outages caused by server, network, or data center failures.
  • Flexible Storage Solutions: Caters to diverse storage requirements by offering a choice between dedicated high-speed S3 servers exceeding traditional cloud storage performance or Züs-managed services.
  • Data Integrity: Utilizing blockchain, the open-source platform monitors all data handling processes to ensure that the data is preserved without alterations. It also confirms data integrity by conducting transparent, verified challenges to each server that stores fragments of your data.

CONS

  • Novelty: Züs is a relatively new player in the market, as opposed to NFT storage giants with established client bases.

2. IPFS

The IPFS or the Inter Planetary File System is a distributed network of computers that provide a decentralized storage system. This method facilitates quicker data retrieval via a peer-to-peer network. By accessing the files from the closest node, downtime and censorship are minimized, data permanence and security are increased, and the dependency on centralized servers is lessened.

PROS

  • Efficiency: Retrieves content from the nearest node available, enhancing efficiency and speed.
  • Cost Effective: Generates low hosting costs by distributing storage across multiple nodes.
  • Resilient: Decentralized and therefore resilient to censorship and node failures. 
  • Open Source: Open development opportunities due to open source nature.

CONS

  • Data Uncertainty: Incentives are needed to make nodes retain data and therefore data availability can be uncertain
  • Scalability Issues: May run into scalability issues as network and data grow.
  • Operational Complexity: Complex peer to peer networking nature that asks for higher data management skills.
  • Dependance: Performance can sharply depend on node availability across geographic locations
  • Centralized services: Most IPFS storage is offered today by centralized services such as nft.storage, pinata, filebase, and simplehash, where there is no transparency of server location and the storage is essentially centralized.

3. Arweave

Arweave offers a decentralized storage solution where users pay miners a one-time fee to permanently archive their data. This incentivizes miners to continually replicate the data, ensuring redundancy and high availability. However, the current replication rate might be unsustainable due to its high storage footprint. Furthermore Arweave lacks built-in encryption. However, third-party services like Akord can provide an additional layer of security through client-side encryption techniques. 

Notably, data stored on Arweave is immutable. Any changes necessitate a complete re-upload, leading to additional storage costs. Therefore, Arweave’s primary use case lies in permanently storing small, static data sets. This makes it ideal for applications like NFTs, where immutability and long-term availability are crucial.

PROS

  • Permanent Storage: Once data is uploaded, it remains there without a recurring fee
  • Security: Unique cryptography techniques are used to ensure data security.
  • Censorship Resistance: Once uploaded, data cannot be tampered with, changed or removed.
  • Sustainability: The unique economic model makes it easier to ensure long term profitability.

CONS

  • Cost Barrier: Ineffective for large data sets where upfront costs pose a barrier, and re-uploads for changes cause additional data costs.
  • Complexity for Users: Complex and not user friendly for users that are not familiar with blockchain technology.
  • Scalability Concerns: As data storage and users increases in volume, the service may slow down due to scalability issues. Arweave’s limitations regarding data modification and lack of built-in functionalities might not meet the requirements of enterprise-level applications with frequent data manipulation needs.
  • No incentive for retrieval of data: Since miners aren’t directly rewarded for data retrieval, dedicated gateways like Akord or Ardrive facilitate downloads. 
  • Limited Transparency: Location of miners not disclosed, raising concerns for some users.
  • Limited File Operations: Additionally, Arweave itself doesn’t offer native data sharing or editing functionalities. These features are typically provided by separate user interfaces built on top of the Arweave protocol.

4. Filecoin 

Filecoin leverages blockchain technology and the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) to create a decentralized cloud storage network. It utilizes a unique economic model based on the FIL token to incentivize users and miners. Users who require persistent data storage pay miners with FIL tokens to store their data on the network. Miners compete to fulfill these storage contracts, earning rewards based on verifiable storage capacity and successful data retrieval.

Filecoin employs a Proof-of-Replication (PoRep) consensus mechanism. Miners submit cryptographic proofs to the network, demonstrating that they are actively storing the assigned data. This ensures data redundancy and prevents miners from simply claiming to store data without actually doing so. 

PROS

  • Reduced Costs: The competitive marketplace system helps keep prices minimal.
  • Decentralization: Does not rely on centralized systems, increasing security and reliability.
  • Market Efficiency: Storage and retrieval markets match users’ needs with available resources.  Filecoin utilizes a retrieval market where miners can offer data retrieval services for additional compensation.

CONS

  • Slow Uploads: Filecoin’s deliberate encoding process discourages outsourcing attacks and verifies storage but leads to lengthy upload times, making it unsuitable for frequent data updates.
  • Uncertain Retrieval Costs: Retrieval fees are not directly tied to the protocol, leaving pricing at the discretion of individual storage providers.
  • Limited File Operations: Filecoin lacks built-in functionalities for editing, moving, copying, deleting, or sharing stored data.
  • Vendor Lock-In: Switching storage providers after a contract is established can be difficult, potentially reducing service quality over time.
  • Unsuitable for Small Files: Miners are incentivized towards storing large datasets, making Filecoin less attractive for smaller files typically used by consumers and enterprises.

5. Storj

Storj is a P2P decentralized storage system that provides its users with secure data storage across a distributed node network. Each file is individually encrypted, broken down into parts and distributed across a range of nodes. This ensures high security and resistance to tampering. Storj is based on a pay-as-you-go-model, providing flexibility to its users. 

PROS

  • High Security: Fragmented data spread across multiple nodes ensures high security..
  • Cost-effective: Users only pay for the storage they use, with competitive pricing. Competitive pricing is in place where users only have to pay for the storage space they use. 
  • User-Centric Model: The service model is community driven and open source which makes it likelier to develop in the direction the users seem fit. 

CONS

  • Variable Retrieval Speeds: Retrieval speeds are dependent on the availability of nodes in the geographical location. 
  • Network Dependence: Heavy reliance on the quality of nodes run by singular operators due to fragmented data retrieval.
  • Technical Barriers: Barriers to non-technical users as setup and use require technical proficiency.
  • Market-Driven Uncertainties: Costs and availability are subject to market conditions.

Quick Look

Features and Storage ProvidersZüs Blimp StorageIPFSArweaveFilecoinStorj
SecurityMulti-layer system Fragmentation, Proxy Re-encryption, Immutability, Blockchain tracking, Split-Key 2FAContent-addressingBlockchain TrackingBlockchain TrackingBlockchain Tracking
Transparency of providersFull transparency and flexibilityNoLimited transparencyLimited transparencyLimited transparency
CostFree egressBased on providerOne-time payment model, Reads not includedBased on providerStorage and Download Price 
PerformanceBetter than Web2 such as AWSInconsistentSlowSlow Good
Full File OperationsSupportedNot supportedNot supportedNot supportedNot supported
SustainabilityEco-friendly, smaller carbon footprint than traditional cloudN/AN/AN/AEco-friendly, smaller use of carbon footprint than traditional cloud
Unique FeaturesAbility to add and remove providers, user flexible design of a storage allocation for configurable security, availability and performanceContent addressPermanent storage solutionPrevent outsourcing attackVerifiable storage, community governance
Add Redundancy on the FlyYesNoNoNoNo
Multiple Geo Distributed RegionsYesNoNoNoNo
S3 EndpointCustom  and Dedicated for Each EnterpriseNoNoNoNo
Data IntegrityImplements blockchain technology to oversee all activities involved in data handling, ensuring no changes are made to the stored data and also uses blockchain for verifying the integrity of each server that stores data fragments by transparent challenges.No unique provision No unique provision No unique provision No unique provision 

Why Choose Züs Blimp storage for NFTs?

Züs (About Züs | Züs Docs) stands out as an optimal choice for NFT storage due to its unique blend of technological advancements and user-centric features, positioning it above other services in several key aspects:

  • Uncompromising Security: Züs’ multi-layer security system safeguards your NFTs. 
  • Transparency and Control: Züs provides full transparency over data storage locations, enabling you to tailor your storage strategy for optimal security and performance. (Server Map Page | Züs Docs). Züs also allows you to switch storage providers if you’re not happy with their performance, cost or geo-location.
  • Unparalleled Performance: Züs utilizes multiple servers for faster data retrieval and improved availability, exceeding even traditional SLAs. (Allocation | Züs Docs)
  • Eco-Conscious Storage: Züs prioritizes sustainability through erasure-coded storage, minimizing carbon footprint and resource consumption. 
  • Cost-Effective and User-Friendly: Züs offers free data egress and boasts an intuitive interface. Flexible storage options allow for easy switching without high costs. 

Endnotes

The decentralized storage landscape offers a diverse array of solutions for securing and preserving your NFTs. Each platform possesses unique strengths and caters to specific needs within the evolving NFT ecosystem. However, with the growing dynamism of NFTs, the quest for adapting current models into increasingly secure, convenient, reliable, and sustainable storage solutions is ongoing.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How do I choose an NFT storage provider? 

When evaluating your options, consider factors such as:

  • Data immutability and security
  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Ease of use and accessibility
  • How fast the data is rendered on the UI
  • Technical infrastructure and long-term viability 
  • Ability to add and remove a provider at any time because of location, price or performance.
  1. How does Züs enhance the security of my NFTs?

Züs utilizes a robust multi-layer security system to safeguard your NFTs:

  • Fragmented Storage: Your NFT data is split across multiple servers, minimizing the risk of a single point of failure and enhancing overall security.
  • Immutable Allocations: Once stored, your NFT data becomes immutable, meaning it cannot be tampered with or altered by unauthorized parties.
  • Split-key 2FA: Prevent hack of one device to compromise the wallet and its allocation and corresponding data content
  1. What is the difference between storing the NFT token and the actual content?

The NFT token is on a blockchain, acts like a certificate of ownership for the digital asset. The actual content, like the image or video associated with the NFT, needs separate storage solutions like Züs or Arweave.

  1. How does data permanence differ between on-chain and off-chain storage for NFTs?

On-chain storage integrates NFT data directly into the blockchain, ensuring its permanence and immutability. In contrast, off-chain storage relies on external systems or protocols, introducing potential challenges in data accessibility and longevity.

  1. How can creators ensure the long-term preservation of their NFTs?

Creators can utilize decentralized storage solutions that offer robust data preservation mechanisms, such as redundancy, immutability of the storage allocation, 2FA of all operations, encryption of data, and distributed data storage over several servers.

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