Spacemonkey: Encrypted Cloud Storage in the Fog

spacemonkeyIt arrived after nearly a year this week. Spacemonkey, a very new way of storing files in the Cloud. Very secure, very fast, and very beta still, it is an interesting piece of technology that is the first in a wave of products that will see personal data stored in the Cloud, but not in a data centre. The marketing hype for that is “fog”, beyond Cloud, Fog connects device to device across the world rather than back to central Clouds.

Here is how Spacemonkey works. It sits on your local network and plugs directly into the router and has one terabyte of useable space. You get a share on your local devices to which you can copy whatever you like. No different at this point than Western Digitial and other similar products that then let you create a secure share that allows you to access the files wherever you are, provided your local device and network are powered up.

Here is where Spacemonkey turbo boosts the concept of personal Cloud.

It uses strong encryption on the device based on your pass code so that the data is encrypted at source.

“Each user in the Space Monkey network is given a unique public/private RSA key pair. This credential is protected by the user’s password, and is managed primarily by the device in the user’s possession. Optionally, Space Monkey, Inc. holds a copy of this credential as well, in order to provide central access via the web and in order to provide a backup in case the user loses their copy.”

Yeah yeah so what, lots of things do that I hear you say.

The next thing that Spacemonkey does is chop your encrypted files into a lot of pieces that are then fired out onto the Spacemonkey network to be stored on other Spacemonkey devices.

“When a file is stored to the Space Monkey network, it is first transferred to the user’s home device, where it is encrypted. After encryption is applied, the data is erasure-coded — a technique that adds some redundancy using linear algebra to chop up the encrypted data into small pieces — and then each small, encrypted chunk of data is stored to a distinct geographical location in the Space Monkey network. This scheme allows data to be restored in the face of many individual failures, but also makes attacking the system very difficult; in order to be successful, an attacker would need to compromise dozens of individual devices in distinct geographies, and even then, would still need to get access to the user’s encryption keys in order to make any sense of the data at all. This is a much higher bar for attack than is possible in cloud datacenters.”

That means that as long as I have my key, I can access those files anywhere anytime just like normal Cloud. On the back of the one terabyte of disc that you can access hidden from view is another two terabytes of disc that store other users in the network data. Similar to Torrents then, you are having your data protected while protecting other’s data at the same time.

They smart among you will figure out that is going to mean more network traffic, it doesn’t seem to translate that way, as you can see from the network usage stats below.


I plugged in Spacemonkey on the 16th and you can see the yellow traffic heading out, being the first synchronisation of my data with the rest of the network over the next few days up until now. They download traffic is reasonably unchanged.

There are some downsides to the beta, mostly functionality, for example you can’t share entire directories of your data with others, you can only share files individually using a hash link. This means I won’t be giving up Box just yet because I need to be able to share my data with a lot of people. Here is an example of a five megabyte shared file on the network.

I haven’t experimented with installing it on multiple machines yet, that’s something that I will do in the next few days, so I can’t tell you if that works or not yet. Regardless, it will be something it needs in the future.

Spacemonkey is fast.

“Typical upload/download speeds for popular cloud services average several hundred kilobits per second, and often top out at about half a megabit per second. Space Monkey, even on some of the cheapest consumer DSL bandwidth tiers, has more bandwidth available per user. And for users on high speed broadband, this advantage is multiplied; 25-30 times faster speeds are currently possible, and we expect to be able to increase this gap through performance tuning as the product matures. A distributed storage system like Space Monkey has fundamental capability and speed advantages over highly-centralized datacenter offerings, and these advantages translate directly into better performance for users.”

My perception is that it is a lot faster than other Cloud offerings I have experimented with. It comes with the other usual bells and whistles including smart phone apps. You can’t buy it in New Zealand yet, it is $219 USD up front and then $49 every year after that for a terabyte of storage. You can of course buy it on EBay, here’s a listing here for those of you that are quick! So the upsides:

  • A lot of storage for not a lot.
  • Very fast.
  • Very secure.
  • One of the first commercial “grid” products, getting data out of the data centre.

And downsides:

  • Still in beta.
  • Needs much better sharing and multiple user capability.





  1. I suspect we’ll more products like this enter the market as the fibre rolls out. I’m not entirely convinced of the need for it, maybe the money would be better spent on cloud storage.

    1. I think it’s the speed and security. When you are at home, or in the office, it’s right there with you. Plus, it’s seriously encrypted and then smashed into multiple pieces making it difficult to hack.

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