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Sia Renting Guide

Learn how to rent cheap storage on the Sia network.


Introduction

Some things to know about renting storage on the Sia network.

Last Updated August 14, 2020

This guide will help you get set up as a renter on the Sia network. The guide is writting using Sia v1.5.0 with examples for Windows. The instructions provided should apply to the Sia-UI on all major operating systems.

Renting Limitations and Considerations

There are a few things you may want to know about before you decide to rent storage on Sia. If you haven't yet, we'd also recommend reading through our Renting section to learn more about how renting on Sia works.

Notice: Sia is still in development. While fairly rare at this point, various renting issues have been reported that sometimes result in excessive spending of Siacoins, inability to recover data, or both. It is not currently recommended to store critical data on Sia without having another backup elsewhere.

Ready to get started? Read on!


Prerequisites

The following items need to be completed before you can continue.

Prerequisite 1 Required

Download the Sia-UI Client and Set Up a Wallet

To rent storage on Sia, you must first install the Sia-UI Client and fully synchronize it. If you haven't done this yet, instructions on doing so can be found in our Wallet Setup Guide.

Prerequisite 2 Required

Acquire Siacoins

You'll need some Siacoins to rent storage on the Sia network. Storage isn't free! Instructions on buying Siacoins can be found in our Guide to Buying Siacoins.

Before you continue, make sure you've taken care of these steps first.


After Prerequisites Are Complete

All set on the prerequisites? Let's get started!

Step 1: Verify Sia Sees Sufficient Hosts

Before we start configuring anything, we want to make sure our Sia client has been in contact with a sufficient number of hosts. There are two reasons this is important: first, if we're not contacting many hosts, we may end up with hosts that are higher priced or poorly ranked compared to if we had more hosts to choose from. Second, if Sia is having trouble finding hosts, we want to know if there might be some sort of network or communication issue before we start spending any Siacoins on anything, and get that issue fixed first.

To check that your client has a good sampling of hosts, open Sia, click the Terminal (>) icon at the top of the window, and type in renter prices and press enter. Compare the prices shown with these:

Whoops! We're having trouble updating our prices with real-time data right now. As a backup option, please click here to view the same prices on SiaStats.info.
Fees for Creating a Set of Contracts:

??? SC Current Prices

Download 1 TB:

??? SC Current Prices

Store 1 TB for 1 Month:

??? SC Current Prices

Upload 1 TB:

??? SC Current Prices

If your prices are less than these prices, or no more than about 25% higher, everything is good and your Sia client has an accurate sampling of hosts. Continue to Step 2. If your prices are much higher, click on the panel below to expand troubleshooting information before continuing.

If your renter prices are much higher than the ones above

If the prices shown when you type renter prices into the Terminal are much higher than what you see above, try/check the following items in this order:

  1. Make sure your Sia-UI Client shows as "Synced" and is not still trying to sync. If your client is not synchronized, it doesn't have a current list of hosts available, so prices will not be accurate.
  2. If you just installed Sia, let it run for several hours and try renter prices again later. Your Sia client needs time to contact hosts and determine which ones exist, if they can be reached, and what their prices are.
  3. If you've left Sia open for several hours with no improvement to the renter prices output, you may have a network issue, or the ports Sia uses to communicate with other clients may be blocked. Verify Sia isn't blocked by a firewall. If you're on a school or corporate network, Sia may be blocked by the network administrator.
Notice: If you continue and set up renting while high prices are returned from renter prices, those are the prices you are likely to pay. It's worthwhile to figure out why your Sia client is having an issue getting accurate host prices before you start renting.
If you see a "Could not read the renter prices" error

You may see an error that says something similar to:

 Could not read the renter prices: [failed to get reader response; GET request error; [could not generate estimate, could not get random hosts; initial hostdb scan is not yet completed]] 

If so, let Sia sit open for about 15 minutes and try running renter prices again - as the error says, Sia has not finished scanning or building a database of hosts, and this step will need to complete before you begin renting to ensure you receive good prices as a renter.


Step 2: Determine a Starting Allowance

We rent storage on Sia by creating an Allowance, which is basically a limit on how many Siacoins we're willing to spend when renting. Based on the current prices for storage and other fees, we can make a rough guess on where a good starting point for our allowance should be set. If you want to learn more about allowances, click here.

Sia-UI v1.4.0+ makes this process a bit easier by collecting information about your storage plans, and making an allowance recommendation. However, even though we just ran renter prices to see what we can expect, Sia's recommendations don't seem to account for those prices - Sia always seems to suggest you can get 1 TB of storage for 3 months for 500 SC, which is not true unless Siacoins prices are very high.

You can either use the built-in Sia allowance calculator, or you can use our Renter Tools (opens in a new window) which uses actual current average prices similar to what we showed you above. With our calculator, enter the amount of storage you plan to rent, how long you need it for, and how much you plan to upload/download. Take note of the Recommended Allowance at the bottom of the calculator for the next step. If you're not sure how much storage you'll need, the calculator will give you pricing and a recommended allowance for 1 TB of storage for 3 Months by default.


Step 3: Create a Renter Allowance

Open the Sia-UI and click on the Rent tab on the left. In the middle of the Renting pane, click the Setup Allowance button to set up your allowance for renting.

The Rent tab, where we can manage our storage purchase as a renter.

Remember that we can allocate as many coins as we want to our renter allowance, and we'll only pay for the storage and bandwidth that we actually use. However, if we want to cap our spending on storage and bandwidth fees, it's a good idea to set an allowance that's close to what we'd expect to spend. This will prevent our spending from going out of control if we upload or download a lot of data, or somehow accidentally get matched up with a host that has high upload, download, or storage fees.

A dialog will show up asking for our "target price" for each TB per month. This dialog starts on the "Basic" allocation sets our total allowance based on what we want to pay for storage each month times three, but doesn't account for anything else like upload and download fees. It also doesn't set what we're paying in stone - what we can expect to pay is what we saw when we checked current prices earlier. There is also an "Advanced" allocation tab which lets us control more factors of our renting experience, such as the number of hosts to form contracts with and how long we want our renting contracts to be.

Basic Allocation

If you want to use the Basic allowance method, the best thing to do is to take the Recommended Allowance value you got from our Renter Tools in Step 2 and enter a third of that value in the dialog box for Target Price. For example, if the Renter Tools said your total allowance would be 3000 SC, enter 1000 SC in the Target Price. You should see the Allowance at the bottom of the dialog change to be close to the Recommended Allowance value. Don't worry about changing the expected storage value.

Using the "Basic" allowance allocation method to set up your renter allowance.

Advanced Allocation

We can also use the Advanced allocation method to better customize our renting experience. Click on the Advanced tab on the left, and you'll be presented with more options. Using the Renter Tools from Step 2, we can simply drop most of our values straight into the Advanced allowance inputs.

Using the "Advanced" allowance allocation method to set up your renter allowance.

Our Recommended Allowance can go straight into Allowance Funds, as well as our preferred Period (length of time to rent storage) and number of Hosts. In general, though, you probably shouldn't change any value aside from the Allowance Funds. For more information on each of these values and why you may or may not want to change them, expand the tab below or see our full Renting on Sia section.

Details on Advanced Allowance settings

The Advanced allowance dialog window has several options to customize:

  • Allowance Funds: This is the total maximum amount of Siacoins we want to allocate to renting on Sia. This is the maximum amount of SC that can be taken from our wallet and locked up for renting per allowance period. However, this doesn't mean we will spend all of our Allowance Funds. If we haven't used enough storage and bandwidth to actually spend all of these funds by the end of our contract, we'll get what's left back at the end.
  • Expected Storage: We can enter how much storage we expect to use here, and Sia may try to prioritize hosts with low storage costs if we plan on storing a lot of data.
  • Period: This is the amount of time we want our rental contract to last. You may be inclined to increase this number to 6 months or 1 year, but this is probably not a good idea because hosts can also limit the maximum length of the contracts they take. The default maximum contract length for hosts is 6 months, so if you increase this number too much, you may limit the number of hosts you're able to use because most hosts don't change this. Additionally, your contracts will renew at the end of your rental period, and there may be better hosts available at that time. Therefore, it's probably best to leave this setting alone. If you change it, you may also need to change your Allowance Funds.
  • Hosts: This is the number of hosts your Sia-UI renter will try to maintain contracts with. By default, Sia will upload your pieces of your data to 30 hosts, but having a larger subset of hosts means we have more options picked out if any hosts go offline or lose our data. You might be able to save a very small amount of money (less than $1 USD) by lowering this number, but it's probably not worth it in exchange for better file redundancy. This number also shouldn't be set below 30.
  • Renew Window: This is when your Sia-UI renter will try to renew your contracts for another Period. For example, with a 3 month Period and 1 month Renew Window, after 2 months your contracts will be renewed for another 3 months. This is like starting another 3 month rental term over again, like a recurring subscription. The catch is that your Sia-UI client needs to be open and online in this Renew Window for your rental contracts to renew. If you have Sia always open and online, you can lower the Renew Window a bit, but if you want to continue renting storage beyond your initial Period you need to make sure Sia is opened within the Renew Window at the end of the contract period.
  • Expected Upload/Download: We can enter how much data we plan to upload and download each month, and Sia may try to prioritize hosts with lower bandwidth costs if we plan on uploading or downloading a lot of data.

Once you've set your Basic or Advanced allowance, click OK, and Sia will ask you to confirm your allowance entry. Click OK again, and Sia will start creating rental contracts for us and our Siacoins will begin to be spent. Your File Manager section may take a minute or two to show any changes.


Step 4: Wait for Contracts to Form

Now that our allocation is set up, storage contracts with hosts will start to form. We'll see how many contracts (hosts) we have and how much we've spent in the process. Remember that it costs money to create contracts, so we'll see our Total Spent increase by a small amount as we pick up more contracts, even though we haven't uploaded anything yet.

Sia will work on creating contracts after an allowance is set.

You'll likely see a few contracts form quickly, but contracts can take a while to form, so sit back and wait. You won't be able to do anything until Sia has about 20 contracts, and Sia will continue creating contracts as necessary until it has at least 30 contracts in order to ensure files can have 3x redundancy. In preparing these examples, it took a few minutes for 10 contracts to form, about an hour and a half for 30 contracts to form, and about two hours for 50 contracts to form.

Hey! Were you looking at the Guide to Using Sia Skynet and getting set up to rent as a prerequisite? If so, you can stop here and go back to that guide. Just wanted to remind you! If you're not trying to use Skynet right now and just want to back up your own files privately, carry on below.

Step 5: Upload Files

After you have about 20 contracts, the File Manager window will change to show file upload and download controls:

File controls appear in the File Manager after we have some contracts.

We can upload either a file or a folder using the icons on the right side of the File Manager window - the icon uploads a folder, and the icon uploads a file. We can also drag and drop files to the file list, and create new empty folders in the Sia File Manager using the icon. Remember that it's best to zip up small files if you have several that are less than 40 MB. For our demonstration, we're going to upload a CentOS installation ISO file since it's large enough to show some storage spending.

Once we select the file for upload, Sia gets to work with encrypting our file, breaking it apart, and distributing it to our hosts. The progress of our file upload will be shown in the File Manager window, both in the bottom right corner and eventually through the "Health" percentage indication next to the file in the file list. We'll also see our storage spending start to increase now that we're actually using some storage.

Our CentOS file is on it's way to the Sia network!

The Health percentage next to the file indicates the file's redundancy, and is currently shown at 0%. This means that our file is not yet fully uploaded to the network, and so we couldn't download it again at 0% health. This is fairly obvious, since we just started the upload - we can still see the progress in the lower right corner continuing to increase. It took about 2 hours to initially upload our file in this example with a 20mbit upload pipe, and our file was 4.21 GB. This gives us an upload speed of about 0.6 MB/second, which makes sense when considering 3x redundancy - we're actually uploading about 12.6 GB at 1.8 MB/second, closer to our maximum bandwidth for our connection. If we were to upload a full terabyte at that rate, it would take about three weeks of continuous uploading. Upload speed will vary based on your internet connection, your hosts' internet connection, and advancements to the Sia protocol as new versions are released.

After the file is uploaded "fully", Sia continues uploading it to a total of 30 hosts in order to ensure we have 3x redundancy. Eventually, the Health percentage will increase above 0%, and will grow slowly to 100%. It may take a little while for our file to get to 3x redundancy depending on how slow some of our hosts are. Leave your Sia-UI open until your file shows 100% Health and the upload is complete.

Once the upload is complete, the file shows 100% Health.

Congratulations! You've uploaded your first file to the Sia network.


Step 6: Back Up Your Renter Metadata Optional Highly Recommended

Once you've uploaded files, you can continue to access them through the Sia-UI installation that you uploaded them from. However, if you lose access to that installation (due to a computer crash, etc), you can't access your Sia files without your renter metadata. This metadata is a set of files stored on your local computer related to the contracts you just formed and the files you've uploaded. You can back up your renter metadata in order to prevent the loss of your files on Sia in the future. There are two ways to do this: directly through Sia where the backup is stored on Sia and accessible with your wallet seed, or manually on local storage like a flash drive.

Warning: You must back up your metadata every time you upload new files (or change files) in your Sia storage. Each metadata backup will only be useful for the files that existed in Sia at the time of that backup, as if it were a snapshot of your files at that time. Don't forget to create a backup after each important change.
Backing up on Sia for Seed-Based Recovery

The easiest way to back up your renter metadata is in Sia, where it is stored on Sia and accessible with your wallet seed. This effectively makes seed-based file recovery possible, but only if you perform the metadata backup first before you try to use your seed to recover it. Note that backing up your metadata on Sia will cost a small amount of Siacoins, as the data must be uploaded and stored on Sia like any other file.

To back up this data to Sia, on the Rent tab in the File Manager click More > Backup Files. Sia will prompt you for a backup name. Enter a name, and click Start Backup.

Enter a name for your metadata backup.

You may see an error that says ESOCKETTIMEDOUT - if so, click Start Backup again. If you get a message that a file or folder already exists at the specified path, your backup was successful. Close the Backup Files dialog, and click More > Restore Files and see if your backup appears there. The green progress bar shows the progress of your metadata upload, so you'll want to wait until it completes before you close Sia.

The progress of your metadata backup can be seen in the "Restore Files" dialog.

Once the metadata backup is complete, the name and date will be shown along with a "Restore" button. Now you should be able to retrieve your files using only your seed from another computer or Sia installation in the future, and you can safely close Sia. Of course, make sure you have your wallet seed saved too, otherwise this step doesn't do you any good!

Metadata backup complete and ready to be restored in the future!

Backing up Locally

If you want to copy your renter metadata to local storage, like a flash drive, you can do so easily. Click the About icon (i) at the top of the window, then Open Data Folder. Copy the renter folder to your backup media. That's it!


Step 7: Check Back Every So Often

Now that your file is uploaded, you can close the Sia-UI, shut down your computer, or even delete the file locally if you trust that Sia will keep it safe and the file is not critical. However, you should open the Sia-UI once a month or so at the very minimum to make sure your file still has 3x redundancy. Hosts occasionally go offline or disappear, and your file can't be repaired without your Sia-UI open to redistribute the file to another host. The Health percentage of the file would show below 100% just like it did while we were first uploading our file, so Sia will work to restore the health to 100% - though it may have to find new hosts and form new contracts first. Just leave the Sia-UI open for a little while and it'll do what it needs to do.

Note that if you decide to delete a local file and it later needs to be repaired, your Sia-UI will first need to download parts of the file in order to upload them to other hosts, which may result in some download bandwidth costs on top of your normal storage and upload costs. Additionally, if you didn't back up your renter metadata in Step 6 above and you lose access to your Sia installation, you'll also lose access to your files - so you may not want to delete local files if you don't have another backup elsewhere and the files are important.

The other reason opening the Sia-UI every so often is important is because your contracts renew within the renew window of the last month of the contract (by default). If your Sia-UI isn't open during this time, your contracts may not be renewed and your data may be lost. Ideally, you could just leave the Sia-UI running all the time in the background, but if that's not an option, remember to open it every so often. Set a calendar reminder if it'll help you remember. This is one of the ways in which Sia is not currently optimized towards individual renters, and more torwards enterprise use.


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SiaSetup writes guides like these for Sia, and then keeps them up to date with every Sia release, which takes more work than you might think. If you're able to Support SiaSetup, it incentivizes us to create more guides and keep existing ones up to date. As a renter, you can also Rent from SiaSetup on Sia, which gets you storage on a fast dedicated server and gets us some Siacoins so everybody wins. Thank you!

Tips for New Renters

Now that you're set up as a renter, here are a few tips.

Retrieving Files From Other Computers (Restoring your Metadata Backups)

Caution: You must have a metadata backup in order to access your files from another computer or Sia installation, and the backup must be current - you must perform a backup after each change you make to the files uploaded to Sia. Review Step 6 above for instructions on how to create these backups.

You can only download files from Sia on another computer or Sia installation with a copy of your Sia renter metadata. To download files on other computers, you can either copy the renter metadata manually, or you can restore it with your seed if you created a renter metadata backup on Sia. If you lose your metadata files without a backup, either on Sia or locally, your files on Sia are effectively inaccessible from any other Sia installation. In other words, you might as well back your renter metadata up! See Step 6 above again if you need instructions on how to perform this backup.

For details on how to restore your metadata on another computer, see these FAQ topics on restoring from a local backup or your wallet seed.

Downloading or Deleting Files

To download or delete files or folders, simply click on them to select them in the File Manager window. You can then use the Download or Delete icons to retrieve or delete a file or folder. You can then either select a location to save your download, or confirm that you want to delete the file or folder. Note that deleting files and folders does not return your storage costs for them, and does not remove them from a host - currently, uploads to a host are immutable until the end of your contract period with each host. If you delete a file, it will be removed from a host at the end of the contract period.

Increasing your Renter Allowance

If you decide to store more files on Sia and find that your current allowance is too small, or if you find your allowance has run out because you didn't set it high enough or because you've been uploading or downloading a lot, no problem. To increase your renter allowance, just click on More > Modify Allowance in the File Manager window and enter your new total allowance in either the Basic or Advanced tab the same way you originally did in Step 3. For example, if you want to increase your Allowance Funds on the Advanced tab from 3000 SC to 5000 SC, just enter 5000 SC.

Cancelling your Renter Contracts

If you don't want to use Sia anymore, you can effectively cancel your contracts and prevent further spending by clicking More > Cancel Allowance in the File Manager window. This will cancel your allowance, and you won't be able to upload or download data, or create or renew contracts. If your contracts still have time left on them, they'll simply expire at the end of the contract and your data will be deleted from hosts at that time.

Micromanaging your Hosts and Contracts

While Sia itself has limited support to micromanage your hosts and contracts, there are third-party tools such as Decentralizer which can assist you with doing so. You may be able to find cheaper, more reliable hosts using these tools, but they are third-party utilities and are not officially supported by Sia.

For more tips, visit our Renting FAQs page.