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 April 1, 2018

This guide will help you get set up as a renter on the Sia network. The guide is writting using Sia v1.3.1 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 rare, 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.

  • Renting is not very customizable, at least through the UI. If you simply want to buy some storage and start uploading, Sia will automatically pick hosts for you that it thinks are the best. It will also default to 3x redundancy, splitting your files between 30 hosts. You don't really have any control over the process beyond specifying how many Siacoins you're willing to allocate to renting. If you're an advanced user that feels like jumping into the command line options, you have a bit more control.
  • The atomic file size is currently 40 Megabytes. This means that any individual file you upload that's smaller than 40 MB (a text file, picture, most audio files, etc) will be treated as if they're 40 MB and take up that much space. A smaller atomic file size will be available in the future, but for now, to avoid eating up your storage quickly, it's recommended to zip your files up before uploading them if you have several smaller files you wish to upload.
  • Sia currently works best for archival storage. Using the basic Sia-UI, you manually have to upload and download files when you want to add them to the Sia network or retrieve them. There are third-party addons that allow you to do things like mount Sia storage as a local drive, but Sia itself doesn't support this functionality. Additionally, you cannot currently retrieve data on the Sia network using another computer without a current backup of the Sia internal data files from the computer that uploaded the files. For that reason, Sia in it's purest form is best used to back up important files that you don't plan on retrieving from the network often, or from different places.
  • Bandwidth is not usually free. Each host sets their own price for storage, as well as fees for upload and download bandwidth per TB. While this is usually an insignificant amount, if you plan on changing your data frequently or downloading several terabytes worth of your data, the fees to do so can stack up. This ties into the above point that Sia is currently best used for archival.

Ready to get started? Read on!


Prerequisites

The following items MUST be completed before you can continue.

Prerequisite 1: Download the Sia-UI Client and Set Up a Wallet

You must first install the Sia-UI Client, create a wallet, and wait for your client to fully synchronize. If you haven't done this yet, instructions on downloading the Sia-UI Client and setting up a wallet can be found in our Wallet Setup Guide.

Prerequisite 2: Acquire Siacoins

You'll need some Siacoins to rent storage on the Sia network. 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 on the Terminal tab, 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

Download 1 TB:
? SC

Store 1 TB for 1 Month:
? SC

Upload 1 TB:
? SC

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 "Synchronized" 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. See this FAQ topic for troubleshooting instructions - the topic relates to hosting, but the steps for checking if ports are open still apply.

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.


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.

Use our Renting Calculator (opens in a new window) and 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 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 Files tab on the left if you're not already taken there. At the top, you'll notice several buttons, the first of which says Create Allowance. This is how we rent storage on the Sia network, so click on that.

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

A dialog will show up asking how many Siacoins we want to allocate to our allowance. 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.

Take the Recommended Allowance value you got from the Renting Calculator in Step 2 and enter it in the dialog box.

Setting up your allocation amount. Enter whatever value you came up with for "Recommended Allowance" in Step 2.

Sia may suggest that this would buy us more than the amount of storage we planned to rent - maybe, depending on which hosts Sia automatically picks our for us and what their storage prices are. Remember that we can allocate more than what we plan to use, and we'll only be charged for what we actually end up using. It's better to slightly over-allocate, if anything. We can also increase our allocation later if we need to, but if we've used the calculator, we've picked a good starting point for what we'd like to rent.

Click Accept, and Sia will ask you to confirm your allowance entry. Click Accept again, and Sia will start creating rental contracts for us and our Siacoins will begin to be spent.


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 of our allocation is left as the process continues. Remember that it costs money to create contracts, so we'll see our allowance decrease as we pick up more contracts. You can also hold your mouse over the percentage bar, and you'll see details on what your Siacoins have been spent on. You may have to maximize or increase the size of the Sia-UI window to see everything in the Files section at this point.

Contracts can take one or more hours to form, so sit back and wait until you've got at least 30 contracts. Your uploaded files will not have the proper redundancy if you try to upload data before you have 30 contracts. In preparing these examples, it took about about 5 hours for 30 contracts to form.

The number of contracts and how much of our renting allowance is left are displayed here.


Step 5: Upload Files

Once you have at least 30 contracts, you can start uploading files by clicking on Upload Files. When you put your mouse over the button, you'll also see an option slide down to upload a folder as well. 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 Google Drive folder and zip it up into one big file.

Once we select the file for upload, Sia will ask us if we're sure. Click Upload, and Sia gets to work with encrypting our file, breaking it apart, and distributing it to our hosts. We can click on File Transfers to view the progress of our file upload.

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

Notice the red blocks to the right of the filename in the main part of the window. This means that our file is not yet fully uploaded to the network. This is fairly obvious, since we just started the upload and we can see the progress on the right side after clicking File Transfers. It took about 15 minutes to upload our file in this example, and our file was 2.57 GB. This gives us an upload speed of about 3 MB/second. It we were to upload a full terabyte at that rate, it would take about 4 continuous days of 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" (which only requires 10 hosts), Sia continues uploading it to a total of 30 hosts in order to ensure we have 3x redundancy. Sia will say Boosting Redundancy under the File Transfers section, and we'll see our block icon turn green with a redundancy value next to it. 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 3x redundancy and the upload is complete.

"Boosting Redundancy" pretty much means the file is still uploading, but at this point we could download it if we needed to.

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


Step 6: 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. 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. Sia will say Boosting Redundancy under File Transfers just like it did when we first uploaded our file, though it may have to find a new host and form a new contract first. Just leave the Sia-UI open for a little while and it'll do what it needs to do.

The other reason opening the Sia-UI every so often is important is because your allowance tops off after 6 weeks, and your contracts renew every 3 months (by default). If your 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.


Other Good Things to Know

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

Retrieving Files From Other Computers

This is important! Make sure you understand this when considering downloading your files.

It was mentioned at the beginning of this guide, but once again: Remember that you cannot simply download Sia on another computer and download your files again there like you can with DropBox, Google Drive, etc. - you can currently only upload and download files using the Sia installation where you set up renting. Sia keeps track of your contracts via internal data files, and these are specific to each Sia installation. You can back these internal files up and transfer them to another computer; however, they also expire as soon as you upload or download any data to/from the Sia network. If you upload or download even one single file, you'll have to back these files up again.

The location of the internal data files can be found in this FAQ topic - it's a good idea to back them up so you don't lose access to your data on Sia, but remember that you have to back them up again if you upload or download anything after that point. This will be improved in the future, but for now it's an important limitation to be aware of.

Downloading or Deleting Files

To download or delete files, simply click on them to select them in the Files list. A small overlay will appear at the bottom of the window with three buttons. The first button is the Download button, and will allow you to retrieve your files. The last button is the Delete button, and will allow you to delete your files from the Sia network. Obviously make sure that you have a copy of your file locally before deleting it on Sia if it's something you don't want to lose.

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 Create Allowance like the first time you did when you created an allowance, and enter your new total allowance. For example, if you want to increase your allowance from 800 SC to 1200 SC, just enter 1200 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 on the Terminal tab and typing renter allowance cancel. 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.

For more tips, visit our Renting FAQs page.


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