As a non-profit organization, God Behind Bars (godbehindbars.com) partners with churches across the U.S. to introduce inmates and their families to Jesus and connect them to the local church. The organization streams high-quality, dynamic worship experiences into prisons via its private streaming platform. As popularity skyrocketed, God Behind Bars realized it needed a video storage solution that was both scalable and cost-effective. Working with Tribe Social, Storj’s decentralized cloud storage was implemented resulting in 90% savings on storage costs, significant improvements in streaming performance, ability to scale by a factor of 10, and greater flexibility in working with different platforms.
God Behind Bars launched its video service in 2020 streaming to 3,500 inmates in Arkansas . By 2022, it reached 160,000 inmates with 11 million views. With this success, came a monthly cloud storage bill that was over $25,000. They needed to find a scalable, cost-effective solution. As a result, God Behind Bars enlisted the help of Tribe Social (tribesocial.io). Tribe Social gives 100% ownership back to community creators and makes it easy to share videos, articles and files that’s future-proof and censor-free. The Tribe Social platform gives God Behind Bars an array of services to help the non-profit reach its audience, including distributed and cost-effective video storage delivered by Storj. “When you're building at scale, a slight change in cost makes an enormous difference,” says Bruce van Zyl, co-founder of Tribe Social. “Storj has an innovative infrastructure that's extremely efficient, which gives God Behind Bars a 90% cost-savings on storage.” With the Tribe Social solution in place using Storj, in February of 2023 God Behind Bars expanded their network and now reaches over 300,000 inmates that view over 3.5M videos each month consuming as much as 100TB of bandwidth each day. Even though their audience has nearly doubled, their cloud storage costs are significantly less than their previous solution. “For a nonprofit, it's all about reach,” adds Isaac Holt, Director of Innovation for God Behind Bars. “By simply moving to Storj, not only has it significantly lowered our monthly cost and helped us better serve those behind bars, but now we’re positioned to reach 10 times the amount of people and have 10 times the amount of impact with an amazing experience.”
Tribe Social embraces Web3 principles in a way that gives its customers ownership of their platforms. As a result, God Behind Bars doesn’t have to worry about a central authority trying to shut them down. With its decentralized cloud storage network, Storj adheres to the same Web3 principles. “We never want to put our company or customers in a position where one company holds the keys to their organizations’ impact and reach,” van Zyl says. “That and cost, are the reasons why we can’t recommend AWS. And for those same reasons, it makes sense to have Storj be the decentralized storage layer in our Web3 technology stack. “Storj gives us peace of mind,” van Zyl adds. “It doesn’t matter how big we want to build, we know with the resilience of Storj it will always keep on working.”
Most of the prisons that God Behind Bars streams to have inadequate internet connections. As a result, it’s critical to have streamlined video delivery straight from the storage provider. Storj’s parallelism and high-performance bandwidth ensured anyone could view the media regardless of poor internet connectivity. “Our previous storage service would take three minutes or more for a video to load and play,” Holt says. “But the way Storj fragments the video files is awesome. Even with a prison’s slow connections and firewalls, videos can load in about five to ten seconds.” “Video streaming is probably one of the most taxing things on bandwidth and CPU,” van Zyl adds. “But having built a number of video streaming services like this over the past decade, the Holy Grail for us has been getting the instantaneous playback that Storj delivers.”
Because security is a concern for prisons, God Behind Bars needed a storage service that would pass the stringent security specifications. Storj, with its zero trust infrastructure, end-to-end encryption, and granular object file level access controls addressed the security concerns with ease. “In terms of security it was a breeze,” Holt says. “Not only was it easily accepted, but from both a pricing and security standpoint, Storj was just so much better than the other cloud storage providers.”
The design of Storj’s decentralized storage service makes it easy to implement and adapt to new use cases. This flexibility is one of many appealing aspects to Tribe Social and God Behind Bars. The flexibility really shined through when God Behind Bars’ DNS provider started blocking the non-profit’s video stream when it hit a predetermined threshold. The fix would require a change to how the streams were routed and a six-week long rearchitecting of the streaming app. Because of the built-in flexibility of the Storj architecture, Tribe Social was able to quickly make some simple changes on the backend and the video stream was back up in a few hours. “The Storj architecture is so flexible I can’t see us ever going back to anything else,” van Zyl says. “For any type of serious application it just makes sense to build it on Storj. Its flexibility lets us easily work with or move to different platforms, or redirect traffic in different ways. Plus, Storj makes everything simple with its intuitive interface and a dashboard that lets you keep track of everything in a nice clean way.”