Why NFTs Need a Scalable Storage Solution

A non-fungible token (NFT) is a physical or digital asset recorded on the blockchain.

In 2022, an estimated four percent of Americans (9.3 million people) said they own NFTs– a 100% increase from 2021 shows that NFT ownership is rising.

As ownership continues to increase, so will the demand for scalable storage solutions. Many of the current storage solutions lack scalability, which limits how many NFTs people can own- particularly if they have larger collections.

In this article, we’ll cover four different storage solutions, which are the most scalable, and the benefits and challenges of each. 

Let’s get started. 

Software Wallets- MetaMask

MetaMask was launched in 2016 by Consensys, a blockchain software technology company based in New York City. It’s the most popular decentralized wallet in the world, with around 21 million monthly active users. 

Although the wallet was created for cryptocurrency, MetaMask is also popular for buying and storing NFTs. It lets users store and manage their private and public keys, connect to decentralized exchanges such as UniSwap and PancakeSwap, and buy and sell NFTs. 

MetaMask is relatively friendly for new investors and can be installed through the Google Store. MetaMask also has an in-depth FAQ Page for investors who want to learn more about the wallet, how to trade cryptocurrency, and how to store NFTs. 

MetaMask is consistently connected to a decentralized ledger and, in theory, shouldn’t have any issues regarding scalability on the backend. As long as the blockchain is scalable, operations between the wallet and the blockchain should be scalable too. 

The only area where MetaMask falls short is when it comes to security. MetaMask is constantly online and, as a result, can never be as secure as hardware wallets (which we’ll cover below.) Though MetaMask has never been hacked, its users have been prone to phishing scams, including one that cost a wallet holder $650,000 after believing they were giving their details to an Apple employee.

Other popular hardware wallets for NFTs include Math Wallet, Coinbase Wallet, and Trust Wallet, which Binance owns. However, for decentralized NFT storage, MetaMask remains the best option. 

Hardware Wallets

Hardware wallets are the most secure option for NFT storage as all digital assets are stored offline- making them impossible to hack. This makes hardware wallets a great option for collectors who want to store their NFTs for the long run. 

The most popular hardware wallets are Ledger and Trezor, which will cost anywhere from $80 to $300+ for the latest models. Once an NFT has been stored in the wallet and the wallet unplugged, nobody can transfer the data to or from the hardware wallet. When you buy a hardware wallet, you’ll also be provided with a secret phrase of 12 words and can set additional passwords if you want even more security. 

However, there are two downsides to hardware wallets. Firstly, if you lose your wallet, you lose your assets. For example, in 2013, James Howells threw away a wallet with 7500 Bitcoins (around $56 million.) He was refused access to the landfill where it was and, as a result, lost his millions. As of September 2022, Howells hasn’t managed to retrieve his wallet.

The other downside to Hardware Wallets is that they’re not scalable. They’re limited to the spec of the wallet you’ve purchased, which could impact NFT storage as NFT files begin to demand more storage space. 

Nonetheless, hardware wallets are the perfect option for collectors planning to make long-term NFT investments. 

InterPlanetary File System

InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) is a relatively new way to store NFTs. It’s an open-source project founded by Protocol Labs and was originally designed for storing and accessing websites, apps, files, and other data. 

With IPFS, users’ NFTs are stored off-chain through platforms like Pinata, significantly reducing the likelihood of their assets being stolen. It also uses content identifiers (CIDs), which are broken down aspects of your data linked directly to your NFT. Instead of your NFT data being stored through an HTTP link, your data is broken down across several storage solutions; this way, if one fails, a different solution backs up your data. 

IPFS solutions are also highly scalable. Additional nodes can always be added to deal with additional data, which means users will never have any problems with storage. 

The only downside is the technology is still somewhat in its early phase and technically wasn’t created for NFTs. This means that although it has a lot of potential, it hasn’t been in the market long enough to be tested.


BitKeep is Asia’s most popular NFT storage method, with over 6 million users, 70 mainnets, and 220,000 supported crypto assets. Much like MetaMask, you can download the BitKeep wallet through the Google Store and use it to store NFTs. 

However, unlike MetaMask, BitKeep has its own NFT store. The store has launched projects such as Kaju Legends and OutSad, and lets users buy other collections such as Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC.) 

BitKeep also has a comprehensive education center, where new collectors can learn how to trade NFTs, sell them, and use the BitKeep wallet. BitKeep is connected to a decentralized ledger and shouldn’t have any problems with scalability. It’s only limited by the scalability of the blockchain. 

Final Thoughts: Are Scalable Storage Solutions a Must Have?

As the NFT market grows in popularity, scalable storage solutions will become important for larger collections. However, for the average NFT investor, hardware wallets should be more than enough for a small NFT collection. 

These wallets are a great way for collectors to store their NFTs if they have no plans to sell them. Both software wallets and IPFS are also great ways for collectors to get involved in the industry and offer scalable storage options for larger collections. 

The best option for you will depend entirely on your preferences. 

On-Chain Vs. Off-Chain NFTs Explained

Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are digital or physical assets recorded on the blockchain. They can be sent from one individual to another, used in video games, or held in cryptocurrency wallets as an asset. 

On-chain NFTs refer to tokens written solely on the blockchain, with all metadata and smart contracts being stored on-chain. On the other hand, off-chain NFTs store their smart contracts on the blockchain, though their media is stored off-chain. 

Both methods have their pros and cons, though on-chain NFTs are the trending option in the industry. 

This guide will explain both on-chain and off-chain NFTs, their pros and cons, and how you can distinguish between them online. 

What Are On-Chain NFTs?

On-chain NFTs are both written and stored on the blockchain. Their information is written on the mainnet (the primary public Ethereum production blockchain), then stored on the blockchain. It includes data such as the hashtag of the generated NFT, metadata, and smart contracts. 

Smart contracts are self-executing programs that react when certain criteria have been met- for example, a certain payment has been made. They’re native to the Ethereum blockchain and can be used to generate on-chain NFTs. 

Metadata refers to the core information of a particular NFT. This includes its unique traits, the NFT description, and where it’s stored. All metadata is stored on-chain with the NFT. 

What Are Off-Chain NFTs?

Off-chain NFTs host their smart contracts on the blockchain, but their media is off-chain. Instead, the data is stored on cloud servers such as Dropbox, Google Drive, or IPFS (interplanetary file system) nodes. 

IPFS is a web data protocol designed to solve the problems of Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and File Transfer Protocol (FTP), both of which are the foundation of the internet. When searching for an HTTP or FTP system, we search for its location. We then connect to this to access the file for viewing or downloading. 

However, if the server goes down or the cloud is no longer operating, the link will break, and access to the file will be removed. IPFS is looking for ways to fix this by hosting such files across several nodes, meaning it no longer relies on a single server. 

Some off-chain NFT projects run their own IPFS nodes, whereas others use commercial IPFS nodes such as NFT Storage or Pinata. Storing NFTs off-chain can reduce gas fees during transactions; however, only the smart contract data is used whenever a transaction occurs, and not the data for the NFT media as its off-chain. 

This creates several problems, which we’ll go into below. 

One of these problems, however, is somewhat resolved by IPFS. With any centralized server or storage, the owner can shut down the storage anytime, meaning investors lose their NFTs. IPFS overcomes this by distributing the NFT data across several servers. If one storage location fails, it will be backed up to another. 

Pros & Cons of On-Chain NFTs


Reliable Storage

With on-chain NFTs, your metadata, smart contract, and NFT are all stored on the blockchain. This means you don’t need to rely on third-party or external systems for your NFT to exist. As long as the blockchain is functioning as it should, your NFT collection will always be available. 

Greater Liquidity 

NFTs on the blockchain are also technically more valuable. All on-chain tokens meet Ethereum network requirements and therefore have greater liquidity. They can be transferred easily, which makes investing in them a better option for traders looking to profit from NFT collections. 


Complex For New Investors

Even though being on the blockchain is a benefit, it can also be a little complex for investors without experience in the blockchain market. Complex terminology may turn away many new investors, significantly slowing widespread adoption. 

Pros & Cons of Off-Chain NFTs


No Need For Blockchain Experience 

Investors who want to buy off-chain NFTs don’t need much blockchain experience. They can bid for NFTs with fiat currency, avoiding gas fees and complex crypto bidding systems. On off-chain platforms, investors don’t need a crypto wallet for their NFTs. For example, Top Shot investors leave their Moments in a custodial wallet managed by Top Shot. 

No Gas Fees

Every NFT investor knows the pain of gas fees. They fluctuate dramatically daily, with some transactions costing over $100 in fees alone. Off-chain NFT transactions remove these fees, making it cheaper to buy and own NFTs. 



As off-chain NFTs store their data offline, smart contracts are only used to link individuals to the storage location of their NFTs. If there’s ever a problem with the off-chain network, the link itself will be useless, and the NFT will no longer be available. 

IPFS Flaws

IPFS helps to overcome some security problems with off-chain NFTs; however, the NFT creator still has the power to delete the NFT file. By doing this, they break the link between the file and the blockchain. This means the NFT still exists on the blockchain; however, owners won’t have access to it. It’s similar to owning a jar of air. You own it, but it technically doesn’t exist. 

How do I see if an NFT is Off-Chain?

To check if an NFT is on-chain or off-chain, you’ll need access to MetaMask, OpenSea, and Etherscan. 

For MetaMask, open your wallet and click on “NFTs”. If you don’t see this option, check out how to toggle NFT visibility on MetaMask. Select the NFT you want to review and click the link opposite “Asset Contract.” You’ll automatically be taken to Etherscan.

For OpenSea, open the webpage for the NFT you want to review and click on the “Details” section. This will take you to Etherscan.

Once you’ve opened Etherscan, head to the “Contract” tab below the “Contract Overview” box. 

Click “Read Contract” from here and scroll to “tokenURI.” This will create a dropdown box where you can enter the token ID. This can be found in the name of your NFT. 

If a link appears, the artwork is stored off-chain. 

Final Thoughts: Which NFT Option Is Better?

Both on-chain and off-chain NFTs have several pros and cons, and the better option will depend on your personal preferences. 

While on-chain NFTs are the easier option for storage and trading, understanding blockchain technology is required to get started. 

On the other hand, off-chain NFTs are easier for new investors, though they lack the security of their on-chain alternatives. 

If on-chain NFTs can appeal to new investors and reduce the fees associated with trading, they may become the more popular option in the future. However, personal preference and research should always guide your investment decisions. 

How to Use MetaMask

MetaMask was built and launched in 2016 by ConsenSys, a largely Ethereum-focused blockchain development studio as a means to interact with Ethereum blockchain. 

The wallet itself is non-custodial, meaning that the owner (you) doesn’t have to relinquish possession of their private keys to a third party. However, this comes with great responsibility, as we’ll get into below. 

Launched as a software cryptocurrency wallet, MetaMask makes it possible for users to store and manage their private and public keys, broadcast transactions to the network, send and receive Ethereum and Ethereum-based tokens, connect to decentralized exchanges, and buy and sell NFTs. 

MetaMask also aggregates multiple decentralized exchanges in a feature called MetaMask Swaps, where users can access the best exchange rate for ETH-based tokens at a service fee of 0.875% of the transaction amount. 

As of August 2021, the MetaMask browser extension has roughly 10.5 million monthly active users, many of which are using the wallet to interact with the burgeoning DeFi and NFT ecosystems. 

So, how do you get started with MetaMask?

It’s simpler than you might think, let’s get started.

Step 1: Understand

Before blasting off Ethereum to different addresses, it’s important to understand MetaMask is a non-custodial wallet. 

This means that keeping your wallet account password, private keys, and Secret Recovery Phrase safe is your responsibility. The probability of human error with these sorts of wallets is fairly high, so go into your non-custodial wallet adventures understanding that it’s likely that you may be the most probable point-of-failure, and do everything in your power to prevent that. 

Metamask provides a Secret Recovery Phrase of twelve words when you first make a wallet. Write this down and store it in a secure place offline–definitely not a Google Doc named “MetaMask Secret Recovery Phrase” or “Crypto passwords.” Don’t share this phrase with anyone. If you lose your phrase, you won’t be able to access your wallet and your cryptocurrency and tokens will be unrecoverable. 

MetaMask is also a software application, meaning it’s almost always connected to the Internet and comes with the ever-so-slight vulnerabilities that a hardware wallet like a Ledger Nano S typically doesn’t. 

Most people use something like MetaMask to utilize a small(er) percentage of their total cryptocurrency holdings to interact with the various dApps in the Ethereum ecosystem, not as a primary holding account.  

Step 2: Download

Download the official MetaMask browser extension at https://metamask.io/. It is compatible with Chrome, Firefox, Brave, and Edge. 

Your browser will ask you to add the extension– allow it. 

MetaMask also has an iOS and Android app.

Step 3: Create Your Account

Next comes the typical account sign-up stuff– create your password and write down your recovery seed phrase. (see Step 1).  

Step 4: Make Sure You Wrote Your Seed Phrases Correctly

Don’t let one typo or misplaced word be the reason you can’t recover your account! 

Step 5: Send ETH to address

Click on the “Buy” option to pull up a few options to deposit ETH into the wallet. Scroll all the way down, and you’ll see the “Directly Deposit Ether” option, which will give you your wallet’s public key. 

Copy and paste your public key to the platform you plan on sending ETH from, select the amount of Ethereum to send, and click send. You’ll be able to monitor the transaction in EtherScan.

Step 8: Connect MetaMask to the dApp or Platform

Now, your MetaMask is ready to rock and roll– just find the dApp or site you want to interact with. Let’s say we want to connect our MetaMask to our OpenSea to buy our first NFT. 

On the account section in OpenSea, you’ll see a “Connect your wallet” section with a list of wallets that includes MetaMask. 

Click MetaMask, which will pull up a request from the MetaMask browser extension that asks you whether you want to connect with the site. 

Step 9: Sign the Signature

If you’re 100% certain you’re on a legitimate site and not some knock-off spam site (let’s say there is an “OponSee.io” or “0penSea.io” scammy clone replicate, which would likely be a malicious attempt to get you to sign over your MetaMask access.)

As you interact with the OpenSea ecosystem, you will be presented with multiple requests to sign a transaction with your MetaMask account.

Suppose we want to buy an NFT from The Heart Project. We find one we like, click “buy”, and view the subtotal. Upon clicking “confirm checkout”, our MetaMask extension would open up with the estimated gas fee for the transaction and price of the NFT. 

We now have one final chance to reject or confirm the transaction. 

Let’s say gas fees and transaction price looks good to us and we want to buy the NFT. We click confirm, and the transaction should go through, leading you to a “your purchase is processing” page, which shows the transaction hash number that can be traced to Etherscan.

Once the transaction finishes processing, your NFT will appear in your OpenSea profile. The NFT token itself, however, is held in your MetaMask wallet. 

Final Thoughts: Welcome to MetaMask

So, there you have it– how to use MetaMask from scratch and buy your first NFT on OpenSea. 

For now, MetaMask is one of the leading NFT wallets, and familiarizing yourself with it will make your NFT exploration process much more straightforward.

Since all ERC-20 and ETH-based tokens are compatible with MetaMask, you can utilize the wallet for a wide variety of Ethereum storage and interaction related purposes. Note that if you’re looking to interact with another blockchain ecosystem, such as the Solana ecosystem, MetaMask won’t work; you’ll need a different wallet (for example, Plasma for Solana.)