“The Blockchain has the ability to enhance reliability in business processes by eliminating political and economic risks associated with trusting a centralized system.” – Vitalik Buterin.
The Information Age began in the 1970s and we are still in the midst of it. Organizations would fail without large swathes of information related to everything they do – prospects, customers, employees, inventory, products and more. This information is safeguarded and considered vital for a company to stay afloat. Unlike a decade ago, most companies have realized the importance of storing this information securely and accessing it from any location around the clock, they have done away with scribbled notes and Excel sheets to store this data. Organizations today maintain a database of their customer information, inventory of products, complaints and employee details, without which it would be impossible to run sales, services, marketing and HR efficiently.
The requirement for affordable and reliable databases has grown immensely in today’s business world where various points of sale need to maintain consistent data about customers and products. Also, with the introduction of new tools it has become possible to study and analyse historical data thereby ensuring companies can sustain their competitive edge and progress. In just the past two years about 90% of the world’s data was created.
For the first time in computing history a database has been created which is tamper-proof and we can track the creation date of each item that was added to it. Unlike traditional databases, Blockchain which was introduced in 2009 by Satoshi Nakamoto is a peer-to-peer decentralized distributed ledger consisting of multiple nodes with replicated data that cannot be changed. It is an append-only database that is almost impossible to hack. Data is consistent throughout all nodes thereby ensuring continual uptime and transparency.
In contrast, traditional databases are centralized ledgers which store information in a structured way and can be changed by an administrator or anyone with edit rights. This difference between the two types of databases is a game changer since it makes the Blockchain more trustworthy for unaltered data thereby avoiding the integrity issues faced by traditional databases. Let’s first understand the structure of Traditional DB and Blockchain:
Whether to use Blockchain or traditional database for your business depends on what project or application it will be used for – each has its set of advantages and disadvantages. The best use cases for traditional databases is for apps that utilize the continuous flow of data, store confidential information and the online transaction processing needs to be fast. But, if your requirement is fault-tolerance and robustness then a Blockchain might be the ideal solution for you.
Blockchain relies on multiple independent computers to store its data, these are called nodes. The information across all the nodes is consistent and cannot be altered as it is encrypted and is accessible only by a private key. The chances of downtime for all the nodes at the same point is improbable, this ensures data is secure always. Also, the data appended to the Blockchain is time stamped data making it ideal for historical analysis of information.
In today’s inter-connected world data is growing at a spectacular rate, making it a challenge to store all the information generated securely. The failure of centralized data storage in keeping customers’ personal details secure in a few recent cases has led to an increased interest in Blockchain, Bitcoin and the Ethereum platform. Some organizations are now breaking up files and after encrypting them sending them to hard drives around the globe. Let us look at some of the options for decentralized data storage:
Blockchain – data is stored among all the nodes which are in sync. It is not possible to make changes to the append-only data. Typical examples are Bitcoin, Ethereum, etc.
IPFS (Inter Planetary Filing System) – peer to peer storage system where data is split into chunks with hash tags and then distributed to various nodes.
Storj (Tardigrade.io) – stores files on a peer to peer network using encryption, file sharding and a Blockchain based hash table. Ensures users can access their files and nobody else.
Sia – storage space is rented on the cloud and only related users have access. It encrypts and distributes files across distributed network.
Swarm – zero downtime peer to peer storage where uploaded data cannot be censored.
Apache Cassandra – database stores data using cluster, it is distributed among several machines operating together which are in a ring format. Each machine acts as a node with replicated data.
BigChainDB – Blockchain database with scalability which combines traditional database with traditional Blockchain providing queryability, decentralization and immutability.
Ties.DB – public, distributed and decentralized database for non-financial data.
When considering traditional or Blockchain for your business, there’s no clear winner, each has its set of benefits and shortcomings. Blockchain provides the robustness of several hard drives combined from multiple locations, all carrying the same time-stamped immutable data, but performance is sluggish. Whereas, traditional databases have speed, but, data can be accessed and changed by anyone with administrator rights.
“Every blockchain is a distributed ledger, but not every distributed ledger is a blockchain. Each of these concepts requires decentralization and consensus among nodes. However, the blockchain organizes data in blocks, and updates the entries using an append-only structure. Distributed ledgers broadly, and blockchains specifically, are conceptual breakthroughs in managing information and can be expected to find application in every economic sector.” Shaan Ray (https://towardsdatascience.com/the-difference-between-blockchains-distributed-ledger-technology-42715a0fa92)
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