How Can Blockchains be Used to Store Data?

What Are the Benefits of Using Blockchains to Store Data?

Using Blockchain technology to store Data allows for a wide array of uses across multiple sectors including but not limited to supply chain management, digital identification, data sharing, voting, tax compliance, medical records, Internet of Things (IoT) management, and more. Many businesses are already utilizing blockchain technology in their day-to-day operations which have helped to increase productivity and transparency, and the technology will only continue to advance as time goes on.

So what is a blockchain and how can they be used as a database to store data?

Simply put, a blockchain is a decentralized and immutable (not changeable) digital distributed ledger secured via cryptography that acts as a database, permanently storing records of information. Whatever a blockchain’s purpose may be, it is comprised of groups of data that are packaged into blocks which are then chained together.

There are a few different ways blockchain technology can be applied to existing data storage solutions for various applications. In this article, we’ll be covering a brief overview of distributed file systems, peer-to-peer file systems, and decentralized cloud storage.

The traditional way of Blockchain for Data Storage

Distributed File Systems and Peer-to-Peer File Systems

A distributed file system (DFS) is a system of files that is distributed on multiple locations or multiple file servers, which allows direct access to the same data from multiple locations. One benefit of this configuration is the ability to provide redundancy (multiple copies of the same data), so in case one of these servers goes down, the data is still accessible.

A peer-to-peer (P2P) file system is a similar network of data distribution with the major difference being that instead of accessing files from a server, each peer (participant) in the system themselves acts as a server. Files are broken up into shards and stored in multiple instances on the computers of participants in the system which can then easily be downloaded in pieces from each peer.

So where does blockchain technology come in? Integrating blockchain technology into typical data storage solutions allows for a more secure, accessible, and trackable network of information storage.

Perhaps the most well-known example of applying blockchain technology to the two file systems detailed above is the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS), which is both a distributed and peer-to-peer file system. Instead of the traditional HTTP protocol used by web browsers which identifies content based on where it’s located, IPFS uses unique cryptographic hashes as content identifiers which address a file by what’s in it, or by its content. Like in a P2P file system, files are broken down into pieces and spread across a network of computers (nodes), which can then be addressed by their hash ID.

Decentralized Cloud Data Storage
Decentralized cloud storage is any system that utilizes blockchain technology to store and retrieve data on a large, distributed network of multiple nodes across multiple locations. There are a few projects out there with a decentralized cloud storage network of their own, the most popular of which are Filecoin, Sia, and Storj. Essentially, each of these networks utilize a blockchain and a native cryptocurrency token (FIL, SIACOIN, and STORJ respectively) to be used in transactions for uploading and downloading files. Additionally, those who have unused hard drive space can contribute their storage capacity to the network and receive tokens as an incentive.

Closing Thoughts:
Blockchain technology is still relatively young, yet its applications are providing a host of solutions for industries all over the world. As we approach the next generation of the Internet and technology continues to advance, the demand for data storage will only grow exponentially. Using blockchain technology for the world’s data needs will help to make the future Internet’s data storage solutions more secure, transparent, accessible, and affordable.

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