Will Blockchain technology revolutionize data storage?
Will Blockchain technology revolutionize data storage?
Given the hype of Blockchain, the technology behind Bitcoin, we found it interesting to discuss some of it fundamentals and how businesses and workers can use it in their everyday tasks. In fact, thousands of Sheetgo users, many times unknowingly, are actually using decentralized data storage technology with our add-on in a daily basis. So we wrote this article to discuss some of the basics of Blockchain and its relevance to the world’s most commonly used software, Spreadsheets.
Influence of Blockchain technology
Very first, let’s understand what influence the technology behind Bitcoin can have! According to Don Tapscott – an experienced in organizational transformation and the role of technology in business and society – ‘‘blockchains, the technology underpinning the cryptocurrency, could revolutionize the global economy”. The payment industry comes very first to mind, as Bitcoin has reached the eye of the public, and the markets. Each Bitcoin has a current value of $4334. More incredible however is how the value of Bitcoin has enhanced by five hundred in the last five years. Why is the market abruptly so optimistic about Bitcoin? Because the public has realized that these type of currencies and payment systems, and more importantly Blockchain technology, can switch the way we do things across the world. In fact, it’s not just currency, blockchain it’s beginning to prove itself in sectors such as healthcare where each claim can involve as many as three hundred people, and we see tendencies to other types of business processes that involve data processing from many parties.
Blockchain technology goes beyond storing data in a distributed and encrypted form. It manages a sequential chain in which each block contains a cryptographic hash of the block before it in the chain. These hashes link the block, creating a decentralized transaction ledger. This ledger is publicly visible. It provides a semi-transparent view into the historical sequence of facts and events, or it can be permissioned, as preferred by financial organizations for privacy reasons. Whether public or private, the ledger permits the stored data to be verified with respect to its consistency. It provides resistance to outward attacks and malicious actors within the system because its decentralized.
Blockchain is basically a ‘database’
Blockchain is in elementary terms a distributed database. You can think of a giant, global spreadsheet that is stored on millions of computers that all form part of the network. The underlying code can be switched by anyone, they can even see what’s going on, as it is open source. Powerful intermediaries are not required to authenticate or to lodge transactions. It’s a self-verifying sequential storage scheme that can be used to immutably record transactions, ownership or identity, to negotiate and enforce contracts, and much more besides.
A blockchain database example is Hyperledger, an open source architecture created to advance cross-industry blockchain technologies. It is not remarkably a global collaboration, hosted by The Linux Foundation. A regular database can be relational or nonrelational and the most prominent examples include plain spreadsheets (i.e. Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets, OpenOffice, csv), or more sturdy Microsoft Access, or MySQL ‘conventional’ database programs. These permit users to inject data, store it, protect it, and retrieve it when needed, and are the basis for all data management.
Regular databases vs blockchain database: how to choose?
Blockchain databases are not superior, they have their disadvantages as well. In other words, like most technology decisions, the choice inbetween a blockchain and a regular database comes down to a series of trade-offs. If you’re blinded by the current hype and deafened by the noise, it will be unlikely to make a neutral choice. So to clear things up, we made a selection of three arguments commonly used.
Why is there value in disintermediation? The contents of databases are stored in the memories of computer systems. Any person with sufficient access to that system can demolish or corrupt the data within these computer systems. As a result, the moment you entrust your data to a regular database, the human organization becomes the host of your organization.
A lot of organizations have earned the trust of the public, think of governments and banks, universities and companies like Google and Facebook. Blockchain, on the other palm, offers a way to substitute these organizations with a distributed database. This database is locked down by clever cryptography. Blockchain leverages the ever-increasing capacity of computer systems to provide a fresh way of substituting humans with code (Greenspan, G). And once the code has been written, it requires less people to maintain it.
Every knot – a knot is a point of intersection/connection within a network – in a blockchain independently verifies and processes every transaction. A knot can do this because it has total visibility into: (a) the database’s current state, (b) the modification requested by a transaction, and (c) a digital signature which proves the transaction’s origin (Greenspan, G). This is a very clever way to architect a database, and it truly works. So where’s the problem? For financial applications utter transparency is not wished.
Do regular databases not share this same problem? Similar to blockchains, they restrict the transactions a particular users can perform. However, these confinements are imposed in a central location. Which means, that the content of the databases only need to be visible at that certain location. Requests to read and edit data goes through this central authority as well. This authority can then accept or reject these requests.
A major benefit of blockchain databases is their fault tolerance. Every knot processes each transaction, so individual knots are not crucial for the database as a entire. Similarly, knots connect to each other, so a system will only stop operating if many communication links fail. Regular databases are suggesting many technologies for replication , but blockchains are on a very different level. To embark, no configuration is required. In addition, knots can be loosely added or eliminated from a system, without any prep or consequences.
With regular databases, high reliability is achieved through a combination of expensive infrastructure and disaster recovery. A primary database runs on high-end hardware which is monitored closely for problems, with transactions replicated to a backup system in a different physical location. If the primary database fails, activity is automatically moved over to the backup. This backup system becomes the fresh primary one. Once the failed system is immobile, it’s being used as the backup system. This entire process is very costly to maintain.
Can organizations and workers already use blockchain technology for their day to day work?
There are projects and companies that are using blockchain technology for regular business processes. There are specialized startups like Tallysticks that uses the blockchain technology to automate invoicing and BigchainDB that runs databases with blockchain characteristics. Even lighter than that, the world’s most widely use business software, spreadsheets can also make good use of Blockchain. At Sheetgo we concentrate on data management through spreadsheets with our customers, large and puny, profit and non profit, using it in every department from marketing to operations, financials, reporting and many others. We attribute its versatility and integrity to the underpinning technology behind Sheetgo which shares many similarities with blockchain. Below we include how spreadsheet users can ‘blockchain’ with Sheetgo to solve some of their business needs:
- Our users connect distributed spreadsheets permitting data located in spreadsheets to be distributed in a decentralized way across different spreadsheets and spreadsheet file formats.
- The technology is made for ‘anyone’ and is very cheap to use across departments, regions, countries and even companies. Sheetgo users sometimes don’t even know how to write a formula but know how to use Sheetgo and don’t require any IT or other help to intermediate a transaction to import/export data from/to another spreadsheet, as long as they have access rights.
- Sheetgo provides the user and administrator a record of transactions, ownership and identify of data interaction inbetween data in spreadsheets.
- Ultimately ‘live data’ is not stored at one place (sheet) but across several and once connected, it is automatically updated and does not need maintenance.
- It also becomes exponentially interesting when sheets are connected with a cascading effect. Users basically act like ‘intelligent nodes’ that manipulate, add formulas (intelligence) and/or even verify data, before connecting that data to the next spreadsheet.
It does, however, differ to Blockchain, in that Sheetgo permits the owners of spreadsheets or IT managers to lightly control which sheets users can connect to or not (leveraging for the most part the permit driven capabilities of Google Drive today). We are not open source albeit we are very open in the Github community, provide a free version for anyone and collaborate with both nonprofit and for profit organizations to promote skill sharing.
We don’t yet fully know how the concepts around blockchain technology will help or switch the way data is transacted at companies, specially with the business world’s most popular software, spreadsheets. However, with the upcoming rise of online spreadsheets like Google Sheets or Excel Online, and their clouds like Google Drive or Microsoft’s OneDrive, data is no longer stored at one place, and content visualization is possible at numerous locations. Sheetgo powers up this technology by permitting Blockchain like features which we have some users already taking advantage of, but, like Blockchain technology we find connectivity inbetween data in spreadsheets has not yet reached its total potential. What we do know for certain is that the concepts around Blockchain and how we combine them with current technologies will convert the world.