The current era is the era of digitization. Everything is getting into digital form. Even the currency has become digital and the transactions too. Recent times are witnessing a constant rise in the use of cryptocurrency. Bitcoin is no longer unknown. And those familiar with Bitcoin, are also familiar with Blockchain technology. It has surfaced significant developments in the digital transaction era despite being in a budding state.
If we talk about blockchain, it is a technique used for storing information in a way that making amendments, hacking, or evading the system seems nearly impossible. It is a type of digital ledger of transactions distributed and replicated across the entire network architecture of systems on the blockchain.
Because of its varied applications, exponentially surge in popularity, and the salient similarities they share, many beginners wonder about the differences between a blockchain and a database. The similarity traits that a blockchain and a database share, often confuse the novices to believe blockchain is another kind of database. Even so, several aspects make blockchain more than just a database.
As mentioned earlier, Blockchain is a digital ledger technology that stores records of crypto transactions. The information is stored in the form of a chain of uniform size blocks, hence the name blockchain. This makes the stored information almost impossible to be hacked, amended, or swindled.
Blockchain deploys a decentralized network, that is the data and information stored on the network are shared amongst all the users on the network and are verified by them. Precisely, blockchain uses a peer-to-peer (P2P) based network architecture. The information stored in the data structure known as blocks is distributed across a mass of computers not owned by a sole entity. Blocks carry a series of valid transactions that are hashed and enciphered into a Merkle tree. The hashed information from the previous blocks links the blocks to each other. Hash is a unique code that helps to identify blocks. A one-way hash function, SHA 256 hashing algorithm is used by blockchain hashing. The blocks are usually digitally signed to assure the integrity of the block and the information stored in it.
Benefits of using blockchain
Here are some advantages of using blockchain technology:
- Decentralized: Decentralized means that there is no bossing around by a sole entity. The network has a set of protocols on how to exchange information and everyone enjoys an equal status in the network.
- Economic: Deploying decentralized networks allows the organizations to cut expenses on IT staffing, maintenance, security, infrastructure, and more
- Secure: Since all the blocks in the blockchain are hashed to each other, tampering with the information is not easy. To make sure that the information is properly sealed inside the blocks, blockchain uses advanced cryptography. And the distributed ledger technology provides every peer on the network with the original copy of the information so that in the case of multiple nodes failure, the system remains active.
- Flexible: There are three categories of blockchain- private, public, and hybrid. The organization can choose the blockchain that suits the best to accomplish its set goals.
- Transparent: As the information stored is shared amongst all the users on the network, this maintains transparency and trust in the system.
- Time reduction: Transferring money using traditional banking methods can be a lengthy and time-consuming process. But with the use of blockchain technology, instant transfer of money is possible from anywhere in the world.
- Unalterable transactions: The information stored in blocks in the blockchain network is unchangeable. The information can only be stored in the blocks. Furthermore, it neither can be altered, nor deleted.
Understanding a Database
A database is a systematic collection of data that is stored and retrieved using a computer system. It is a data structure that allows us to store and work with data. A database works on a centralized network that is operated by an administrator who has the permissions to read, write, update and delete stored data in the database. Any modification at the server system automatically gets updated in the entire network.
As the current data have become much more complex, a typical database deploys a client-server architecture. The server acts as the host in the database and the client as the user. The client requests access to the data. The client can also make modifications to the stored data only if it is authorized by the server to do so.
Financial records of an institution, ledgers in the banks, can be considered as examples of a database controlled by an administrative authority.
Benefits of using a database
Check the list of advantages of using blockchain technology:
- Multi-user interface: Database offers different types of user interfaces like APIs (Application Program Interface) and GUIs (Graphical User Interface)
- Flexibility: Database is more flexible towards customization. Since the conventional databases are administered and controlled midway, authorizations, advantages, and set-up requirements can be advanced. Besides, the information can be easily repositioned, on account of backup exercises and relational architecture.
- Backup and Recovery: The database recovery subsystems create an automatic backup of the stored information so that in the case of software failure, errors, or any other mishap, the data remains secure and easily accessible.
- Stability: The database structure is based on centralized network architecture and the administrator is the central authority to access and modify data, it is capable of handling a large capacity of transactions per second. The client-server architecture discards the requirement for hubs and replaces them with a standalone base.
- Speed delivery: The conventional databases used to be very sluggish. However, there has been a significant improvement in the database delivery speed and high-tech operations over the years.
Blockchain vs Database
There is no doubt that blockchain and database share significant similarities, but the aspects that make blockchain different from a database cannot be ignored. Following are the paramount differences between the two:
One of the important difference between blockchain and a database is the type of architecture used by the two. Blockchain uses distributed ledger technology that is DTL. Precisely, it is a peer-to-peer network where all the nodes share equal permissions and responsibilities. Each node has a copy of the original data, and thus each node can act as a server. Each node can verify the transactions over the network and perform data mining operations also. Cryptographic protocols are used to enhance security.
On the other hand, a database structure is based on a client-server architecture where a particular system acts as the server and the remaining systems as the client. Such type of architecture has proven to be beneficial for both small-scale and large-scale organizations. In such a network the server is controlled by an administrator that can read, write, alter or delete the data, and the client act as the user that requests for information.
One of the significant aspects of blockchain vs database is the type of control that these technologies have on the network. Blockchain is designed in such a way that the control over the data in the database remains decentralized. In other words, every system in the network has equal control over the data without the need for central control. To add any information in the blocks, the majority of nodes must concord with each other. This guarantees the security of the system.
On the other hand, a database is based on centralized control where a single entity controls the data and information stored in the database. Traditional databases are physically controlled on one server by an administrator. The administrator controls the information on the network. Apart from this, the administrator can control the activities of the client systems and cannot download the database until authorized to do so. Hence, the authority to run, manage and control the database is either entitled to a single person or a few people.
In a traditional database, permissions are required to access the data. The types of permission granted over a database are read, write, update and delete. The administrator of the database authorizes the clients or the users with the permissions to be used by them. The clients must validate their credentials with the administrator to get access to the database. This way the access to the database is limited and controlled.
In contrast, blockchain is a permissionless network and there are no set rules for accessing the information. In Blockchain, every node has an original copy of the data, and information can be accessed by any node instantly. However, altering the information on the blockchain is not easily possible.
Blockchain is designed in a way that hampering data on the network is not possible. Since, the blockchain stores information in the form of a chain of blocks where each block is linked to another block, data can be easily added into the chain but cannot be altered, or deleted. The past information and the relevant present information exist together. The information in blockchain is in real-time which makes it helpful in tracking the records and authenticity of a product.
On the other hand, databases are structured to add, modify and delete information. The information that is up to date at a particular moment is available for access. It gives a snapshot of the present data.
Another important aspect to be considered is the blockchain vs database argument. Blockchain is comparatively much more secure than a database. Blockchain functions by providing the original copy of the information to all the nodes for certifying the blocks, instead of relying on the primary server. In case of any unreliable information, the technology automatically identifies the abnormalities and rectifies them.
However, the information stored on a database cannot be guaranteed security. A single loophole in the information system can leverage hackers and pryers and result in false modification and loss of information.
The architecture of blockchain makes it a fault-tolerant technology. Since the information is shared amongst all the nodes, any type of software failure or error cannot disrupt the working of the entire system.
Whereas, in a database, if the server suffers from a failure, the entire system gets disturbed. Even the unavailability of the control authority can lead to operational failures.
To sum up, blockchain technology offers many benefits over database technology. There are a lot of similarities between the two which makes novices consider blockchain as another type of database, but the significant differences prove that blockchain and a database are different technologies. The organization is free to choose from either of the technologies according to its set goals.