Thanks to Blockchain, Decentralization -- and Data Security -- Are the Future
Nowadays, everything is going digital. The photographs we once stored in photo albums are generally no longer printed; they’re stored in online albums. And few people anymore use physical paper planners to keep track of their lives; instead, daily reminders and appointments are stored in digital calendars.
What's more, few people maintain handwritten ledgers to track their bank accounts. There are websites and apps that do the work for them and allow easy access this data.
Meanwhile, companies across multiple industries are storing all of their files and data digitally. From financial records to personnel files, digital networks are storing companies' internal data. The data companies collect from customers is often stored this way, as well.
Sounds good so far -- except for the fact that with so many things going digital, we are more and more susceptible to security breaches. And, in addition to the risk that we might be hacked, when we store everything on computers, we face the possibility that one of those digital networks we're using will go down.
That happens with some regularity: According to recent reports from Datacenter Dynamics, a British cloud-hosting company called UKFast suffered an outage at its data center in Manchester after workers there accidentally axed a cable connected to the computer network. And, earlier this year, Amazon’s cloud service also experienced an outage, attributed to either a bug in the network’s software code or human error.
Security breaches and outages, then, are a concern for many who have turned to digital storage. But the good news is that technological innovation is coming to the rescue.
First, there's Blockchain. Blockchain technology is a digital ledger which stores data blocks that are highly encrypted. This technology has begun to decentralize data, and the innovation it represents could well be the future of data storage. Already, businesses utilizing Blockchain are seeing many benefits.
And one big reason for those benefits can be attributed in large part to the fact that it’s easier to maintain the privacy and security of files and data on a decentralized network than a centralized one.
Blockchain vs. data servers
Last year, the Ponemon Institute, a research firm, reported on global cloud data security. The study found that 73 percent of information technology professionals surveyed called cloud computing applications and platform solutions integral to business operations today. Researchers have predicted that these solutions related to cloud computing will increase 81 percent over the next two years.
But this migration to the cloud could spell problems: 60 percent of the more than 3,000 IT professionals surveyed said it is more difficult to protect confidential or sensitive information on cloud servers. Alternately, Blockchain can provide the same data-storage capabilities as cloud hosting, but with more security and prevention of breaches.
Blockchain technology is more secure than cloud computing, by design: The cryptography that makes up the Blockchain design was actually created for the purpose of addressing the security concerns associated with digital products, like cloud networks. Since Blockchain is a decentralized network spread out across computers in different locations, there is no single point of weakness vulnerable to security breaches. Security has been built into blockchain technology, making it automatic.
Additionally, decentralized storage allows for drastic reductions in pricing, so that any company, not just the largest ones, can leverage the technology. With Blockchain-based data storage, small companies don’t have to spend money and resources building the infrastructure to hold data and files. Those companies pay only for the amount of data storage they need.
As Mike Stollaire, president and CEO of Titanium Blockchain Infrstructure Services, recently told me by phone, “We are not only replacing cloud storage but also providing processor and memory, so that resource-intensive projects involving artificial intelligence and virtual reality can be accomplished by anyone in the world at an affordable price.”
The world computer you can't shut down
Stollaire's company, Titanium, is being positioned to decentralize storage, processor power and memory throughout the globe by utilizing more than 200,000 devices comprising the Ethereum "world computer” (ETH) For those unfamiliar with ETH, this technology takes the cryptographic payment structure of Bitcoin and adds a Turing complete scripting language.
Ethereum is attempting to use Blockchain technology to create the most viable tool for executing smart contracts. The term "Turing complete" means a system capable of performing any logical step of the computational function, creating a globally decentralized, non-owned digital computer for executing peer-to-peer contracts. In layman's terms, Ethereum is a world computer you can't shut down.
Because of this, Titantium's system will be available almost 100 percent of the time, performing optimally, with essentially no outages.
A decentralized world computer that can't be shut down would be extremely useful for keeping our data safe. Consider, for example, that since 2009, more than 50 percent of all U.S. internet traffic has traveled through Northern Virginia, an area sometimes called "The Silicon Valley of the East."
Internet traffic is still being tunneled through this Dulles Technology Corridor today. And given the magnitude of this traffic, concerns have been raised as to whether it's safe for that much data to stream through just one geographical area. As the outages previously described illustrated, confining a storage network to one location can spell disaster if the network experiences problems.
For this reason, a number of large companies are utilizing Blockchain for their data storage needs. And other tech companies are harnessing the technology to innovate other industries. Earlier this year, Sony, for example, announced it had developed a Blockchain system for education.
Using this system, Sony promises to make educational achievements and activity records both open and safe. According to a recent Sony press release, the system “centralizes the management of data from multiple educational institutions and makes it possible to record and reference educational data and digital transcripts.” In this way, education records will be both more secure and also more easily transferable between and among education institutions.
At this juncture, decentralizing data is integral to the growth of online data storage. In light of recent big breaches, including those attacking Arby's, Verizon and Dun & Bradstreet in 2017, we are realizing the importance of better data security and access.
As companies begin to rely almost entirely on digital data storage, round-the-clock access to this digital infrastructure is key. Decentralizing data will limit the weaknesses found in typical cloud storage networks and ensure these systems are safe from attack.