If you are following our blog, you may have already know that blockchain is the backbone of many cryptocurrencies today. On the other hand, many traditional systems still run on a database which begs the question: what is the difference between blockchain and database? Let’s explore in this blockchain vs database comparison.
The essential difference between the two systems lies in their architecture. Even though the primary goal is to store information, however, the way they maintain this information is different.
Let’s look at each of them closely to understand the difference in this blockchain vs Database comparison:
What is Database?
The traditional databases that we have been using for decades use client-server architecture. The users are the clients that can access the database which is administered by a central authority, which is called server. This central authority is responsible for authenticating the access of a client.
The key characteristic of a traditional database is centralization, which is also the primary difference between the both. The entity that administrates the database is a central figure because of which the authority is not distributed and is based in a single place. Hence, database is more vulnerable to attacks. If this authority is compromised, the data stored in the database can be modified or even deleted.
What is Blockchain?
The blockchain is a decentralized database that has several nodes instead of a centralized server. The administration of the database is distributed among all nodes. All these nodes are responsible for administrating any new additions to the database.
For the modification to happen, all nodes have to agree. They reach consensus through some mechanism which is what guarantees security. However, this mechanism may vary between different blockchains. The two commonly used mechanisms are ‘proof of work’ and ‘proof of stake.’
Blockchains works on three technologies:
- Private key cryptography
- P2P Network
- Program or Protocol
By combining these three technologies, blockchain essentially eliminates the need for a third-party to oversee access and transactions.
Difference between Blockchain and Traditional Database
Enough with the basic definitions, let’s get into details of our blockchain vs database comparison. By the very definition of these two types of databases, you can guess that the main difference is decentralization in the blockchain. However, there are a few other things that make blockchain unique.
One property of blockchain databases which has helped them gain so much popularity in the digital world in transparency.
In fact it is transparency that makes blockchain an instant success. You can verify all transactions in Blockchain publicly. Any user at any time can verify how some data or block, as it is called in a blockchain database, was added. This transparency automatically increases the integrity of the system because of which a user can be confident that the data they are seeing is authentic.
Another significant difference between a blockchain and a database is that the blockchain only allows the user to append. You can only add data to the blockchain while In traditional databases, users can perform multiple operations. This practice is known as CRUD.
CRUD stands for Create, Read, Update, and Delete. You can create a record, read it, upgrade it and even delete it.
Even though this gives the user a lot more power when accessing the database, it also creates a security risk.
To put it in simple words, you can only read and write data in a blockchain. Also, you cannot delete or alter any data that is already present. Therefore, the primary operations in the blockchain are only validating and writing transactions. When the nodes confirm a transaction, a new block adds to the blockchain. No other block is edited, and the previous transactions remain as they are.
For instance, if you have 5000 ETH, and then you spend 1000 ETH. The record will maintain that you had 5000 ETH before the transaction. It doesn’t change and will be available for the users to see.
The decentralization in the blockchain is what makes it secure. As traditional databases security is centralized, it is somewhat easier to tamper the data. If someone has access to the centralized database, they essentially have the power to do anything with the data.
As a result of the distributed architecture, a blockchain eliminates this problem. The infrastructure is more reliable because of which it is quickly becoming popular all over the world.
There is a reason why many financial and tech experts call it future of the world.
Blockchain vs Database: An Example
You can think of a blockchain like something between a database and Wikipedia. On a surface level, blockchain looks a lot like Wikipedia. Similar to the blockchain, Wikipedia is controlled by not a single entity but many people. Users can make a change from anywhere, and everyone can see it.
However, Wikipedia is similar to the database as it is based on the client-server architecture. Also, a client with permission to make the change can alter the web page data. This change goes to the server and reflects in the master copy. When you search for a page and open it, you will be accessing the master copy. The administrator of the Wikipedia database allows the access.
On the other hand, the change happens to every node in a blockchain. The new record or block is visible to all the nodes, and therefore, there is no central figure involved.
Blockchain Establishes Digital Trust
Two things establish digital trust so to speak. These are authentication (who you are?) and authorization (do you have access clearance?).
In blockchain, a cryptographic private key helps prove authentication. However, In traditional databases, you might need to provide personal information to gain access. This means that your personal information may also be vulnerable to hackers.
As for authorization, the whole distribution network needs to commit. This spares the system of failure or corruption. The network authorizes a transaction by applying the rules the system was based on. It may sound a bit complex, but it works.
Summary: Blockchain vs Database Quick Comparison
Here are the main differences between a traditional database and blockchain:
|Client-server architecture||Distributed Ledger|
|You can create, read, modify, and delete data||Data can only read and added|
|Distributed transactions||Majority Consensus|
|Integrity constraints||Anybody can validate transactions|
Blockchain uses security in its very own structure which gives it an edge over relational databases. However, traditional databases have their own qualities that make them suitable for some types of information.
Above all, It depends on the business and their business model which of these two systems works best for them. One can apply the idea of blockchain to many needs. Because of its transparent nature, blockchain is quickly expanding its use. However, still, the cryptocurrency industry still remains the primary user of blockchains.