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Differences Between a Blockchain and a Database

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As we’ve written in “What is Blockchain Technology?” the main difference between a blockchain and a traditional database is the way in which these technologies are organized.

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As we’ve written in “What is Blockchain Technology?” the main difference between a blockchain and a traditional database is the way in which these technologies are organized.

WWW-based databases use a client-server network. The user (client) with permissions linked to an account is able to alter entries stored in a centralized server. After making changes to the ‘original copy’ whenever client accesses database they will get an updated version of it. Administrators have complete control over the database.However, it’s different when it comes to a blockchain. In this case, every user stores, calculates and updates entries in the database - all nodes cooperate in order to ensure safety by coming to the same conclusions. As a result, centralized databases, which can act as record systems, and blockchains are suited for different functions.


Majority of centralized databases keep information which is up-to-date at a particular moment, but blockchain databases are able to retain not only current but also past information – they have their own history. They grow continuously and develop archives while providing current information.What caused people to call blockchain database unchangeable is the cost required to change it. This is also where we can see the evolution of a database into a system of record.

Decentralized control

Blockchains enable different parties not trusting each other to share information without the necessity to have a central administrator. Transactions are processed by a network of users working as a consensus mechanism, thanks to which every person creates the same shared system of recording at the same time.Centralized control comes with risks, and eliminating them makes decentralized control valuable. In the case of centralized control, users are dependent on the administrators, so anyone with access to the database can corrupt or destroy data. Despite this money is not being stolen from banks which store their data in private databases, so there are administrators who earned their trust.There are logical reasons for why one would want centralized control – in a way it can be a speciality. However, those in control – a bank for example – have to spend billions of dollars so that no one is able to tamper with centrally stored databases, even hackers and people who could potentially benefit from other people’s loses. So, if central administrators fail we are the ones who accumulate loses.


Even though blockchains can be used as systems of records and they’re perfect for transaction platforms they are considered to be slow when compared to capabilities of digital transactions technologies such as Visa or PayPal.Although blockchains are sure to improve in this aspect the nature of blockchain technology makes it sacrifice some of its speed. Scattered blockchain networks do not share and compound processing power, they service the network independently and then keep comparing their results with the rest of the network until they come to an agreement that something has happened. On the other hand, centralized databases exist since decades, and their performance has increased as a result ofMoore’s Law, a formula defining innovations in the digital era.


Writing and reading when it comes to Bitcoin database is unlimited – it means that anyone can write and read a new block in a blockchain. However, blockchains can be configured to act similarly to centralized databases – private blockchains require users to have certain permissions in order to write and read. Though, if trust is not an issue and confidentiality is the main goal, then blockchain databases have no advantage over centralized databases.Hiding information in a blockchain requires high amounts of cryptography and associated computational burden for nodes in the network. Currently, the best option is to simply hide data in a private database which does not require connection with a network. Just think of all the databases Ethan Hunt broke into in “Mission: Impossible” series if you want to get the gist of the type of confidentiality possible in private databases.

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