Blockchains are digital ledgers that operate as decentralized databases. These distributed databases record and store data in chronological sequences. The blocks of data are linked using cryptographic proofs. The introduction of blockchain technology has improved security in trustless environments, providing advantages for various industries. Despite the benefits, blockchains also have certain drawbacks due to their decentralized nature. In comparison to traditional centralized databases, blockchains are less efficient and require more storage capacity.
Pros of Using Blockchain
- Storing blockchain data across a distributed network of nodes makes the system and data resilient to technical failures and malicious attacks. The network nodes can replicate and store the database, eliminating any single point of failure. Thus, the network's security and availability remain unaffected even if a node goes offline. Conventional databases, on the other hand, typically depend on a single or a few servers, which makes them more susceptible to technical failures and cyber-attacks.
- Once confirmed, blockchain blocks are highly resistant to reversals. This means that any data registered in the blockchain is challenging to remove or alter, making it an ideal technology for storing financial records and maintaining an audit trail. Every change is permanently recorded on a public, distributed ledger. For instance, blockchain technology can help businesses prevent fraudulent behavior among employees. By using a blockchain, companies can securely and consistently record all financial transactions, making it difficult for employees to conceal any suspicious activity.
- Unlike in traditional payment systems, where transactions require intermediaries like banks, credit card companies, or payment providers, blockchain transactions are verified by a distributed network of nodes through a process called mining. This trustless system eliminates the need for relying on a single organization, lowering transaction costs and fees by removing intermediaries and third parties.
Cons of Using Blockchain
- 51% Attack Risk
- A successful 51% attack is a potential risk against blockchain networks. Although theoretically possible, there has never been a successful 51% attack on the Bitcoin blockchain. The network's growth increases security, and it is unlikely that miners will invest significant resources to attack Bitcoin as they are better rewarded for acting honestly. Additionally, the Bitcoin blockchain is very resilient and would quickly adapt as a response to an attack.
- Unable to Change the Data
- Blockchain data or code modification is generally challenging and often necessitates a hard fork, where one chain is relinquished, and a new one is adopted. This stability is one of the advantages of blockchain technology, but it can also be a drawback in some cases.
- Possibility of Losing Keys
- In blockchain technology, public-key cryptography is used to grant users ownership of their cryptocurrency units or any other blockchain data. Every blockchain address has a matching private key, which is secret and should be kept by the user. Users require their private key to access their funds and thus act as their own bank. If a user misplaces their private key, the money becomes irretrievable.
- The Proof of Work algorithm utilized by blockchains like Bitcoin is widely considered to be inefficient. The computational power of miners is continually increasing, and with just one successful miner every ten minutes, the work of other miners is essentially wasted. As a result, the resources required by the Bitcoin network have grown substantially over the past few years, with the network now consuming more energy than some countries, including Denmark, Ireland, and Nigeria.
- Storing blockchain ledgers can become quite burdensome with their size increasing over time. At present, to store the Bitcoin blockchain, one needs around 500 GB of storage space. However, the blockchain's growth rate surpasses the growth rate of hard drives. Consequently, the network might lose nodes if the ledger becomes too large for individuals to download and store.
The potential of blockchain technology is undeniable, even though there are drawbacks. It has become a staple in various industries, and its presence is set to continue. Despite needing to overcome some challenges, industries are starting to recognize the benefits and drawbacks of using blockchain systems. Over the coming years, businesses and governments will likely investigate different applications to determine the most effective ways to use blockchain technology.