We’ve been told blockchain is going to transform everything we do in the future. All of our data, our transactions, our payment information, and our personal identity details will be secure on the blockchain, for the rest of recorded history.
What Does This Mean?
It sounds almost as dramatic as the famous 1984 Apple Macintosh commercial, if all the media hype is to be believed. But what does the blockchain have to do with daily business practices?
It turns out, this technology can revolutionize business in ways we’re only beginning to imagine. With speed and security among the top draws of blockchain storage, we just need a touch of creativity to understand how it can benefit us in the future.
What Is Blockchain?
Blockchain has recently gained attention due to its connection with cryptocurrency, but at its core, it is a database that stores information in “blocks”.
New information stored in a new block, which then “chains” together with the previous block in chronological order.
Information in a block cannot be changed or deleted once it has been added to the chain: instead, a new block is created with the new, correct information.
Furthermore, no one person or entity has control of the database. Everyone who has information in the blockchain has access to it. Everyone has the same ability to add and view the details stored there. This is the concept of “decentralization.”
Instead of a central person or organization having full control over the data, it is transparent to everyone involved. Any changes made to the blockchain must be approved by a majority of the users.
Because of the permanence of blockchain, as well as its transparency to all users, it is considered a very secure method of recording information. One very popular use of blockchain is as a transaction ledger.
Another encouraging attribute of blockchain is its speed and efficiency. Updates are instant, and don’t require a network of communication between the parties with access. Instead of emailing multiple parties to advise them of updates to a spreadsheet, the updates are right there, in front of them.
You can learn more about Blockchain in this interesting article.
Using Blockchain to Revolutionize Data Storage
But, as many of you know, a database is not just a bunch of information. It includes contracts, which have actionable items and dates that need to be adhered to. Or, it can require a heightened level of security.
Consider, for example, any employment records you have.
Current information privacy storage requirements indicate they need to be held in a locked location for a specific amount of time.
Printing paper records to place in a filing cabinet with a physical lock is archaic by today’s technology standards, but placing them on a company-wide server has huge risks associated with it, especially as people come and go from the employment roster.
A blockchain creates a secure environment to store private information such as wage data, performance reviews, employment history, and background checks.
Payroll could be administered via a private blockchain, with all updates and changes taking place immediately through the creation of a new “block” and creating a detailed history of each employee’s salary and payments.
Further, the security features of the blockchain could ensure this information is only available to those who require access. Rather than requesting a report, and tracking back several years of files to detect an error or change, the blockchain will transparently reveal the exact date of the update, along with who made it.
What about contracts and policies? If these important pieces of information are stored on a blockchain, they cannot be altered. That means that the terms that all parties agreed to at the time of signing will be clearly displayed and cannot be changed without the formation of a new block or the agreement of the managing parties.
This also means that there will be a very unmistakeable record of when contracts were signed and when they’re due to be signed again.
Blockchain For Tracking Products Lifecycle
We know that blockchain updates very quickly and permanently, which makes it ideal for tracking not just static data that piles new information on top of old data, but transactional information, as well.
Much like a ledger tracks each sale, purchase, return, and refund in chronological order, so too can a blockchain, with the added benefit of being a permanent record of the activity.
This is also a compelling argument for storing supply chain information on blockchain. Imagine being able to track products in real time, along with being able to monitor suppliers.
No more lost inventory, unexpected fees, or running out of a particular item due to lack of communication.
Even with today’s inventory technology, we order a quantity of goods and hope that the supplier has enough to fill our order. Real time stock data on blockchain would eliminate these worries.
A New Way To Store Financial Transactions
Blockchain is ideal for storing financial transactions, as well. From a business owner perspective, imagine having all of your sales history recorded in one spot.
Not in multiple files labeled by the month or year. Not in a spreadsheet created from typing out cash register reports. But, rather, in one place, where they can be accessed at any time, in their full and complete history. The problems that could be solved with this type of access are plenty.
When it comes to making payments with blockchain technology, the benefits are also significant.
Consider how long it takes to process a credit card transaction through your website, payment software, your customer’s bank, your bank, and so on. Some types of payment software are looking to blockchain technology to solve the issue of long delays caused by today’s multi-step, centralized payment process.
While blockchain is still technically in its infancy, it appears that it can be incredibly helpful to building a more secure future with real-time accuracy.
Some experts recommend getting in on the ground floor now, to ensure you have priority status once business and banking become fully blockchain-based, while other experts feel we have a long way to go before we can safely put everything on the blockchain.
Still, it’s easy to see some of the advantages that this technology can bring to business owners of all industries.