Blockchain technology is bringing companies to a turning point in their business operations. With the rise of data sharing and connected devices, companies need to evolve into connected enterprises that share data both within the organization and externally. Blockchain can solve many of the challenges around secure online transactions and data storage, and the technology is extremely scalable. But here’s the question: How can enterprises leverage blockchain technology while still maintaining control of their participants and data?
The Fundamentals of Putting Enterprises on a Blockchain
Along with scalability, blockchain offers unprecedented advantages in maintaining data security. However, because the technology is so new, companies that plan to adopt it may need to update their tech protocols.
Companies can take several approaches for implementing the right infrastructure to support blockchain technology, though which approach each company selects depends largely on its sophistication and existing cloud architecture.
A private blockchain solution requires a decentralized network in Tier 2 or 3 cloud-enabled data center facilities. Such a network provides the physical footprint required to gain access to blockchain platforms hosted in public clouds like Microsoft Azure or IBM Cloud. Enterprises that plan to establish private blockchains will also need a network (either public internet or a private network for improved performance and security) to connect the enterprise environment and the public cloud platform. The private connection is vital to ensuring the highest levels of security, performance, and uptime for the data being exchanged on the blockchain.
Enterprises that already manage multiple cloud environments may not want to add additional cloud components solely to support a blockchain platform. In those cases, blockchain nodes as a service companies use simple API code to connect enterprises with leading blockchain protocols via private, public, and hybrid cloud environments. By leveraging the underlying data center and cloud connectivity network from providers like Zayo, blockchain companies can simplify the process for enterprises to deploy blockchain nodes on any major infrastructure (Bitcoin, Ethereum, Stellar, etc.) without undertaking large infrastructure builds.
The most important factor in managing and securing data on the blockchain involves establishing clear permissions for necessary parties to access the code. This may require increased collaboration among the tech department and other divisions of the company; programmers may need to access the code for different processes. However, only personnel absolutely vital to data storage and management should be able to access the blockchain platform.
Healthcare organizations are already seeing benefits of enabling a large set of stakeholders to have permissioned access to data on the blockchain. The status quo in medical records is an unwieldy and redundant system where patient data is shared manually among providers, physicians, nurses, insurance companies, and patients. The potential for error and waste are extremely high. Blockchain allows for a single source of trusted patient data that relevant stakeholders can access through an encryption key. This reduces the chances of error and ensures that confidential medical information is protected.
Fortunately, options are emerging across industries that lower the barrier to integrating blockchain into your enterprise systems. An example of this is network providers: In order for enterprises to successfully leverage a private blockchain platform, they’ll require a distributed network of cloud nodes with a secure and private connection to the cloud provider of their choice.
Next-generation network providers are beginning to work with leaders in the blockchain world to support the future of connected enterprises and companies that depend on unprecedented and growing volumes of data from billions of devices. Enterprises that are able to adopt blockchain technology will have the ability to validate and store all of this data — securely and at scale — and forward-thinking providers are helping them do it.
Investing in New Tech
Enterprises should also be prepared to invest in whatever off-chain tools are needed to support blockchain systems, and they should recognize that different processes may require different systems. Adopting blockchain technology will be a complex undertaking involving multiple stakeholders within the organization (especially because blockchain has far-reaching implications in many industries).
The financial industry, for example, has seen significant change because of blockchain use. The technology has affected fund transfers, as well as clearing and settlement for securities, commodities, and derivatives. Blockchain has the potential to eliminate the need for a centralized clearing authorization, allowing for event-triggered smart contracts to settle trades.
The technology has also improved visibility into asset ownership. Because blockchain records are immutable, there’s no question as to who owns what asset at any point in time. That’s important for the financial industry, where millions of shares and physical commodity assets are trading hands daily. It allows for streamlined asset life cycle management.
Although setting up the infrastructure for a blockchain platform requires a considerable upfront investment of time and resources, it can streamline a company’s processes and ultimately yield greater productivity and profitability.
Blockchain can also improve user experiences, particularly in the retail space. Establishing trusted relationships on a blockchain enables frictionless peer-to-peer and peer-to-merchant transactions and data-driven customer loyalty programs, and it can help to ensure supply chain integrity. At a time when consumers are increasingly concerned about buying ethically sourced food, clothing, and household products, blockchain can be used to track goods along all points on the supply chain to reassure consumers they’re purchasing goods that align with their values and to reassure buyers that they are receiving exactly what was contracted for.
Enterprises Need Blockchain
All enterprises should consider the benefits that blockchain technology can have on their businesses and work to understand the investment required to reach a competitive advantage. Early adopters will discover cutting-edge strategies for capturing, tracking, and securing data (and will revolutionize their companies in the process). As blockchain technology becomes more ubiquitous, those that lag behind will find it ever harder to catch up.