What type of files can you put on a blockchain?

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As blockchain technology has developed so have the applications for its use. One of the most compelling but overlooked uses of blockchain is data storage.

When most people think of blockchain, however, they think of Bitcoin. But blockchain technology is so much more than just a digital currency! At its core, blockchain is a distributed database that allows for secure, transparent, and tamper-proof transactions. This makes it the perfect technology for storing data. But what type of data?

What type of data can be stored on a blockchain? Blockchains that specialize in storing data allow nearly all types of data: DOC, XLS, PDF, PNG, JPG, GIF, PSD, SVG, MP3, MP4, MOV, AVI and more.  This means it is possible to upload basically all of your digital files onto a blockchain whether they are photos, documents or movies.

But not all blockchains accept all types of data. In this blog post we will discuss which blockchains accept data storage, what types of data can be stored on them and how this could revolutionize the way businesses operate.

The first blockchains and the data they store

Two of the earliest and most popular blockchains are Bitcoin and Ethereum. While both store data, their main purpose is not the retention of large amounts of data.

Both Bitcoin and Ethereum were designed as trustworthy ledgers of financial transactions. In that regard, they have capably handled millions of transactions which are openly available for anyone to explore. But financial transactions generally only need a tiny amount of data, about 250-350 bytes per transaction. So the overall amount of data stored on these blockchains remains relatively small.

For example, as of October 2022, the Bitcoin blockchain had just 430 GB of data in total. By contrast, new personal computers are often sold with 2 TB of data storage - almost five times the amount of data as the entire Bitcoin blockchain.

Most early blockchains were not designed to hold large amounts of data and different file types. And even if you could upload a photo or video to them, the cost would be prohibitively expensive.

As blockchain technology enters its second decade, however, the situation is changing. Many blockchains remain focused on recording financial transactions but several newer blockchains focus on data storage and offer storage for all different types of files.

Arweave v Filecoin

The storage blockchains: Arweave and Filecoin

Thirteen years after the launch of Bitcoin, a new generation of storage-focused blockchains have arisen. Two of the leading storage blockchains are Arweave and Filecoin.

Both Arweave and Filecoin have reimagined the blockchain to allow large amounts of file storage at low costs. As we discussed above, this is a significant advancement over ledger-only blockchains like Bitcoin or Ethereum that hold small amounts of data at expensive prices.

Storage blockchains have the ability to upload all different types of files including but not limited to: office documents like Word and PDF, image files like PNG and JPG, audio files like MP3, and movie files like WMV and MOV.  

That being said, there are significant differences between Arweave and Filecoin.

Arweave is focused on solving the problem of long-term data storage. Through both a technological and economic innovation they have succeeded in creating a blockchain that can store a file for at least 200 years for a single initial fee. For example, paying $1 USD for storage would allow you to store approximately 1400 office documents or 170 pictures well beyond your lifetime.

In addition, Arweave has been able to leverage permanent data to build an ecosystem of applications that are using the power of permanence to build new types of software.

Filecoin has been focused on the more traditional route of tech companies that offer storage for a monthly subscription price. So for short-term storage, Filecoin would be slightly cheaper than Arweave, as their focus is on disrupting big cloud storage firms like AWS or Alibaba.

Both Arweave and Filecoin are looking to carve out an increasing share of the ever-expanding data storage industry.

Blockchain secure storage

Reasons to store personal files on a blockchain

When it comes to personal data, there are a number of reasons why you might want to store your most valuable files of any type on a blockchain.

First and foremost, storing data on a blockchain can help to keep it secure. Because blockchains are decentralized and distributed, they are very difficult for hackers to tamper with. Additionally, due to the way that blockchains are designed, data that is stored on a blockchain is typically immutable, meaning it cannot be changed or deleted. This can be extremely useful for personal data, as it ensures that your data remains exactly as you intended it to be.

Another reason to store personal data on a blockchain is for privacy. When you store data on a centralized server, such as with a traditional cloud storage provider, you are essentially entrusting that company with your data. They may snoop or sell your data to advertisers. But when you store data on a blockchain, it is usually encrypted and can only be accessed by those who have the appropriate keys (passwords). This means that your data is far more private when stored on a blockchain.

Finally, storing personal data on a blockchain can help to ensure that it is accessible when you need it. Because blockchains are distributed, there is no single point of failure. If one node (or storage point) in the network goes offline, or even if an entire country loses power and all its computers shut down, the rest of the network will continue to function. Additionally, because data on a blockchain is typically immutable, you can be sure that your data will remain accessible even if other parts of the network are unavailable.

Overall, storing personal data on a blockchain can offer a number of advantages in terms of security, privacy, and accessibility. If you are looking for a secure and private way to store your personal data, a blockchain may be the right solution for you.

Example of industries that can benefit from using blockchain storage

As the benefits of blockchain for data storage become more widely known, mainstream adoption seems to be inevitable. Several industries are ripe for blockchain disruption. Here are a few examples where data storage blockchains could be used in the future:

1. Healthcare - Electronic medical records (EMRs) are often siloed, making it difficult for different providers to access and share patient data. If regulatory approval is met, blockchain could provide a solution by creating a shared database of EMRs that is secure, tamper-proof, and accessible to authorized individuals.

2. Banking - Financial institutions face numerous challenges when it comes to storing and managing customer data. Blockchain could provide a secure, decentralized way to store banking data, which would be especially helpful in cases of cross-border payments.

3. Supply chain - Supply chains are often complex and fragmented, making it difficult to track the provenance of products. Blockchain technology could be used to create a transparent and immutable record of each product's journey from manufacture to sale.

4. Government - Governments have vast amounts of data ranging from birth certificates to tax records that needs to be securely stored and managed,  Blockchain could provide a secure and efficient way to store and manage this sensitive data.

5. Real estate - The real estate industry relies heavily on paper documents, which can be lost or damaged. Blockchain could provide a secure and tamper-proof way to store and manage property records.

These are just a few examples of the many industries that can benefit from using blockchain storage. As the technology continues to evolve, we are likely to see even more innovative use cases.

USB storage

Try putting your files onto a blockchain

If you would like to try putting different types of files on a blockchain, you can always use ArDriveWhether it is your photos, videos, music, or personal documents ArDrive can handle any file type.

ArDrive uses the Arweave blockchain to store data permanently. There are no subscription fees and for $1 USD you can store hundreds of documents or photos.

The setup for ArDrive is straightforward, doesn’t require an email, and you can get started here

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