Can you retrieve data off the blockchain?

15 January, 2019
Retrieving data off the blockchain

With blockchain boasted as immutable, secure and the single source of truth, naturally we expect it to be as secure as Fort Knox. When it comes to getting data off the blockchain, this would naturally seem to be a very difficult issue for many companies. However, with many companies executing initial coin offerings (ICOs) and later falling illiquid, it is natural to be weary of the data that network was holding on the blockchain on your behalf (which naturally is still out there). Even more critical in some cases can be retrieval of that data. However, these businesses don’t seem to have redundancy plans pertaining to the retrieval of your data if the business fails to exist.

To answer your immediate question; the data saved on the blockchain is still available and accessible (assuming of course that the data was stored on a public blockchain, or a private network that is accessible by you).

Let’s delve into the particulars though, so you can diagnose whether the data is available to you.

Public network

A public network is one available to any computer globally (of course, one with an internet connection). If your data is stored on a public network, the data is available to both you and the public. This means that the data is out there and capable of being retrieved. It also means the data is available for anyone else to see, so we can only hope the organisation didn’t store anything personally identifiable on the blockchain (common practice is to avoid this and store personally identifiable information within a remote, private database).

Private network

A private network is a blockchain network limited to a finite number of systems. Think of these as computers that are able to access the network via an “invite only” process. In this circumstance, the data becomes much tricker to retrieve. In short, you must be one of the “finite number of systems” on the network if you’d like to retrieve this data. If you are not on the network, it will either be impossible to retrieve, or you will need to have contact with someone who has this level of access.

In both circumstances, the data is generally still out there in some capacity. Once you’ve been able to identify the location of the data, there is a need to write a custom algorithm to retrieve the data and store it within a custom format (such as a spreadsheet, or similar).

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us here.

Lambros Photios

Lambros Photios

I'm the founder and CEO of Station Five, one of Australia's fastest growing technology businesses. I specialise in idea conceptualisation and go to market, and work to provide startups with valuable information as host of The Venture Podcast.

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