Records Management is an incredibly complex job which is made even more complicated due to the enormous quantities of data that is being generated in the world currently. Record Management involves not only safely storing the sensitive data, but also to making it accessible and making sure that ample copies of it exist if the data is lost. The implications of an incompetent record management system are extraordinary, not only for the organization that suffers from a hack but also for the people whose personal information is compromised. Let’s take a look at some of the challenges faced by record management systems and how blockchains can help.
Ensuring Accessibility to Records
Accessibility is perhaps the most critical use case for a records management software as data is no good if no one can access it. To make records accessible, corporations need to digitize records and add metadata to it so that data can be easily searched. Once the database is created, record management also involves managing the rights of access to ensure that no unauthorized access takes place. This involves setting up their servers and employing user access software.
Ensuring Immutability and Data Integrity
Data Integrity is a huge aspect of efficient record keeping in this day and age as user data is a very valuable commodity. Large corporations want to acquire this valuable information so that they could use machine learning to identify the underlying patterns in the data to gain a competitive edge. This is also one of the most controversial aspects of records management because it is very hard to make sure that the stored data is secure. The recent Equifax hack is the most prominent slap in the face of records management as hackers were able to steal compassionate information like people’s social security numbers and house addresses.
Making Records Easily Auditable
It is essential when dealing with sensitive information that records management provides a way to verify that the data has not been modified or corrupted in any way. That would allow third parties to verify the authenticity of the records independently. This requires additional database infrastructure to safely store the hashes of the data to compare against later.
How Can Blockchains Help?
At their core, blockchains are nothing but distributed databases that exist on millions of devices simultaneously. Because of their architecture, they are entirely immutable so for all practical purposes, information stored on a blockchain is permanent. Blockchains can be public or private depending on the nature of the use case. Public blockchains, which are the dominant type of blockchains that exist in the world today are useful because they have no barriers to entry concerning who can participate in the network. All of these properties that blockchains have built in are very useful to record management systems.
- Accessibility – This is especially true in the case of public blockchains as anyone can participate in the network by sharing their computing resources. Bitcoin, the worlds largest open blockchain, can be used by anyone in the world to send money to any part of the world. Private blockchains can be used by corporations who want to have greater control over who can make changes to the blockchain as they deal with sensitive information.
- Security – Blockchains by their design have been made so that they are entirely resistant to tampering and censorship. Any changes to contents of the blockchain require a majority of the support which is very hard to acquire due to their decentralized nature. That is why for all practical purposes, information once posted on the blockchain is permanent. This makes blockchains an instrumental candidate for storing sensitive data.
- Data Integrity Audits – Because of the properties of blockchain mentioned above, they are very effective in checking against possible corruptions in the data. Factom, one of the biggest blockchain based data integrity solutions has developed a unique method of data audits. Factom takes hashes of the entire database at different times and stores that information in their blockchain which is anchored into Bitcoin’s blockchain. Then, if a third party wants to verify that the database hasn’t been modified, they can only do so by comparing the saved hash with the original hash.