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Blockchain burst onto the scene in a big way over the past decade. It propelled cryptocurrencies to new heights and spawned a whole new class of cybercriminals, with cryptojacking. However, blockchain’s long-hyped benefits to MSPs have been uneven and slow to materialize. Will the next decade finally bring about a widespread blockchain revolution for MSPs?

New kid on the block(chain)

If you haven’t started to think about implementing blockchain in your services, now is the time to start exploring. The technology holds great promise for giving MSPs another set of tools and the buzz seems to be building.

IT Europa reports: Blockchain is beginning to make its importance felt in managed services, with Blockchain-as-a-Service (BaaS) becoming another tool for an MSP’s portfolio

With the buzz about blockchain once again on the rise, here are some ways in which MSPs may stand to leverage blockchain to provide better service to customers:

Application lifecycle management (ALM): Just as some MSPs specialize in health, finance, or education, MSPs that are blockchain specialists will be increasingly sought in ALM management of blockchain applications, from deploying, to testing, and advising.

Data management: While trust is an inherent part of any business relationship, there are some sensitive materials that perhaps a business does not want a third-party vendor like an MSP to see. Blockchain allows customers access to their data, while MSPs can simultaneously manage it without seeing it. This is especially important in information areas like healthcare and finance.

Payments: Whether managing payments between customers or only accepting payment via a trusted cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, blockchain technology can offer more flexibility.

Blockchain brings trust

Greg Adamson, cybersecurity professor at the University of Melbourne, tells Smarter MSP that one of the promises that blockchain offers is that it creates trust in the generally trustless environment of the internet. This built-in trust has helped solve the “double spending” problem inherent in cryptocurrency, but blockchain’s applications are far more extensive.

“Basically, (blockchain is useful) anywhere `integrity’ is required. This could include a register of public keys or tamper-proof evidence in a supply chain,” provides Adamson.

With supply-chain breaches becoming an increasing problem in the ecosystem, blockchain could emerge as a powerful MSP tool. The security of blockchain has been highly touted, although it’s not perfect. Like any security breach, the genesis is often someone, usually inadvertently, not following protocol.

“There has been a stream of large thefts of cyber currency, some in the tens or hundreds of millions of dollars. These security breaches have generally come down to simple security policy failure, such as failure to follow rules,” notes Adamson. As an example, he offers the theft of large amounts of cryptocurrency in network-connected devices when the policy was to store it offline.

Adamson pointed to an event in 2014 when bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox reported that nearly half a billion dollars of bitcoin were missing, and only a part of it was recovered. Security at Mt. Gox had been designed to protect magical (game) tokens, a far less demanding application than protecting financial assets.

Another aspect of blockchain that needs to be considered is that this ledger-based system is designed for integrity, but not privacy. Privacy is achieved by storing information on a blockchain in an encrypted format.

Adamson points out, “However, the life of a blockchain may be several times longer than the security of the encryption algorithm, making blockchain a poor application for medical data,” which is something that MSPs who handle a lot of health records need to keep in mind when exploring blockchain.

“An effective alternative is to store evidence of the validity of a record, rather than the record itself,” informs Adamson.

Currently, some estimates say only 1-2 percent of MSPs are using blockchain technology in their businesses. Many experts predict once it catches on it will be a significant disruptor – opportunities abounding and pitfalls to watch for – in the MSP industry. Instead of being caught off guard by the coming blockchain revolution, MSPs need to start researching today.

“Trying to guess when blockchain technology will reach mass uptake is difficult. What is clear is that for a distributed application, where you want to protect the integrity of the data reliably, blockchain is the only game in town,” states Adamson.

MSPs need to start learning the game or risk being shut out.

Photo: Iaremenko Sergii / Shutterstock

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Kevin Williams

Posted by Kevin Williams

Kevin Williams is a journalist based in Ohio. Williams has written for a variety of publications including the Washington Post, New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, National Geographic and others. He first wrote about the online world in its nascent stages for the now defunct “Online Access” Magazine in the mid-90s.

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