18 May 2023 • 9 min read
You might consider this latest installment of the Trality blog as an ode of sorts to crypto nodes. You may have heard the word “node” before, but what exactly is a node? Nodes are a common concept in information technology and computer science, disciplines in which a node refers to a device that plays a part in a larger network.
But what about crypto nodes? When it comes to digital currencies, the definition of a node is a little bit more complex. When you’re thinking about nodes in the context of the blockchain and cryptocurrency, it essentially refers to any one of the computers running blockchain software in order to store and validate the history of transactions on the blockchain’s network. Crypto nodes might sound complicated at first, but they are actually a relatively simple concept once you have a more detailed understanding of blockchain technology on which cryptocurrency and digital money trading rely.
In the following article, we’ll look at the basics of cryptocurrency nodes, their functions, and their importance in the world of cryptocurrencies. Whether you are a seasoned cryptocurrency investor or simply curious about this emerging technology, understanding the role of nodes is essential for comprehending how cryptocurrencies operate and their potential for revolutionizing the financial landscape through decentralization.
In order to accurately describe the purpose and function of crypto nodes, we need to take a step back to consider the blockchain itself. In simple terms, blockchains are essentially decentralized, digital, distributed ledgers that we share across a peer-to-peer network. Blockchains basically act as databases that record digital transactions.
The transaction data sent through the blockchain is then recorded, stored, and encrypted. How? Well, the blockchain is a sequence (or “chain”) of sets (or “blocks,” hence “blockchain”) of transactions that everyone in a given network has agreed are legitimate.
And this is where crypto nodes come into the picture.
The physical devices, typically computers or other electronic devices, that maintain copies of the network's chains and keep the blockchain operational are known as “nodes.” These nodes are operated by network stakeholders, and their associated devices are authorized to take on the task of keeping track of the blockchain’s distributed ledger.
The primary purpose of a node is to confirm the legality of each batch of transactions on a network. These transaction sets are the blocks. Often, nodes are assigned a unique identifier to distinguish one node from another node on the same network.
When a new group of transactions takes place, it is broadcasted from node to node so that each node can update the database in the same way, confirming and validating the blockchain’s newest block. As you might have guessed, nodes are a big part of the distributed, peer-to-peer nature of blockchain networks because all of the disparate nodes work in conjunction to take on the responsibility of maintaining the database of transactions correctly. In this way, a distributed set of nodes validates each other ’s network-based dealings.
Nodes are an important part of the ethos of decentralized finance, which focuses on creating a financial structure based on transparency and eliminating the bureaucracy and financial middlemen. DeFi aims to create a world in which financial services are more democratic.
Nodes align with this mission by working together to form a blockchain’s governing infrastructure in a decentralized way. In other words, the distributed nature of a network’s nodes eliminates the need for a corruptible central entity. They effectively maintain the consensus of a blockchain’s public ledger, validating and monitoring transactions in order to ensure the security of the system as a whole.
When it comes to the operation of crypto nodes, there are three main purposes that nodes fulfill, namely maintenance, validation, and accessibility.
Let’s start with maintenance. You can think of nodes as blockchain custodians. They keep everything organized and running smoothly behind the scenes. Nodes ensure that all copies of the blockchain’s distributed ledger are synchronized. They also store encrypted data about past transactions and add new blocks to enable scalable growth.
Validation is the second purpose of crypto nodes. They’re programmed to execute transactions based on a majority consensus, and this consensus is a major part of the principles behind peer-to-peer, decentralized finance. To put it another way, crypto nodes can accept or reject proposals.
Accepted proposals are added to the blockchain and copied and distributed across the network. Rejected proposals are essentially “killed.” There are consensus mechanisms in place to ensure that all of a network’s nodes remain in sync. When new blocks are added, they’re processed in real-time and all copies of the blockchain’s ledger simultaneously update.
Accessibility is the final responsibility worth discussing here. Nodes essentially work as storage containers for a blockchain, meaning that any time you retrieve information on a network, you’re interacting with a node. These nodes are completely transparent as well as accessible to any user.
Blockchain nodes are categorized by the functions that they perform. While different groups of nodes have different responsibilities, all work toward the common goal of maintaining network integrity. A single blockchain protocol will typically require multiple types of nodes, each of which fulfills a specific role in the network ecosystem.
Nodes can also vary according to their level of engagement in network protocols. For example, some nodes might validate all of the blockchain’s history while others only contribute a smaller portion of storage space. In other words, not all nodes are created equal.
Let’s now turn to look at some of the most common types.
These are the servers behind a decentralized network. They perform many different tasks, preserving the blockchain’s transaction history by syncing, storing, copying, and distributing new data while simultaneously validating brandnew blocks. They also regulate rule adherence in order to ensure a trustworthy database.
Within the world of full nodes, there are two primary types: pruned and archival. A pruned full node has a set memory limit. In other words, upon installation, a pruned node downloads a blockchain in full but then deletes all but the metadata from older blocks, retaining only more recent entries, until its ultimate capacity is reached.
Pruned full notes, therefore, do not carry a complete copy of the blockchain’s distributed ledger, thereby allowing these nodes to prioritize security over storage. Archival full nodes do the opposite. They store the entire blockchain ledger, recording all transactions up to and including the Genesis blocks.
Archival full nodes are the most common types of nodes, and they have four subcategories.
These nodes are one of the most popular types of nodes, second only to archival nodes. They’re designed for fast, simple processing of daily transactions and activities that are relatively simple. They carry only essential data, and they cannot function without the partnership of full nodes because they don’t download the full blockchain.
An innovation intended to fight network congestion, lightning nodes are responsible for executing transactions outside the blockchain through separate, outside-network connections. After they’re processed, the transactions are uploaded to the main blockchain, which serves as a workaround for allowing low-cost, instantaneous exchanges without bogging down the network.
The rarest type of node, super nodes are specially created on demand to perform unique tasks. These tasks might involve implementing protocol changes or maintaining existing protocols, among other things.
Setting up any type of node can prove to be a complex process, and it might seem difficult without prior experience. However, there are five general steps that make up the process of setting up a crypto node. If you manage to do it successfully, then it can be a great source of passive income.
Step 1: Choose a Blockchain Network
The first thing you’ll need to do is to pick a blockchain network. For instance, would you like to be a stakeholder in Bitcoin’s network or Ethereum’s network? Or would prefer something new in the crypto space. Obviously, it’s important to weigh the benefits and risks of each network.
Step 2: Install the Software
Next, you will need to download and install the software, ensuring that you follow the installation instructions closely. You’ll also need to ensure that you have the requisite computing power.
Step 3: Sync the Node
Once you have installed the software, you will have to sync your node to the rest of the network by downloading the blockchain. At this stage, it’s imperative to have a stable and reliable internet connection so that the node remains in sync with the rest of the network.
Step 4: Configure the Node
You will need to configure your node after you have synced it with the rest of the network. This process involves setting up an account, adjusting relevant settings, and enabling port forwarding on your router.
Step 5: Run the Node
Once you have configured the node, you will be able to start running it, meaning that you can validate transactions and contribute to the network. In order to effectively run a crypto node, though, you will need some technical knowledge. A basic understanding of blockchain technology is a requirement to configure and troubleshoot the node.
Of course, there are also some costs that go into running a crypto node. Upfront costs are usually limited to the device and internet connection. As mentioned, you’ll have to have a device with the necessary technical capabilities to handle continuous syncing.
Bitcoin reports that, to run a node today, users will usually need about 125 GB of free disk space, 2 GB of memory, a broadband internet connection with upload speeds of 50 KB/second, and sufficient download limits. There are many cost-effective software options that meet these specs, however.
For example, the Raspberry Pi is a small computer that’s only about the size of a human hand. A properly outfitted Raspberry Pi is a popular Bitcoin node device, and it will cost you only about $90. Individuals who run a full node have also reported that energy and electricity to do so will typically cost you between $3 and $10 per month.
Nodes are growing more and more popular, but it’s important that users understand the risks associated with running a node. As you suspect, most of these risks are related to security and privacy.
One risk is malware attacks. It’s important to properly secure your node so that it’s not vulnerable to malware attacks. If you don’t, malware can be used to steal important data like private keys, which can end up costing you financially if a malevolent actor is able to access user accounts.
DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks are another risk associated with running a node. They can overload a node traffic-wise, causing it to crash and disrupt the entire network. Sybil attacks are another concern, and they can happen when an attacker creates multiple nodes with the intent of gaining control over the whole network (although this is more likely on smaller networks).
Many crypto users wonder if running a crypto node is lucrative. You can certainly make passive income by running crypto nodes, but the exact specifications will depend on the blockchain you choose. For example, miners on Bitcoin’s network will receive rewards in the form of newly minted cryptocurrency (i.e., the proof-of-work model).
With the proof-of-stake model, used by Ethereum, Solana, and Cardano, among others, you can earn money by staking your crypto (in certain cases a specific amount) and locking it in for a given period. By doing so, you can run a validator node, which confirms the legitimacy of transactions conducted on that network’s blockchain.
One leading blockchain engineer has described nodes as a source of truth for the blockchain. They make the infrastructure behind the world of crypto possible. It’s worth noting that more nodes equals more decentralization. A high node count creates network resilience and makes infiltration less likely.
Instead of relying on an elite central authority, blockchain technology is powered by nodes— essentially, stakeholders and the devices that connect them to a network. In this way, control over a platform is democratized. It’s spread across an elected team of nodes that authenticate transactions and execute decision-making protocols.
Technically speaking, anyone can run a crypto node. However, it’s important to consider the knowledge and technical requirements of doing so as well as the rewards and benefits associated with this process.
If you are an experienced trader looking to ramp up your passive income, running a crypto node can definitely be a viable way of earning passive income.