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For the past few years, companies of all sizes, including many major corporations, have been exploring how they can leverage blockchain to help them conduct business more quickly, efficiently and effectively. Right now, the technology is making tremendous strides in the enterprise world as more and more companies adopt the technology for their own use. As we continue to develop new blockchain applications, there is a relatively new term that you’ll likely hear more about in the months ahead, namely: “blockchain as a service.”

Blockchain as a service, or BAAS for short, is a technology that enables companies to develop and use blockchain-based technology via cloud-based services, in effect, serving as a middleman between companies and customers.

In a way it works like online file-sharing apps that enable one to use a web-based tool to transfer large files from one party to another. Another way to look at it is like a web hosting company, which companies pay to host their websites, provide email functionality and other related features. In the BAAS model, the “host” company with blockchain technology can essentially create a blockchain and charge a fee for its use.

The advantage to companies wanting to use blockchain is that they don’t have to spend significant time, money or IT resources to develop their own blockchain. They can simply pay a fee to contract it out.

Here’s how it works: You decide your company is going to develop its own blockchain ledger, not in-house, but by working with a BAAS partner. So you contact a BAAS provider. You and the provider discuss your needs and goals, and your provider creates the blockchain technology and infrastructure that you will use in exchange for a service fee. Both parties sign a contract that outlines the term of use and the scope of work.

Then, the provider develops and implements the necessary resources and uses the appropriate technology to set up your blockchain-connected nodes. Depending on your needs, your provider will likely recommend one or more of the existing ledgers to “host” your blockchain.

Then, once it’s up, your provider will maintain all the technology on your behalf and also serve as a sort of help desk, should problems occur, so you’ll have the company’s expertise at your fingertips — just a phone, call, email or online chat away. Your provide will also provide a range of support including managing your bandwidth, optimizing your resources, handling online security maintenance, and ongoing diagnostics to ensure that your blockchain continues to run smoothly.

If you decide to pursue this option, you’ll want to do in-depth research before making a commitment, since development costs can get expensive. In a way it’s very much like app development was a few years ago from a process point-of-view. You’ll need to define exactly what you want to accomplish with your blockchain and how you will use it. For example, financial institutions might use it for transactional purposes, while human resources companies and departments might want the capability to access detailed candidate databases. There are many other ways that blockchain technology can be used, so it really is worth taking the time to determine your needs and talk with a blockchain expert.

One final note on this point: make sure the company you work with knows the industry inside and out.

Already, some cloud providers are offering this service with many more on the way. It will be interesting to learn how this affects costs in the months and years ahead.In the 1990s, when web hosting became accessible, web hosting used to be relatively costly. Today, with web hosting commonplace, you can host a website for a few dollars a month. Will the same thing happen in the BAAS industry? Time will tell.