What is a Node in the blockchain?

Nodes are computers on the blockchain that broadcast transactions to other nodes for confirmation. As part of a distributed network, a node is one of the devices that run the network.

Nodes save blocks of transactions, which serve as a restoration archive. It also saves new blocks on the network. Changes are updated in every blockchain node that validates similar network transactions.

Diagram Description automatically generated

Why is it important to run a node?

Here are some prominent reasons for running your node:

1) Confirming new blocks: Running a node is mandatory to confirm and maintain the integrity of a new block of transactions. You can run multiple nodes for the same function.

2) It gives you control over transactions: Operating a blockchain node gives you complete control. You’ll work on the blockchain without needing a third party.

3) You’ll be part of the blockchain maintenance: Node hosts participate in the maintenance of the blockchain. Some of the maintenance issues are security and the accuracy of network transactions.

For example: for accuracy, operating a Bitcoin node will allow you to confirm transactions.

4) It is cost-effective: Running your node is cheaper than mining. The requirements for some nodes can be met with a typical personal computer. The costs can be reduced by operating as an offline node.

Which are the main types of nodes?

The main types of nodes are:

  • Full nodes
  • Lightweight nodes
  • Pruned full nodes
  • Mining nodes
  • Supernodes (listening nodes)
  • Masternodes
  • Authority nodes
  • Archival full nodes
  • Staking nodes
  • Lightning nodes

Diagram Description automatically generated

Full nodes:

A full node works like a regular node but has a copy of the blockchain’s ledger. The decentralized ledger stores data for the blockchain. All the transactions on the blockchain also reflect on the full node. These nodes download transactions from the entire blockchain ledger and validate and store them.

Proposed transactions cannot go through without full nodes. That’s because the new transactions need verification before storage. Full nodes also act as backups to the entire blockchain ledger. They will restore transactions in cases such as power outages or systemic crashes.

For example, Full Bitcoin nodes support other nodes on the Bitcoin blockchain. It makes a full node a critical component of the infrastructure.

Lightweight nodes:

A lightweight node stores partial data of the blockchain ledger. In these cases, only block headers are downloaded. Lightweight nodes use Simplified Payment Verification (SPV) to validate transactions. They depend on full nodes to access the entire blockchain history. Its advantages are that it is easy to maintain and run.

Pruned full nodes:

Pruned full nodes are like full nodes but do not maintain a copy of the blockchain ledger. In a similar way to a full node, they assist in running the blockchain. It’s like an extension to handle the increasing functions of the blockchain. They create registries that store more data in the full blockchain node.

Mining nodes:

A mining node is for solving a proof of work in the blockchain. It’s also for cryptocurrency mining. To maintain the integrity of the blockchain, proof of work is required to ensure blockchain security and maintain decentralization. Unlike full nodes, mining nodes also provide rewards for their owners.

For example, Bitcoin miners actively look for new blocks to add to the network. They gain rewards with new block additions.

Supernodes (listening nodes):

A super node is a full node that stores blockchain data and is a communication line on the blockchain. Supernodes maintain reliable connections for communication links.

It transmits blockchain transaction data and additional historical information. A super node requires a fast internet connection and high computational power.

For example, the Bitcoin node has a supernode that all node hosts can view.

Masternodes:

A masternode is a governing node on the blockchain.  It stores the primary blockchain ledger copy. Masternodes operate by having collateral of the primary token on the crypto blockchain. They also verify transactions on the blockchain.

Despite its governance role, it can’t add new blocks like the full blockchain node. You can change it to work with other functions needed in the blockchain.

Authority nodes:

Authority nodes are selected by members of the blockchain for management, and they are vetted to ensure they can maintain their role.

Most blockchain systems use the proof-of-authority system, and approved nodes have complete identity information, unlike anonymous nodes. Some blockchain systems do not have authority nodes.

Archival full nodes:

Archival full nodes run in ‘archive mode’ and store all transactions on the block to which they belong. Full node clients use it to access smart contract information on the first 200 blocks quickly.

You need accurate reference data to find blocks on the resident network, so each blockchain address directs the full node user to that data.

Staking nodes:

A staking node stores node collateral as cryptocurrency. It’s available on crypto ecosystems that use the proof-of-stake systems. Staking nodes confirm blocks of transactions in the network and broadcast new transactions.

A node stores cryptocurrency collateral deposits from a staking pool or a single user. It is possible to earn rewards or apply for their nodes to participate in block confirmation.

Lightning nodes

The Lightning Network is an ecosystem above the blockchain. A lightning node facilitates Lightning Network interaction and performs similar functions to a blockchain, such as verifying transactions.

Many blockchains can be supported by a lightning network, which is like the top interface for the blockchain.

For example, the Bitcoin blockchain has its Lightning Network. It facilitates fast transactions through the Bitcoin nodes.

Who can run a node?

All Blockchains have nodes running online. Any person can run a node by accessing the blockchain’s transaction history. Most node administrators are volunteer blockchain enthusiasts participating in other roles, including maintaining integrity, security, broadcasting transactions, and development.

Running a node is as simple as ensuring its software is online on a computer. When the node is offline, it will be inactive. When the node is back online, it will update with all the changes on the blockchain, and all nodes will validate transactions.

What is a master node?

The primary role of a masternode is to govern the blockchain. Hosts of Masternodes need to deposit large crypto collateral since they have more power than ordinary nodes.

Masternode administrators gain rewards through an interest in their collateral and operations on the blockchain. These nodes also broadcast transactions to other nodes for confirmation. A master node is always online to transmit the entire blockchain history to other nodes.

Who can run a masternode?

Unlike a normal node, not everyone can run a masternode. The hosts of masternodes must deposit crypto collateral on the blockchain. It ascertains their commitment to proper management of the masternodes.

Blockchain users hold the collateral from the owner in case of abuse of power.

Example:

An example of a blockchain network with masternodes is DASH. Masternode hosts deposit 1000 DASH as collateral. Dash blockchain returned about 11% interest. The rate changes according to to set protocols and market conditions.

The DASH blockchain has no limit to the number of masternodes. Like many blockchains, it depends on the size of the ecosystem and the number of volunteers. So, anyone willing to follow the requirements can run a masternode. All Blockchains display the number of active nodes and masternodes in their network with location information.

How do you construct and run a full node?

Constructing and running a full node needs the following hardware requirements:

  • Linux, Mac OS X, or Windows 7/8/10/11
  • A processing speed of about 100 mb/s
  • At least 500 Gb storage space- It can be a Hard Disk Drive (HDD)
  • A Solid-State Drive (SSD) with at least 128 GB of storage space. It should have more than 30.9 mb/s random read speed and 68 mb/s random write speed.
  • Unlimited internet connection with at least a speed of 50 kb/s

You can deploy a light, full and fast node. Light nodes have the least power, while a full node runs on high-power equipment.

Other critical components of the node ecosystem include a file server and network cards. Together with other small servers, they run a blockchain.

The process to deploy and run a full node is as follows:

How to deploy node in the blockchain

Here are the steps to deploy a node in the blockchain ecosystem:

Step 1) Install the node
The first step is to install a blockchain node on a computer. Depending on the node’s size, you scale the hardware requirements.

For example, the Bitcoin network needs about 380 GB of storage. You’ll also need about 100mb/s read speed to operate the Bitcoin node.

Step 2) Download the free Bitcoin Core software online.

Read the Blockchain node software requirements from the official site. Demands vary depending on the size and functions of the ecosystem.

Step 3) Synchronizing with the blockchain

The process of gathering all the information from the network can take weeks. When an error occurs, the cycle restarts regardless of whether it is on an HDD or SSD drive.

For example, launching an Ethereum node requires you to sync it with the Ethereum archive. All the network nodes will broadcast transactions to your Ethereum node.

Step 4) Checking the node’s functionality

After synchronizing, you verify whether it’s working. The blockchain then relays the status of the node. It can be active or inactive.

Step 5) Monitoring the node

Running a node requires monitoring and maintenance. You should be on standby to address errors.

For example, there can be download failures or node crashes.

Main Issues you will face when running a full node

These are the issues that clients run into when running a full node:

1) Bandwidth: The network bandwidth is an issue when you don’t have enough internet speed. It depends on your subscription and the network’s limits. Nodes work best in unlimited networks and those with high bandwidth.

2) Malware on the blockchain: There are malicious users on the blockchain. They can add malware to their blocks. This triggers antimalware programs on the nodes that slow it down.

3) External cyber threats: Hackers are always looking for ways to gain access to nodes so that they can steal crypto. It is the responsibility of every node administrator to secure theirs.

How does a node secure the blockchain?

Here’s how a node secures the blockchain:

1) They are open source: Nodes are open source which ensures uniform capabilities across the blockchain infrastructure. The privileges of software and hardware power differentiate the different types of nodes. They use a P2P communication protocol across the network.

2) Nodes are interdependent: They rely on each other to add new blocks and verify transactions. So, a block is a collection of network transactions. Multiple nodes validate the data on the blockchain’s distributed ledger.

3) Nodes store the blockchain’s ledger: They maintain the current blockchain’s transaction history in a distributed network. Every node holds a copy of the transactions.

4) All users can access data on the blockchain: A node’s transactions are visible to all users. They store the same blockchain transaction history. It acts like a distributed backup. When a blockchain network crashes, a single node can restore the block.

How blockchain nodes keep cryptocurrencies decentralized

The blockchain operates on a decentralized model. Blocks of data are held depending on their size, and nodes communicate and update each other automatically.

Inactive nodes receive similar updates once they go online. They have a unique identifier called a ‘hash’ to distinguish their presence.

Node participates in the governance of the blockchain infrastructure without having a leading figure. Nodes save blocks and their transactions. Moreover, it ensures that all data is available even if a node mamalfunction

For example: when miners add new transaction blocks, all the nodes get the data. The transaction’s completion depends on the verification from multiple nodes. If one node rejects a transaction, it will remain incomplete.

Node Vs. Miner

Here are the main differences between Node and Miner:

Node Miner
A node maintains a copy of the blockchain ledger. It stores blocks of transactions and their history. Miners propose the addition of a new block to the blockchain. They need a node to process new transactions.
They verify or confirm transactions. They also validate new blocks. A miner develops the blockchain.
Node owners don’t get rewards even when they create new blocks of transactions. Miners earn interest from commissions in transactions and their collateral deposits.
Nodes enforce the protocols on the blockchain network. They only need to follow the rules on the blockchain.
A node ensures that there is a consensus in the blockchain. Miners are participants and don’t take part in administration.