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The Top 3 Things People Get Wrong About Running a Full Node

All blockchains are reliant on people to run computers that supply required services for the network. We call these people node runners and the computers they run are called nodes

It might be tempting to think that running a node is technically complex and inaccessible for someone without a great deal of technical expertise. This is not true, running a node has been getting easier and easier as time goes on. Let’s start with some basics. Generally speaking, there are two types of nodes, light nodes and full nodes.

An example of a light node would be a computer that simply relays transactions to full nodes and does some data retrieval for client applications. A full node is a computer that is capable of performing any and all tasks and operations for a given blockchain. This typically means that the node has a full copy of the blockchain on the local hardware.

Depending on the scope and use case of a blockchain, a full node can be quite large and complex. Let’s dig into 3 things that people get wrong about running a full node.

Earning Bitcoin

Misconception #1. Running a Bitcoin Full Node is Complex and Expensive

In the majority of cases, running a full node is expensive and requires a high degree of technical expertise. This is not the case for Bitcoin. Part of the value proposition of bitcoin is that anyone can run a full node. With each block only consuming as much as 1MB of hard disk space, the entire 14-year blockchain fits within 1TB.

Furthermore, a bitcoin full node doesn’t require an intense amount of computational power. The entire setup can be run on a RasbPi 4 8GB with 1TB SSD.

Bitcoiners have gotten the process of running a full node down to a $500 plug and play system with the above setup and an operating system called Umbrel

There is an ethos behind keeping bitcoin lean and easy for anyone and everyone to run a node. It is so that bitcoin can be as decentralized as possible. If the barrier to entry is kept low, then a much wider group of people can run a bitcoin full node, making the whole network more robust.

Misconception #2. Running a Bitcoin Full Node is Equivalent to Mining Bitcoin

One of the most common misconceptions about running a bitcoin full node, is that it is also mining bitcoin. A full node does not need to mine bitcoin. Even if your little Raspberry Pi did mine bitcoin, the chances of it mining a block are astronomically small.

This leads people to ask, “what is the purpose of running a bitcoin full node?”

The answer is simple – you’re contributing to the decentralization of the bitcoin network. There is little monetary incentive in this, other than if you’re holding Bitcoin, you’re directly contributing to its overall integrity and thus strengthening its value proposition.

Misconception #3. Running an Ethereum Full Node is Easier Than Bitcoin

Ethereum is a much different beast than Bitcoin. A drastically larger volume of data moves through Ethereum due to Ethereum’s capabilities being much wider and diverse. Therefore, it makes sense that running an Ethereum full node would be more complicated. The hardware specifications that are recommended for an Ethereum full node are as follows

  • 16 GB+ of RAM
  • A fast CPU with 4+ cores
  • 2TB+ SSD drive 
  • 25 MBit/s bandwidth

After you’ve followed some great guides online on how to run an Ethereum full node, you now need to make a crucial decision. Do you want your node to produce blocks or not? If you do, then you’ll need to stake 32ETH, (approx $50k worth of ETH, at the time of writing). This, on top of the cost of the hardware ($800 – $1000), makes running an Ethereum much more expensive than many other blockchains.

If you opt to not run a block-producing node, then you don’t have to worry about staking 32ETH on your node. Similar to bitcoin, you’re contributing to the overall security of the network by validating blocks and ensuring their correctness. Due to the higher barrier to entry for technical competency and hardware cost, this is a road that is less traveled than in the case of bitcoin.

Conflusion: Running a Node is Challenging But Important

Most blockchains work in similar ways to either Bitcoin or Ethereum. The concepts work similarly, from hardware setup to profitability. Regardless of which network you want to be running a node for, you will need to get yourself at least a RasPi 4 8GB. With the exception of Bitcoin and some other networks, you will need to acquire a minimum level of competence and knowhow on how to download, compile, and run programs from the command line.

Make no mistake, running a full node is not for the faint of heart. Some people make full time jobs out of it by promising to keep their node up and running 99.9% of the time. This is important for proof of stake networks that will penalize downtime through slashing. So start slow, learn the basics, don’t overpromise, and scale your operation one step at a time. 

Eventually, you might be able to run a profitable full node that people will stake to. At this time, you’ll be earning a tidy profit for all of your hard work. 

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About the Author

Keegan Francis

Keegan Francis is a cryptocurrency knowledge expert and consultant. He recognized the opportunity in cryptocurrency early in his career and has been invested in it since 2014. His passion led him to start the Go Full Crypto, a project that documents his journey of totally opting out of traditional financial services. Keegan has been living entirely off of cryptocurrencies since 2019.

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