Technology: Centralized vs. Decentralized – What to Keep in Mind When Choosing

Centralized vs. Decentralized basic diagram

In this two-part series, I will cover the importance of understanding what, how, why and when centralized versus decentralized technology will impact how you interact with your audience / customers. The focus of messaging will be from a publish versus subscribe perspective.

As the debate over data ownership, privacy, monitoring and yes, even the freedom of speech intensifies, the dynamics and architecture of our technical platforms will become even more critical. Individuals and companies that are deciding how to develop, launch and support their products and services will need to think about their long-term vision and what type of control they (ex. Developers, Publishers, Influencers, Retailers) will require to ensure the items will be available when and where needed.


Centralized Technology: All users are connected to a central server that stores complete network data and user information.

Advantage: Standardization, Control, Administration and Monitoring – Usage Example: YouTube, Banking Systems

Disadvantage: Data Vulnerability (see Hackers), System Failure (Redundancy Required), Centralized (single point of attack)

In certain scenarios, the generic cloud computing model can be considered this type of technology, I’ll explain shortly. Typical Situation; Perhaps you have all of your technology (ex. applications, data, hardware) centrally located, at your home, or office. When you need to maintain, upgrade or retire the technology it is your responsibility to take care of it. You, in theory “own” the technology, infrastructure and any potential headaches / issues that may arrive with that responsibility. Yes, you may have a service agreement, or license that keeps you up to date and running, but the sole responsibility is in your hands.

Then in the mid-2000’s came the advent of the commercially available cloud platform, as I briefly mentioned and referenced above. Now you have the option to put the technology that you in theory “own” and all of the inherent issues (ex. updates, backups, scalability) into the hands of someone else, but obviously for a fee / subscription. This became a great option for those that wanted to ensure they had the latest software, hardware, availability and protection, especially from lost information, provided to them via an SLA (Service Level Agreement). All the usual players have stepped-up to offer these services, primarily since they already had the hardware (in most cases), resources and infrastructure available to be leveraged. The names you should be familiar with, Amazon AWS, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure own the largest market share of this technology as of early 2021.

This offering has become ideal to those that do not want to invest in quickly outdated hardware and software, plus if you are selling products and services any downtime, or lost data (vendors often have backup/restore options) can be critical to your business. When adopted, you now own the creativity, business model, growth and vision, plus your products and services are available “on-demand” to the public, while the technology infrastructure and administration of it (to some, the unfortunate part of doing business) is being administered and executed by a 3rd party.

However, now I want to remind you of what was mentioned in the opening paragraph, regarding the long-term vision for your products and services. Always keep in mind that you are at the mercy of the Terms and Conditions of the contract you signed with your service provider. It is not uncommon for these T&C’s to be updated, or modified numerous times per year. You may receive an email with a 45 page PDF file attached, that is full of legal jargon, and you just click the <AGREE> button and never think twice about it. While your business model, products and services being offered may have not changed, there might have been a wave of cultural, political and social changes that now put your ideas, products and services out-of-favor and no longer something that your service provider wants to “support” via their infrastructure. Overnight, that centralized offering that you adopted with open hands may now be unavailable to you, your organization and the audience / customers you count on. The vendor ultimately is in the right, because you are no longer adhering to the Terms and Conditions of doing business with them, which you early agreed to in that email that you gave little attention to. Now you may be in trouble and starting to scramble for any option, or alternative that will keep you and your business afloat. Being proactive, versus reactive is the key to surviving the just-in-time climate that we are forced to live with.

In a centralized model, always ask yourself the following in advance:

How much control do I “need / want” over what is being offered from me, or my organization to the public (ex. Are my products, services deemed edgy, controversial, opinionated, trendy, or focused towards a particular audience)

How much control do I “have” over what is being offered by me, or my organization (ex. Are channels, comments, endorsements, feedback and input allowed without moderation)

If my platform, or vendor suddenly became unavailable, how would I respond and reach my audience / customers – Always have a backup and/or disaster recovery plan and options ready in case the inevitable happens

Do I know my audience / customer and their expectations – Is your business meeting the needs of your audience, or is it being constrained by the terms and conditions of the service provider

Do I understand the value of data, privacy, reputation and protecting it – This is not just for you and your organization, but also your audience and customers

In my next Post, I will explore Decentralization and summarize the advantages / disadvantages of each model.