centralized vs decentralized vs distributed systems

This question is a remarkable debate, as the subject ends up affecting everyone who uses the web. All these systems can function effectively, but some are inherently more stable and secure than others. Size is another important parameter, as systems can take several forms, from small (interconnecting just a few devices and users) to immense (covering entire countries). In this article, we’re going to compare centralized vs decentralized vs distributed systems and figure out which one is the best one.

But what are the pros and cons of each type of system? Let’s check it out!

Centralized Systems – Easiest to Control, Hardest to Secure


A centralized system is the easiest to set up. The development process is quick, as all the data remains under a central network owner or server. Deployment is also simple, as well as maintenance costs.

On the other hand, it has some limitations such as being more prone to failures, hence more exposed to privacy and security risks. It also requires a longer access time to data for those uses who are located far from the server.

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The availability of the network depends on the owner/server because this type of system necessarily has a central controller to connect all the users and devices.

Some users also may have serious concerns about malicious use of their data by centralized systems controllers.

Decentralized Systems – More Reliable, But More Expensive As Well

Decentralized systems

On the other hand, decentralized systems don’t have any central control, either by an owner or server. It works by using multiple central owners/servers, with each one storing a copy of the resources available for users.

Surely, it performs better and still less likely to fail than a centralized system. This type of system is more tolerant of faults by design, so if one or more servers fail, it doesn’t matter, because other available servers will continue to provide users with access to data.

If at least one of the central servers in a decentralized system manages to continue operating, all resources will remain active and available for users. In the meanwhile, other system owners will run to repair faulty servers as fast as possible.

Decentralized systems are more diverse and more flexible as well, so their design allows access time to be faster (due to its’ node structure, with a range of different regions where user activity is high).

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However, this type of system is still prone to security and privacy risks. Plus, it is usually more expensive to maintain, requiring constant optimizations to ensure performance.

Distributed System – Upgraded Model with Shared Ownership of Data


This type of system works similarly to a decentralized model, as it doesn’t have a single owner or service controlling the data.

In a distributed system, as the name suggests, the users have shared equalized access to data, although some privileges for specific users can be enabled whenever is needed.

 As a distributed system permit that users share ownership over the data, resources related to hardware and software are allocated between users as well. This fact contributes a lot to a big improvement in performance.

Distributed systems are a direct result of the evolution of other systems, based on solutions to overcome issues and limitations from previous models.

This type of system is usually more difficult to deploy (involves more tech-savvy) and has higher maintenance costs. However, many organizations just have it as their natural choice, considering the constant improvements such as increasing security, privacy, and data storage capability.

The internet itself, for instance, is an example of how a distributed system works in reality. Blockchain technology is another honorable mention here, as it is changing the financial perspective globally.

System Comparison Overview

To see which system performs better in key points such as fault tolerance, scalability, development, evolution, and maintenance, we will compare and rate each of them as low, moderate, or high.

Centralized systems have a low tolerance to faults/flaws by design, as they are more prone to security and privacy risks. Meanwhile, decentralized systems are just moderately good, with a clear advantage for distributed systems, which have high fault tolerance.

When it comes to maintenance, distributed systems have the highest rate again, followed by a moderate performance of decentralized systems and a low performance from centralized systems.

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Scalability repeats the pattern, as distributed systems are rated as high, with decentralized systems performing mildly and centralized system hitting a low point again.

The game hits a turning point when it comes to development, as centralized systems have the highest rate in this specific matter, as both decentralized and distributed systems are moderate.

Finally, both decentralized and distributed system are more prone to evolution and upgrades, on the contrary of centralized systems.

Final Thoughts

In the end, every system has advantages and disadvantages. The first networks grew by using centralized system models until decentralized systems started to become more popular. Decentralized systems are significantly less prone to failure than centralized systems, also offering faster access times.

The current stage of technological evolution tends to favor distributed systems, as they work effectively to allocate resources and rights across the entire network. It also has high fault tolerance and more transparent than other models.