The value of a cryptocurrency is only as secure as its network. Within the context of bitcoin, this security translates to validated and verifiably true transactions in the nodes operating in its network. But validating transactions in each node within bitcoin is a time- and resource-intensive activity. The drawback of this approach became abundantly clear last year when the number of transactions on bitcoin’s blockchain multiplied and clogged its network leading to delays in processing transactions.

To overcome problems of this sort, bitcoin’s network is divided into lightweight nodes and full nodes. The former are quicker in processing transactions compared to the latter. They do not download all transactions on bitcoin’s blockchain and, in instances of downloaded transactions, speed is achieved by downloading only header data pertaining to those transactions. It is the responsibility of fully validating bitcoin nodes to confirm all transactions occurring within the cryptocurrency’s network. They download all transactions on bitcoin’s blockchain and fully validate them with other nodes. (See also: What Is Bitcoin Mining?)

The advantages of running a mining machine come in the form of coin rewards and subsequent profits, when its value goes up. While there are no monetary rewards, running a full bitcoin node comes with its own intangible benefits. For example, it increases the security of transactions conducted by a user. This is especially important if you plan to conduct multiple bitcoin transactions in a day. It also contributes to the overall security of bitcoin’s network. By downloading all transactions, a full node will always have the latest and greatest information relating to information on bitcoin’s blockchain. 

For bitcoin investors, a full node will serve two purposes. First it will help them monitor the health of bitcoin’s blockchain: The blockchain has a direct bearing on bitcoin’s price since it is used to process transactions—both commercial or trading-related. It will also secure the cryptocurrency’s blockchain thus ensuring the safety of their investment. Second, it will ensure valid and accurate bitcoin trading transactions. 

Setting Up a Full Node 

Setting up a full node is fairly easy. There are three methods by which you can set up your own full node. 

The first method involves running a node in the cloud. You will need to set yourself up with an account on either Amazon Web Services or Google Cloud. Subsequently, you will need to create a Virtual Machine (VM) instance to speed up connection and syncing to the cloud from your machine. Make sure that you configure firewall rules to ensure that your instance is not easily breached. Finally, you will need to download Bitcoin Core, the software required to run bitcoin and configure the appropriate port settings on your computer to the cloud.

The second method is similar to the first, except this time Bitcoin Core is run on your local machine. Running a bitcoin node requires a minimum 145 gigabytes of disk space and 2 gigabytes of RAM. Per some reports, bitcoin’s blockchain was 200 gigabytes in size as of January. You should also have an internet connection speed of, at least, 50 Kbps and a generous upload and download limit. (It is preferable to have a connection with no limits on uploads and downloads). Several websites and videos list instructions to configure the bitcoin core client. The first instance of downloading and syncing with bitcoin’s blockchain could take several days. However, subsequent instances should be quicker.   

The third method for setting up a bitcoin full node is the “node-in-a-box” option. As the name indicates, this method consists of pre-configured bitcoin full nodes that can be hooked onto your computer. They come with an interface for you to manage the device and view data contained on it. In effect, this option outsources the grunt work of downloading and storing bitcoin’s blockchain to an external device that is mobile and consumes less power compared to your own personal system. Examples of providers that offer such services include Bitseed, Digitalbit and Stash