The Top Programs for Distributed Groups that Use Version Control

Version control is an essential part of a programmer’s workflow. It is essential to be familiar with different version control systems, whether you are working on a small application that requires changes to the code to be managed manually, or a complex project with multiple branches and sub-branches that need tracking. Being comfortable with version control is an integral part of being a successful developer.

It is indisputable that it is beneficial to have a clear understanding of when and by whom code has been modified. This can assist in debugging by pinpointing the source of any issues and can also help to prevent developers from inadvertently overwriting one another’s work. To put it simply, utilising a version control system can be of great assistance in keeping your code organised.

That holds true for both on-site and off-site development groups. No matter where your team is situated, a version control system is essential.

Despite the many advantages of version control systems (VCS), there are a few considerations to make when using them remotely. In this series, we have looked at multiple technologies, and this article seeks to outline the benefits and drawbacks of the most popular VCS. Without further delay, let’s explore this in more detail.

Subversion

As a version control system (VCS), Subversion (or SVN) was developed by CollabNet and is made available through the Apache Software Foundation. It is an open-source software which is provided at no cost, thanks to the Apache licence which grants its distribution.

Using atomic operations in Subversion (SVN) ensures that all changes will be applied together, or none at all. This is extremely beneficial in the event of a connection failure or any other interruption, as it ensures that code will not become corrupted due to an incomplete update. Additionally, this makes it possible for code to be available to developers all around the world, providing a convenient way to collaborate and share code.

In the early days of Version Control Systems (VCSs), developers were not able to see any changes being made to a project by others, which could be beneficial in preventing disputes, but also meant that developers were unable to access essential parts of code for lengthy periods.

Subversion (SVN) has a method of avoiding locking, which is known as “merge-before-commit”. This technique ensures that changes made by developers are merged into the main repository, and if the merging process should fail, then the modified data will not be saved. This helps to provide peace of mind that code is protected against the risk of partial merging. If you are a visual learner, then this website may be of assistance.

There are two primary types of version control systems: centralised and distributed. Subversion (SVN) is a centralised system, which is managed by a central authority. This offers the benefit of ensuring that the codebase is stored in a single, authoritative source, providing the assurance that the code is secure on the server.

The issue at hand is that if your server experiences an outage, your development team will be rendered inoperable. When considering international collaboration, it is essential to ensure your team has a reliable internet connection that can be accessed around the clock. It is not sufficient to only guarantee your servers are available during standard business hours in your own country; you must also provide access for employees located in other time zones.

If you have a development project which can be separated into clear, distinct stages, then Subversion (SVN) is the perfect choice for you. However, when compared to more up-to-date solutions, it is severely lacking in its ability to manage branching.

Git

Git is a revolutionary approach to software development as it utilises a decentralised repository. Each individual developer has their own private repository that is constantly synchronised with the main repository. This means that even if the principal servers are unavailable, remote teams can continue to work collaboratively, as long as they are using Github or a similar system.

Git, the open source version control system created by the renowned Linux pioneer Linus Torvalds, is renowned for its impressive transaction speed. This makes it an ideal choice for teams who are working remotely and looking to minimise delays when saving files. Git’s superior speed to its alternatives is a major benefit, allowing your team to be more productive and efficient with their work.

Git has been designed to replicate the same modular approach that Linux employs, by splitting its features and functions into smaller, more manageable programs. This allows the CVS to be customised to meet the specific needs of your organisation and ensures that your developers feel more comfortable when using it.

Those who have experience with Subversion (SVN) may find the transition to Git a difficult one, and it should be noted that Git has less official support on Windows than it does on Linux.

Git utilises a commit-before-merge approach rather than a merge-before-commit approach. In order to accommodate any changes that may be uploaded, the repository will create a new branch. This new course of development may then either be adopted as the predominant one or it may be allowed to remain as a separate branch.

Mercurial

Git and Mercurial were both developed to compete for the Linux Kernel development job, but ultimately Git was chosen. Mercurial’s release was only marginally delayed in comparison to its competitor, and despite not obtaining the Linux job, it has still managed to achieve considerable success.

Unlike its predecessors, Mercurial was built using the Python programming language, making its source code more accessible to Python developers. As a result, they have been more inclined to use Mercurial as their version control system of choice. Additionally, Mercurial operates with a distributed system, similar to Git, providing assurance that the work is secure and will persist even if the main repository is not available.

If your developers already have experience with Subversion (SVN), Mercurial may be the more suitable option due to its greater similarity to SVN. However, Mercurial has been criticised for not utilising scripts and being unable to merge parents, which can be off-putting for potential customers.

Mercurial is different from Subversion in terms of the way it processes and records commits. In the same way as Git, Mercurial follows the practice of committing changes before merging. Although its market share is the lowest out of the three version control systems we are examining today, several large websites such as Facebook use it.

Revision Management and the Distributed Team

If your team are not fond of the version control system (VCS) you have selected, its technical capabilities become irrelevant. You may be able to assess which VCS would be most suitable for your project based on the data available, however it is usually advisable to allow those with the strongest negative opinion to make the final decision. This is particularly true if any of your team members have a particularly strong dislike for either Subversion (SVN) or Git.

Despite the practical considerations, if we focus solely on the theoretical, it becomes clear that Git offers numerous advantages for remote teams. Primarily, its decentralised structure ensures that each remote developer always has access to their own local copy, regardless of whether they are constantly connected or travelling without internet access. Furthermore, we appreciate Github’s focus on asynchronous interaction, which is especially beneficial for remote groups.

Once they re-establish contact with the outside world or your office servers are back online, Git will take care of any modifications and you will have a fully up-to-date repository to work with. Undoubtedly, one of the most remarkable advantages of Git is its speed. The more quickly updates can be made while staff members are transferring data over long distances, the better.

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