Development projects require a team of developers all working on the same code at the same time. With this level of collaboration comes the risk of something going wrong.
That’s where the best version control system can help. These systems allow you to revert code to an earlier version in case development or an update doesn’t go well.
The right software for your team will be dependent on your organization’s size and how complex your development projects are. We’ll explain the many benefits of a version control system, what to look for in this software and what tools are the best.
What Are the Benefits of Using a Version Control System?
Your development team will enjoy many benefits of using a version control system. We’ve listed a few of the most valuable benefits here.
Development teams that don’t have a version control system likely work off of shared drives and files. But that only allows one person to edit at a time without encountering serious errors. Having a system can make a huge difference in your ability to collaborate as a team on the same coding project at the same time. You can freely work on files without worrying who else is editing them.
Compare different versions of your development files when you encounter an issue. This will show you what changes your team made between when the development project was going well and when you encountered an issue. You won’t have to search through the code looking for the error but can instead just review the new code to look for it.
Working off of local servers poses a risk that you’ll lose the entire project due to one breakdown or failure. A version control system protects you from unforeseen mishaps like this with constant backups that show your project history.
What Factors Make a Good Version Control System?
Before reviewing and analyzing your options for a version control system, you need to consider your team’s size, priorities, types of files you collaborate on and more. But there are some overarching factors that all teams need when looking for a system to aid them in the development process, which we’ve outlined below.
With any software or system, security is essential. But your need for security could vary based on whether you work on a centralized or distributed team. The big security difference for these teams is whether they need to select their security options at the main repository level or folder or based on each file you upload to the system. Evaluate your needs for security and user access before evaluating systems.
File Locking and Support for Large File Types
Once your team has gotten a development file to where it needs to be, you can lock it so that no one can edit it further. This protects against errors or changes before code deployment. Additionally, when evaluating file options, look at the file type and size that the system allows for. Some teams work on graphic files that can be quite large to store. Make sure your system has the capacity you need to complete your necessary development projects.
No system should slow your team down. Look for a version control system that can accommodate the number of users on your team updating files regularly. Some systems are more enterprise-friendly than others as they can keep up with backups for many file versions and changes each day. Others are designed for smaller teams who will make fewer file changes and don’t need the same agility as the larger teams.
Updates and Support
Even though version control systems are designed for IT teams, that doesn’t mean your team wants the burden of updating the software or handling tickets related to issues. Look for software that the provider regularly updates and supports. You don’t want to lean heavily on an outdated software system that you can’t get answers about.
Good Transfer To-and-fro Between Clients and Servers
Once you’ve completed files, you need a good, safe way to transfer them to other clients and servers for testing and deployment. Make sure your version control system easily transfers based on your protocols and use cases.
The Best Version Control Systems
Start narrowing down your options to a select few version control systems to test and try out with your team. Here’s a list of some of the best products on the market.
1. Best for Large Development Teams and Enterprises: GitHub
GitHub is also known as the “social media for software developers” thanks to the incredible collaboration that users engage in on the platform. In addition to being a version control system, it’s also a repository for projects. The system is known for being a leader in the industry and a great tool for development teams of all sizes.
- Easy-to-use change history for time savings
- Great integrations with other tools and systems
- Private repositories for various file security needs
- UI could use some updates for easier usage
- The system does experience some downtime
- Reversing bad merge operations can be challenging
Pricing: GitHub offers a free plan but you’ll find it’s lacking in many areas for larger development team needs. Upgrading to a paid plan starts at $4 per user per month.
2. Best for Teams that Outsource Work: Beanstalk
Users can easily work from anywhere using this cloud-based web application. It integrates with email and messaging platforms to keep teams connected, even when you’re outsourcing projects.
- Excellent security thanks to encryption, two-factor authentication and more
- Works well for teams of all sizes
- Encourages good collaboration to keep teams informed throughout the project
- Fewer features compared to some of its top competitors
- Code review functionality is very basic
- UI needs some updates
Pricing: Prices start at $15 a month for 5 users, 10 repositories, 3 servers and 3GB of storage. Upgrade to larger plans to increase these features.
3. Best for Complex Dev Projects: GitLab
Automatically test and deliver code using the continuous integration capabilities GitLab offers. This complete DevOps platform makes it simple for teams to work on complex development projects. Improve your cycle times and reduce development costs with this outstanding VCS.
- Features great syntax highlighting in the code editor
- Offers options for cloud-based or locally hosted servers
- Large network of third-party integrations
- User management is somewhat limited
- Takes time to learn the robust system and where things are at
Pricing: Get started with a free plan to see if the features and interface are right for you. Then upgrade to premium for $19 per user per month to get a more robust feature set.
4. Best for Teams that Use AWS: AWS CodeCommit
Teams that use AWS for other IT needs will benefit from using AWS CodeCommit. The easy deployment and integration with Amazon’s other services are outstanding and make projects run faster and smoother. But it’s also a great version control system even if you don’t use AWS for anything else.
- Offers pay-as-you-go pricing for teams that adjust constantly
- Easy to access and integrate with other tools
- Fast deployments when integrated with other AWS services
- Does not integrate well with public open-source projects
- Lacks code review submission
Pricing: Your first 5 users on the system are free. After that, it’s $1 per month per active user.
5. Best Free Version: Mercurial
Mercurial is a distributed version control software. This highly efficient system offers users an intelligent UI that is simple and easy for users to learn. As open-source software, support is limited as are integrations since all add-ons must be written in Python.
- Extremely easy for teams to learn
- Great for teams handling binary files and plain text
- Fully distributed for strong project collaboration
- Features excellent branching and merging options
- Platform runs solely on Python, which means add-ons need to be written in Python
- Must complete all files before hiding them (no partial checkouts)
- Support limited to community forums
Pricing: Mercurial is free for an unlimited number of projects and users.
6. Best for Commercial and Open Source Developers: CVS
CVS is a mature version control system that developers have been using for many years. Use it to record source files and document history and to pull source code from the repository. As one of the oldest VCS options, it’s somewhat outdated looking, but still provides the functionality you need to get the job done.
- Easy-to-use source code repository
- Collaborate on projects at the same time with other developers
- Compresses files for efficient storage
- Outdated UI
- No support outside of the community forum
Pricing: Free for an unlimited number of users and projects as an open-source solution.
Get Effective Developer Collaboration
Manage and track your code changes in a central place using a VCS. Communicate efficiently and get more done thanks to the many time-saving features a VCS offers. See who made what changes and when to troubleshoot issues and keep projects on track.
Start testing a few of the version control systems listed above to transform your development experience.