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An Introductory Guide to Version Control

  • Vanshika Kaushik
  • Sep 15, 2021
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Imagine writing a code for application development, defining variables, performing a dry run and undertaking multiple code revisions only to find out that the previously written code was better than the fresh one. Reverting back to the previous code well isn’t an easy peasy thing to do.. At times it is a mind boggling task on the developers end. 


To be precise the task of code modification, code updation, code reversion are quoted unquoted difficult tasks of code development. And these tasks formulated the need for version control. 


In simple words version control is a system that keeps a track of every modification of the code that is undertaken on a specific database. Let us understand the concept of version control via this blog.



Version Control System


A version control system, also known as the source control system, is a system that is used for tracking and making changes to the software code. Version Control Systems are software tools that assist software teams in source code management. 


The best part of a VCS is that it aids developers to look back in time and trace the previously written codes. 


Developers can compare the previous versions of the code this helps in formulating new code and helps in performing code revisions. Version control systems have become an important part of modern day software teams. As remote working trends are slowly setting in the workplaces. It is important to follow a system that can unify multiple teams. 


(Related Blog: 7-Top Trends in Software Development)

With the development team based in Hyderabad, production team based in Chennai, marketing team based in Delhi the most important factor is to develop a system that promotes hassle free interaction between remote teams and version control exactly does that.


This system can help in the interaction between multiple teams production, sales, marketing all the departments can collaborate with each other thanks to the version control system. 


Using a Version control system is similar to having a backup via cloud, so even if the user loses data it can be simply recovered from the old system. VCS displays simultaneous code modification, the new codes can be compared to the previous ones at various stages of code development. 


(Must Check: What is Agile Software Development? Agile SDLC)

Yes it is intrinsic for code development, deployment and updation but a version control does a lot more than just this let's read about its advantages in detail. Watch this video to develop the basic understanding of a version control system.


Advantages of a Version Control System


(Please note content for this section is taken from ATLASSIAN Bitbucket)


  1. Improves Traceability


A version control system always remains in synchronization with code modifications, it not only keeps a track of previous codes but also helps with root cause analysis. 


Various bug tracking softwares like Mantis, RedMine and Zoho provides a message of purpose and intention towards code change. These messages can be kept in reference while moving forward with writing code. 


Developers can make long term changes to the code keeping in mind the previous versions. It works like a quick fix for code optimizations. 


 (Related Blog: A Beginner Guide to Interoperability Testing in Software Testing)



  1. Helps in Branching and Merging Operations


A version control system always ensures that cross departmental work (production, sales, marketing) remains work independent. Branches in simple terms are different teams joined together for working together as a same unit. 


Creating a branch in the version control ensures independent working in multiple departments. “Branch” ensures that no work is overlapped. VCS also ensures that teams can adopt different workflows for improving their specific performances. 



  1. Tracking every little change made to the file 


It is extremely important to keep a track of data, every little change made to the code over the years is to be preserved and well version control exactly does that. 


The tools that form a part of the VCS system, keep a tab on changes made in the source code that further ease down the developer workload and assists in root cause analysis. (Root cause analysis helps in determining the problem, it further assists in analysis)


Although version control systems are extremely helpful in keeping a track record of data, determining which type of VCS an organization must choose is important for an organization's overall success. There are primarily three types of VCS that every organization has to choose from. Let's read about them in detail. 


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Types of Version Control System



  • Centralized Version Control System:- Centralized means keeping the multiple chunks of information at a central location. A centralized version control system ensures that a central repository is shared with different developers. (A central repository is a collection of stored data from existing databases merged together as one)


Companies adopting CVCS shares a central repository and individual working  copy with every developer. Every time a developer commits the final version all the changes are made to the repository system. Further the committed changes are reflected in the central repository system.


  • Local Version Control System:- Local Version Controls  function without a remote repository. Companies that adopt local version control manage files in the local system. All the modifications are made in the local database. (A local database is a database that is dedicated to only local applications). 


There are no remote servers in a local version control system. Every developer has their separate computers and there is no cross computer data sharing. 


  • Distributed Version Control System:- Every developer has a local copy of the repository in this system. Developers can make multiple changes to the local copy, the local copy. The changes made in local copy creates no impact on the remote repository.


Developers initially commit changes to the local repository further these changes are pushed to the remote repository this is the most common type of version control system. 

This image represents different types of version control systems

           Centralized,decentralized version control system source


4 Popular Version Control Software


Choosing the right version control software is important for the success of a company. This list covers popular version control softwares that enterprises are adopting in the modern era. 


  1. GitHub:- GitHub is the most popular version control provider. Git is a distributed version control system that enables developers to undertake modifications on the entire repository system. 


Git uses the command line, it simplifies the procedure for retrieving the previous changes. Git can provide simple explanations, it can save the data of the previous files, it even enables developers to make multiple changes in one go. 



  1. Bitbucket:- Bitbucket supports a distributed version control system. It simplifies the collaboration task. Bitbucket provides a single place for planning projects, code testing and deployment. 


 Bitbucket provides unlimited private repositories, it can be used for project organization by creating bitbucket branches. Bitbucket follows a built in continuous delivery system. 



  1. AWS Code Commit:- AWS Code Commit is a secure source control platform. It helps developers to collaborate on code, pull requests and merge data. It provides feedback by default and also assists developers in the management of heavy workflows. 


AWS code commit also eradicates the need for backing up, scaling, and maintaning source control servers. AWS provides durable architecture for private repositories.


          (Related Blog: Understanding Amazon Web Services (AWS)



  1. Mercurial:- Mercurial is a free, distributed source control management tool. It can handle multiple projects efficiently. It offers a simple interface. Mercurial can be used to enhance the functionality of operations. 


Every clone in Mercurial comprises a project, and this free tool can be used to assist the development team. It can perform multiple tasks even people without extensive technical knowledge can use mercurial. 


         (Must Check: 8 Differences Between MLOps and DevOps)



Top Tech Companies that are using VCS


  • Google:- The Tech Giant Google uses Piper’s version control tool. Piper is distributed across ten Google centres. Piper assists software developers in making optimizations in the code. Google’s remote working is supported by Piper. 


Piper is a centralized version control tool it promotes collaborative culture, it also supports trunk based development. The centralized version control system  works best for Google’s business operations.


  • Amazon:- Amazon uses Amazon Code Commit as its version control system. Amazon Code Commit allows Amazon to integrate and unify multiple teams. This source control platform is the right fit for Amazon Web Services. 


It helps different departments (IT, Production, Content Moderation) to work collaboratively. It simplifies cross departmental data sharing. 


  • Apple:- Apple use Git to track the changes of the software development. Git also helps in collaborative working. Git helps programmers in source code development, it provides a detailed analysis of the source code, regular modifications are also updated directly to the code. 


Git supports cross communications across the varied product lines of Apple. Apple also uses Github for promoting collaborative work approach. 


  • Facebook:- Facebook uses Mercurial as its Version Control system. Mercurial is a competitor of Git. Mercurial assists facebook in data scaling. Mercurial is written in modular python. 


Mercurial figures out changes in the facebook server. The remotefilelog extension of facebook alters the clone and pull commands. It further automatically download the file content on the server. 


With a bunch of data that is added to the Facebook system everyday content filtration becomes most important benefactor, mercurial optimize code and helps in data filtration.  

            This image represents different companies and the version control software they use

Some popular companies alongwith their version control tools


Summing Up


Remote working is slowly setting in as a permanent solution for striking a perfect balance between personal and professional life. All the major tech companies are working remotely at present and hence cross departmental communication is becoming difficult. 


As these problems are slowly coming to the surface choosing a right Version control software can be the solution. It can save both employee and employer from the consequences of data deletion, and further pave the way for hassle free cross departmental communication and collaboration. 

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