Git vs. SVN – What Is The Difference?
What's the difference between Git vs. SVN? And what's Git SVN? That's what we break down in this blog.
What Is the Main Difference Between Git and SVN?
Here's the biggest difference between Git vs. Subversion (SVN). Git version control is a distributed. SVN is centralized. But that's just the beginning. There are also key differences in repositories, branching, and more. Keep reading for the full differences.
If you're considering switching from SVN to Git, you'll want to take these into account.
Does Anyone Still Use SVN?
Yes, there are still teams who use SVN. After all, SVN offers different strengths than Git. Teams who are using SVN because of its performance with large files won't be satisfied with Git.
What Is Git SVN?
Git SVN is a feature in Git that allows changes to move between a Subversion and a Git repository.
Git SVN is a good feature to use if you need to allow changes to go between Git and SVN repositories.
Git vs. SVN: Feature Comparison
Here are the biggest feature differences between Git vs. SVN. Find out which tool is better for which purposes.
1. Server Architecture
Server architecture is quite different between Git and SVN.
How It Works
Git software is installed on a workstation and acts as a client and a server. Every developer has a local copy of the full version history of the project on their individual machine. Git changes happen locally. So, the developer doesn’t have to be connected all the time. Once all the files are downloaded to the developer’s workstation, local operations are faster.
SVN has a separate server and client. Only the files a developer is working on are kept on the local machine, and the developer must be online, working with the server. Users check out files and commit changes back to the server.
What About Repos?
Sharing is done in central repositories, like a GitHub. And, in today’s world, enterprises have projects that span multiple repositories that include large binary files.
Storing large binary files in Git is unrealistic. Developers spend time waiting to check out the full repository onto their computer. Every time a large file is changed and committed, Git repositories grow exponentially.
Of course, there are workarounds for storing your binaries in Git, such as Git LFS. But still, every developer action leads to a mountain of change history data. This is going to slow down performance.
In SVN, only the working tree and the latest changes are checked out onto local machines. Checkouts take less time in SVN when there are a lot of changes to binary files.
TL;DR: SVN Is Better For Performance
When it comes to Git vs. SVN performance, the client-server model of SVN outperforms with larger files and codebases.
Switch From SVN to a Better Tool
Many teams have switched from SVN to Helix Core. That's because Helix Core delivers greater speed, scale, and security (and you can still use Git). See for yourself why SVN users switch. Try Helix Core for free for up to 5 users.
2. Git vs. SVN Branching
SVN vs. Git branching are quite different.
How It Works
SVN branches are created as directories inside a repository. This directory structure is the core pain point with SVN branching. When the branch is ready, you commit back to the trunk.
Of course, you’re not the only one merging changes. Your version of the trunk might not reflect developers’ branches. This means conflicts, missing files, and jumbled changes riddle your branch.
This makes for a complicated branching and merging model. This is also time-consuming to manage.
Git branches are only references to a certain commit. They are lightweight — yet powerful. You can create, delete, and change a branch at any time, without affecting the commits.
If you need to test out a new feature or you find a bug, you can make a branch, make the changes, push the commit to the central repo, and then delete the branch.
TL;DR: Git Is Better For Branching
Developers prefer Git because of its effective branching model.
3. Access Controls
Access control is another key feature in the Git vs. SVN debate.
How It Works
By default, Git assumes that all the contributors have the same permissions.
On the other hand, SVN allows you to specify read and write access controls per file level and per directory level.
TL;DR: It's a Toss-Up
Depending on your needs, either Git or SVN could be a better choice. Both systems take different approaches when it comes to permissions and access.
Auditability is another thing that's different in Git vs. SVN.
How It Works
With SVN, the repository’s change history is pretty consistent. To make any change to the repository’s history, you need access to the central server. Changes are tracked at the file level.
Git’s distributed nature allows anyone to change any part of their local repository’s history. Changes are tracked at a repository level. Although pushing a changed history is heavily discouraged, it can happen. This causes problems if other developers are relying on particular changes.
In Git, the complete history of the repository is “backed up” each time a developer clones it to their computer. This natural backup mechanism is useless if neglected.
TL;DR: It's a Toss-Up
You could choose Git or SVN for auditability — as long as you back it up. Making regular backups is highly encouraged with both solutions. You don't want to be on the receiving end of a server crash without a recent copy of your shared server.
5. Storage Requirements
Storage is similar in Git and SVN. The disk space usage is equal for both Git and SVN repositories. The difference is what type of files can be stored in the repositories.
How It Works
Git repositories can't handle large binary files.
SVN repositories can handle large binary files, in addition to code. Storing large binary files in SVN would take up less space than in Git.
TL;DR: SVN Is Better For Binaries
SVN is better at storing binary files.
Usability is another differentiator between SVN and Git.
How It Works
SVN uses the command line as the primary user interface. It is more readily used by non-programmers who want to version non-code assets. Learn more about SVN commands.
Git also uses the command line as the primary user interface. But the syntax in Git can overwhelm beginners.
TL;DR: SVN is Easier to Learn
SVN often considered easier to learn. This is especially true for non-technical users. They are able to catch on to common operations quickly.
Git vs. SVN Commands
Here's a quick comparison of Git vs. SVN commands — and how to use them.
|Task||SVN Commands||Git Commands|
|Create a new repository.||svnadmin create||git init|
|Copy files into the client workspace.||svn checkout <URL> <target_name>||git clone or git fetch|
|Send changes to the depot.||svn commit||git commit|
|Add a new file.||svn import||git add|
|Compare changes to files.||svn diff||git diff|
Why SVN Is Better Than Git
SVN is better than Git for architecture performance, binary files, and usability. And it may be better for access control and auditability, based on your needs.
Why Is Git More Popular Than SVN?
Git is also more popular. SVN's popularity is waning. And many teams are looking to make a switch. That's because Git is better than SVN at branching — and it can be better than SVN for access control and auditability, based on your needs.
There are a couple of reasons for making the switch from SVN. It isn't a great tool for automation and DevOps. And that it no longer has a vibrant community supporting it.
You could migrate from SVN to Git (and use a Git SVN pull command to pull in commits). Git seems like a no-brainer when looking for a more modern and supported system to replace SVN. Especially since it is also open source: you won’t have to budget for something that you aren’t paying for today.
However, if you are working with large files, have large global teams, security concerns, or other “at scale” challenges, Git may create more problems than it solves.
A Better Solution: Perforce
Perforce version control — Helix Core — has better access control and auditability than both Git and SVN.
It delivers better architecture performance, binary file management, and usability than SVN. And it offers a better way to branch and merge (Perforce Streams) than Git. Plus, if you have a team working in Git, you can add Helix4Git to bring their Git code into your build pipeline.
See for yourself why Helix Core is the best version control for your team. You can get started for free for up to 5 users.