December 2, 2022

What Is A VCS: Version Control Overview

Version Control

Version control software is essential for any development team across all industries as it enables them to manage changes to files over time. What's more, most development teams use version control today to organize assets and implement DevOps. Here, we cover what is version control, version control with Git, version control benefits, and what you should look for in a version control software.

Read along or jump ahead to the section that interests you the most:

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What Is Version Control?

Version control, also known as source control, is the process of  tracking and managing changes to files over time. VCS — version control systems — are software tools designed to help teams work in parallel.

Version control includes version control software, version control systems, or version control tools. It is a component of software configuration management, sometimes referred to as VCS programming. As mentioned above, version control is sometimes referred to as source control or revision control. In addition, you can use version control for versioning code, binary files, and digital assets.  

How Does Version Control Software Work?

Version control systems/version control software allows multiple developers, designers, and team members to work together on the same project. It helps them work smarter and faster! A version control system is critical to ensure everyone has access to the latest code and modifications are tracked. As development becomes increasing complex and teams grow, there's a bigger need to manage multiple versions and components of entire products.

Watch the video below to see how version control works.


Why Is Version Control Software Important?

Version control is important to keep track of changes — and keep every team member working on the right version. You should use version control software for all code, files, and assets that multiple team members will collaborate on. 

It needs to do more than just manage and track files. It should help you develop and ship products faster. This is especially important for teams practicing DevOps.

That’s because using the right one:

  • Improves visibility.
  • Helps teams collaborate around the world.
  • Accelerates product delivery.

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Helix Core — version control from Perforce — helps organizations solve complex development challenges. Using Helix Core improves visibility, enables collaboration, and accelerates delivery. See for yourself how Helix Core can help you. Get started for free.

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Version Control: Examples of Different Systems

Version control systems keep track of every change ever made. Here we give a list of the most popular version control examples. 

There are several types of version control systems that teams use today. Some are centralized. Some are distributed.

Here are a few of the most popular types of version control software:

What Is Git Version Control?

Git version control is open source. It's a distributed free version control software. In fact, Git version control is one of the most popular options. It's open source, so anyone can use it.

But there are some drawbacks to using Git. Git lacks security. It's impossible to scale. And it's very difficult to get a single source of truth

That's why teams who choose Git version control often add other tools on top. This includes Helix TeamHub for Git hosting and code reviews. Or Helix4Git, a Git server inside a Perforce server that can bring projects from third parties into your pipeline. 

Easily Scale Git Tools for Your Team with Perforce

Helix4Git is a high-performance Git server inside Helix Core. This free add-on allows your developers to use their preferred Git tools (GitLab, GitHub, Bitbucket). And you get all the benefits of Helix Core.

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Top Version Control Software Benefits 

There are many benefits to version control. The biggest version control benefits are:

  • A single source of truth across teams, code, and assets.
  • Traceability for every change ever made.
  • Speed for development teams who don't want to waste time looking for a file. 

5 Things to Look For in Version Control Software

Each version control option comes with different features. What matters most will depend on your team’s needs.

Here are five of the top things that today’s development teams are looking for.

1. Concurrent Development

Projects are getting more complex. There’s a growing need to manage multiple versions of code and files — and entire products.

This means multiple developers and designers can work on the same set of files — without worrying that they are duplicating effort or overwriting other team members’ work.

Let’s say you're managing an IOT deployment for high-end internet-connected security cameras. Over the product lifecycle, you may use ten different types of cameras, each with a different chip. As a result, each will have different software.

Using the right version control software means you can maintain multiple versions of your code to manage the specific functionality of each camera's chip and operating system.

So, when you need to deploy a critical security patch to prevent bad guys from hijacking those cameras, it’s easy. You’ll instantly see which code is impacted, make the changes, and deploy a fix.

2. Automation

Higher quality and increased productivity are top priorities for today’s development teams. And your team can reach your goals by automating tasks, such as testing and deployment.

In software development, Continuous Integration (CI) with automated builds and code reviews are a standard operating procedure.

For hardware development, such as semiconductors, automation can include:

  • Testing with field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs).
  • Integration with simulation verification and synthesis systems.

Such FPGAs or verification and testing systems must themselves be controlled and versioned, along with potentially very large data files. It is vital that even small changes are tracked and managed. This means your version control software is the center of the IP universe. The right one can handle millions of automated transactions per day with millions of files.

3. Team Collaboration

Companies operate where the talent lives. This means you might have design and development centers in Minneapolis, Seattle, Toronto, and Shanghai. And when deadlines loom, you might need to add engineers in Paris and possibly even in Taipei.

You need a way to provide global access to your team members at all your facilities. Having a single source of truth –– with appropriately secured identity and access management –– is critical for your success.

With the right version control system, each team member is working on the latest version. And that makes it easier to collaborate.

4. Tracked Changes — Who, What, When, Why

Every development team needs visibility into changes. Tracking who, what, when, and why changes are made is important.

Version control software captures this detailed information and maintains this history forever. So, everyone gets access to who is working on what — and the changes that are made

This is especially important if you have governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) or regulatory needs. Audit log history is especially key in the automotive, aerospace, medical device, and semiconductor industries.

5. High Availability / Disaster Recovery

The most expensive asset you have is your product development team. You can't have them idled because they've lost access to the code.

With the right version control software, you can have a replica of your enterprise repository –– your single source of truth –– operating in another location. If something happens, you can immediately switch over to a replica of the master for uninterrupted availability.

Get Free Version Control Software From Perforce

Get all the benefits of version control free for your team. Perforce Helix Core is free for up to 5 users and 20 workspaces.

Using Helix Core helps your development team work simultaneously, automate tasks, track changes, and ensure high availability/disaster recovery.

Get started with free version control software today.

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