What is a Version Control System? Git Basics & Benefits

A Version Control System or VCS is nothing but a system that helps you keep track of your entire file collection. It allows you to make different versions of your collection of files. There are snapshots of files captured by these versions, and the system allows you to switch from one version to another easily. A repository is a location where all versions are stored. 

For instance, you may recall a state in which your collection of files existed one or two days ago. You can also switch between one version of your file collection to another. Git is one of the most popular version control systems. We also have concurrent version systems or CVS that store files, but don’t take snapshots of those files.

The tracking changes could be for anything from configuration files, programming language source code files, or HTML files. It doesn’t mean VCS is only used for text files. It has other applications too. For instance, it can also be used for png files and tracking their versions.

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Version Control with Git

As already mentioned, Git is a version control system that tracks changes in files and ensures that it establishes the coordination required between different people to work on them. Its primary use is to manage source code during software development. It is a distributed version control system that works on data integrity, speed, and compatibility with non-linear workflows. 

Git is a VCS that makes working with other developers easy as all the developers can refer to the same codebase without having to find a flash drive or a similar device to copy code and use it in different computers. Management of code and coordination between developers are the key benefits that Git brings to the software development process.

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It allows you to keep a check on what others are doing, review previous changes, and take stock of the code of other developers, all from your workstation. There are so many git commands that remembering all those isn’t easy for developers. You can remember those that you mostly use while it is more important to know others.  

Read: Top 30 Git Interview Questions & Answers

Git basics

Distributed version control system: This is Git’s greatest feature. What does it mean to be a distributed VCS? Well, it means that you can create another version of your files that you can use on another computer without having to switch the entire project to another computer. 

1. There is no single repository that contains all the changes that are made to files. Instead, there are different repositories for different users that feature the entire history of a project. We need to have access to the local repository to see changes. There is no need whatsoever to establish a link with the remote repository. 

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2. High speed: Git isn’t like other VCSs that you have known and used over the years. It is way faster than all those. As most operations are carried out in the local repository without the need to access the remote repository, things are done in a much faster way. It has been found after a few important tests conducted by Mozilla that it is the fastest of all the other VCSs.

You would agree that it is much easier and less time consuming to fetch history from a local repository than a remote one. Unlike other VCSs that use other high-level languages for writing their core part, Git uses C for this job. C is known for not carrying the runtime overheads that most of the other languages are. As it was originally developed for Linux Kernel, it has no difficulties in working with large repositories. 

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3. Security: Git is one of the most secure version control systems if not the most secure. It makes use of a secure hash function or SHAI to identify and name objects. History storage takes place in such a manner that the entire development history of a commit is taken into account while creating its ID. It is impossible to modify the previous version after it is published.

4. Branching and merging: These are the features that differentiate Git from other version control systems. Creating multiple branches is easy, and that too by making sure that there is an impact of one branch on the other. It is easy to perform different tasks on branches. Creating, merging, deleting branches can be done in a little time. Here are a few ways branching can help you:

  • Creating a different branch for a particular module of the project becomes an easy task. You can commit and then delete that branch at any moment. 
  • Creating demo branches for experiments is also very easy. The removal of these branches is easier.
  • Creating a production branch that carries everything all the requirements during production. It can be merged with the test branch for testing purposes. 
  • Carrying something to the remote repository isn’t difficult. There is no need to carry all the branches at once. Based on the need, you can few some branches or all to push them into the remote repository. 

5. Staging area: This is a unique feature of Git. It is usually taken as the opening of the next commit. It is also considered the area where the formatting and review of commits takes place before they are sent for completion. On the creation of a commit, Git refers to staging area changes and turns them into a commit. You can add and remove changes from this area. This is why it is also considered a location that Git uses to store change. 

6. Data assurance: With Git, you get cryptographic integrity of every element of a project. An exclusive commit ID is designated to all commits with the help of SHA algorithm. Commit ID can be used to update and retrieve commits. Not all VCSs offer this feature. 

7. Non-linear development: With branching and merging, Git supports non-linear development too. Every single commit in Git is represented through a branch. Parental commits are used to make full branch structures. 

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Benefits of Git

Listed below are a few key benefits of using Git:

  1. Faster releases
  2. Simultaneous development
  3. Strong community support
  4. Built-in integration
  5. Offline working


There is little doubt that Git is the leading version control system. From what we have discussed, it is easy to find out why software development teams need to use it and the benefits it can provide across an organisation. 

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Q1. What are the differences between SVN and GitHub?

Subversion or SVN is one of the most well-known version control platforms meant for software development. It is a centralized version control system and open-source. GitHub is also a version control system that hosts source codes for software development. However, GitHub is a distributed version control platform and open-source. GitHub employs multiple repositories to access and maintain the code contained in it, but SVN does not come with a centralized repository. Again, SVN stores content in the form of files and is slower than GitHub. GitHub stores content in the form of metadata. GitHub supports cloning features, but SVN does not support it.

Q2. Is SVN now considered obsolete?

Contrary to what many people think, SVN is nowhere near becoming obsolete. Even though marketing and hype surrounding Git are considerable, many major projects are still hosted on SVN, namely LLVM and FreeBSD. SVN might not be as popular as it used to be at some point in time, but it is still actively maintained by a community of developers. And there are teams that still rely on SVN for application development. This is because SVN offers different capabilities than Git. SVN is a centralized model and is also used by almost 47 percent of open source projects.

Q3. Which version control system is the most used?

Version control systems are used as a part of any standard software development project to make the whole process more effective and collaborative. A version control system helps track every little change made to an existing code base, with details like who made the changes, when it was made, what the changes are, etc. So, it also helps to roll back code, merge codes developed by several programmers, and check out code. SVN, Git, Apache Subversion, Perforce, Mercurial are some of the well-known version control systems in use. But out of all of them, Git is the most popular and most extensively used platform today.

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