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What is CVS Hosting?
CVS stands for Concurrent Versions System, an open source revision and versioning control system used in software development. If you've ever used Microsoft Word, you're aware of the Track Changes feature, which allows more than one person to edit a document, and displays the edits to all who have access.
CVS takes the effort out of collaboration
In layman’s terms, CVS is reminiscent of Microsoft Word’s ‘Track Changes’ feature, which allows more than one person to edit a document and displays the edits to all who have access. Authors are able to reinstate older versions of the document, too, should any errors be made. The same approach is used in popular content management systems and platforms such as Wordpress.
CVS offers the same kind of collaborative environment for developers working on the same software project. It allows every edit and change to be tracked and identified, and again, if any mistakes are made it's possible to revert to a previous iteration and immediately fix errors, maintaining functionality and saving valuable man-hours in the process. It makes collaboration and creation efficient and easier to manage.
All revisions made to the code using CVS are kept in a repository. The biggest advantage to repositories is that they are usually available via a Web-based browser. This kind of interface makes accessing the repositories much easier for all who may be working on the same project. It does away with many compatibility issues and helps streamline the collaborative process.
While CVS can speed up development and training by allowing multiple developers access to numerous versions of code, it is still no substitute for good planning and management.
CVS merely stores various iterations of the code in its repository and it cannot replace a proper build system.
Although it can speed up communication and streamline the development process, CVS is not a substitute for good intra-team communication and cooperation. The system can provide team leaders and managers with a better insight into the inner workings of their teams, but it is still just another tool in the developers’ collaborative arsenal.
CVS can help developers identify and track bugs in some situations, but this largely depends on the way it is used and on the way developers choose to treat bugs. It can also be used to streamline testing, but CVS is not an automated testing programme.
Alternative Version System Solutions
Since CVS has been around since the eighties, it has managed to attract a sizable following. However, there are a number of alternatives, including open source GNU licensed tools and proprietary ones.
Apache Subversion (SVN) is one of the more widespread alternatives and it was designed to address some CVS shortcomings. SVN is distributed under the Apache license, but it is still free an open source. Over the years many developers have adopted SVN over CVS thanks to its comprehensive feature set, but it still has a number of limitations.
However, both SVN and CVS are relatively dated and facing strong competition from new version system solutions.
Git differs from CVS and SVN since it is built for Unix-like systems and does not need a centralised server. However, Git may not be the best choice for individual developers and it can be more difficult to use than CVS and SVN.
Mercurial is another distributed revision tool that tries to blend the best of both worlds, as it shares a lot of features found in SVN, but it is a decentralised system. While it is easier to master than Git, Mercurial lacks some features found on other platforms.
A number of less popular or niche solutions as well, including open source and commercial clients, including TortoiseGit, GitX, Gittiapp, SmartGit and others.
CVS servers are compatible with most platforms on the market and clients for numerous operating systems, even obsolete ones, are widely available.
It should also be noted that CVS is not a true configuration management system although this term is used in some marketing pitches. Some hosts may say they offer CVS hosting, but this basically means they allow developers to store their CVS repositories.
Remote repositories can be used on a wide range of servers and hardware requirements can be described as modest in this day and age.
Needless to say, there are a number of security considerations when dealing with remote repositories, so sound security practices should always be employed.