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What Is Distributed Version Control?

By Alex Newth
Updated May 16, 2024
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Distributed version control is a method of controlling computer files used for backups; it features a distributed chain in which each file can be passed out to each node in a network. This differs from a normal — or centralized — backup, because the centralized version only places the files in one central area. One advantage to this is that files are easier to access in the network if the backup is sent to a node. A problem with using distributed version control is that it may be difficult to get the latest backup.

A normal version control method is known as the centralized method, because there is a central holding area. Each node in a network sends files and information to the central area simultaneously. In this method, the nodes will not contain any backup information, because it all will be contained in the central holding area. While this system is simple and easy to use, it does have speed and merging disadvantages.

The distributed version control is different. While there may be a main holding area in most networks, and all of the backed up files are sent to this area, the nodes are allowed to send files to one another. For example, if a user wants to send a file to another person while backing up, then this is possible. All of the nodes normally will send important files to one another to ensure that everyone has a local copy of the file. Even if a node does not have a file, it still can access the file from the main area.

Speed and access simplicity are advantages when using distributed version control. One reason why the speed is better is because most nodes have the needed files, so they can be accessed from the hard drive and not from a distant server. Even if the user does have to access the main area, it tends to be quicker than with the centralized approach.

Unlike the centralized approach, distributed version control does not need to have a main area. If there is not a main area, then all the nodes still can send files to one another, but a problem may arise. Aside from asking the other users, it will be difficult to know if the files on the computer are the latest version. This means it normally is best to use a main area so all the latest files can be stored there and accessed if needed.

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