Version Control Basics for Better Business Continuity

Business continuity is often about reinforcing existing infrastructure or eliminating sources of business disruption. Bringing in techniques to accelerate or multiply results thanks to good business continuity may not be so frequent, but here’s one that may well do that. It’s version control, which is used when several knowledge workers need to simultaneously work on the same computer files to create advantage for the organisation – but without stepping on each other’s toes. Version control technology started in software development. However, it can be used for projects to create web content, coordinated product rollouts, corporate business plans and more.

To understand how version control can both underpin good business continuity and also bring business benefit, let’s take a couple of examples of life without version control. In one scenario, employees in the IT department need to manually update server configuration files. Unfortunately, an ill-advised edit provokes severe operational problems, but there is no way to recover the previous file versions. In the second scenario, employees at different sites are trying to collaborate on a corporate web site project. To coordinate their actions they must use phone calls and emails, which are either not always well expressed or speedy.

Version control software resolves these issues by placing all the files for a project in a version control directory or ‘repository’. Latest generation technology allows each user to work on any file even at the same time as someone else, and then intelligently merges all the changes from each user to create a new revision of that file. It also saves copies of preceding versions. Users who want to test out new ideas without disturbing progress elsewhere can create a separate ‘branch’ of the files in question. Version control continues to track all the changes in each branch, and when the time comes, can merge the branches back into one master version. Thus business continuity can be preserved and even enhanced into the bargain.