The short answer: It keeps your work safe and allows you to collaborate with partners. Let’s break down how it does that –
It keeps your work safe.
This statement covers two facets of Git. It keeps your work safe from external harm e.g. your file storage being damaged either accidentally or maliciously, and it also keeps your work safe from internal harm e.g. you!
External harm. When you commit your work to Git, you are most likely storing your files in GitHub or BitBucket (though you can use Git locally too). This means you have moved your files away from the most unsafe place, your local machine, to a very safe place, the cloud. Neat! Once saved to the cloud, in the event of your local machines destruction, you can simply download your files from your most recent commit onto any computer and you’re good to go, woohoo!
A disclaimer, however, sometimes when using a free tier repository system like GitHub, you only have the option to use public repositories. This means everyone can view and download your work. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I have never had a problem with it. It is just something to keep in mind, especially if you are working on something top secret.
Internal harm. Every time you commit your code changes Git takes a snapshot of the state of your project. Git then stores this snapshot almost permanently with the comment you wrote when you committed as a descriptor. This is why it is so important to write clear and concise commit comments and commit often. You can then look back through your commit history and revert back to any of your commits if you realise one of them didn’t work or caused problems.
This means Git protects you from damaging your own work by making mistakes. Similar to the first point, this is dependent on how often you commit and push. If you keep a good track record of key changes, you will easily be able to navigate back through your commits to find a stage before your mistake and start again from there.
Beyond keeping your files safe, Git makes your files accessible. Accessible to you from anywhere, as well as accessible to others. This means you can share your projects with the world, as well as let the world share their ideas with you. When you create a repository, you have the option to make it public or (if you have a premium account) private. Your repository is still secure when you make it public, it just means people are free to clone their own copies and use your code if they want.
If you want people editing your repository alongside you, you can add them as ‘collaborators’, give them varying degrees of access, and let them contribute to your project from anywhere, anytime. If you and your partner or partners have even a tiny amount Git knowledge, you can set up a project in 5 minutes. From there it’s just a matter of committing regularly and clearly communicating with your team and it’ll be like working from the same office.
Git is awesome, everyone should use it!
Git is easy to set-up, straight-forward to use, and allows you to store, share, and access files from anywhere on the planet, even when you don’t have your own computer.
If you’re jumping to get going, we’ve developed some great cheat sheets to help you understand the terminology and basic commands used in the world of Git.
We’re developing more resources all the time, are there any that you’re looking for that we can help with? Flick us an email or leave a comment and we’ll try and help. We also run training courses regularly on topics like agile development, requirements modelling, and of course data warehouses and the wonders of business intelligence. Get in touch if you’re interested in upskilling!
From hard data to fluid design – Scott