Source Control for Micro-ISVs

I perform a good portion of my ASP.NET consulting work as a one-person team. After resuming contract work late last year I was faced with a challenge: get a “real” version control system in place. Of course, anything’s better than FTPing code off-site three times a week.

My big hang-up was set-up and maintenance time. Three years ago I spent 8 hours trying to install and configure CVS before bailing on it and purchasing SourceGear’s Vault, which I had up and running in about 20 minutes. At the time a five user license ran $599, which I consider a decent trade off for 7.5 hours of work.

This time around some things had changed: Vault licenses are $289 apiece which means expanding would be painful on the wallet (when coupled with the cost of bug tracking licenses, development tools, etc… this requires a substantial investment to bring on a new developer). In addition, there’s nothing I hate more than maintaining my own servers. My DSL has gone down once a week for the past few years, so if I had attempted to host it myself anyone trying to hit my servers from the outside world would be cut off until I rebooted my router. And like anyone else who gets busy writing code, I don’t perform backups as often as I should.

In my opinion, as a 1-3 person shop I’m much better off leaving my web, email and FTP hosting to professionals. So I began toying with the idea of hosting my source control off-site. This is a concept that has always set the hairs on the back of my neck at attention, for obvious reasons.

I did a search for “hosted source control” and noticed OrcsWeb has Vault hosting for the full price of a Vault license up front, plus $40 per user per month. Ouch…at that price I’d prefer to do it myself, drawbacks and all. I also found, who does Subversion hosted source control and has an insane back-up schedule (a back-up after every check-in). As I performed my final pass through of the search results before signing up with I noticed one of the companies doing Subversion hosting was DreamHost, the company I use for Linux hosting.

I’ve been with DreamHost about 18 months. Their reliability is awesome, and their tech support fabulously knowledgeable and easy to work with. But I never realized that my web hosting account, which I pay $16/month for, includes north of 350GB of storage. That’s approach half a terabyte. And it includes unlimited Subversion repositories. That is nuts!

After a brief email exchange, I learned that while DreamHost doesn’t back-up every 9 seconds like wush, they do keep my data from 1 and 2 hours ago, 1 and 2 days ago, and 1 and 2 weeks ago, and I can see the Subversion files when I FTP into my web server — a shared hosting package, mind you, so I can back them up manually if I want, or write a cron to do it for me.

After installing TortoiseSVN and the Ankh Visual Studio plug-in I was checking in my first project within 20 minutes. A few hours later a developer who’s contracting for me was pulling files down and we were off to the races. No 8 hour install time, no worrying about backups, no downtime, and no additional cost. I’ve been up and running for 4 months now without a hiccup.

As long as I don’t run over my 350GB storage limit I’m sitting pretty. Let’s see…that comes out to about 3.5 billion lines of code…

[tags]source control, subversion, svn, micro-isv, startups[/tags]

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#1 Ivan Zhakov on 05.25.07 at 8:02 am

Take a look to VisualSVN ( It’s based on Subversion. Setup takes 10 minutes and it price is only $49.

#2 David on 05.25.07 at 8:44 am

I also use SubVersion at DreamHost. Be sure to add WebSVN and syntax highlighting.

#3 Karthik on 05.25.07 at 3:30 pm

Rob, Be careful with Dreamhost. They seem like a dream at first but they can quickly turn into a nightmare. I had some major performance problems on my sites so I’ve left my dreamhost account for subversion/static html content only. I had issues like downtime, slow perf during peak hours, and random database connection errors quite often. I would suggest at least keeping the latest copy of your code somewhere in archive that you control *just in case* Dreamhost’s subversion server takes a dive.

#4 Rich Zygler on 05.25.07 at 3:37 pm

To protect against the host going down, you can always do a “svnadmin dump” as part of your back up strategy to dump a copy of the repo, keep that off site, then use “svnadmin load” to load that dumped copy into a new repo

#5 Michael C. Neel on 05.25.07 at 5:57 pm

This is awesome – I’m in the same boat. It would be nice if there was a Team Server host out there, but I don’t think the price points would work for that =p If you use SVN I can highly recommend VisualSVN ( – for a few bucks this is a rocking little VS2005 plugin.

#6 Tim Cull on 06.04.07 at 4:23 am

I’ve used SVN at DreamHost, too, for about a year with no complaints. I just couldn’t believe my luck after stumbling on it on their wiki. I just hope they don’t do the same research you and I did and realize how much it’s worth.

#7 Ethan Giffin on 06.06.07 at 6:45 pm

Great posting. I too was in a similar boat. Small 4 person startup. I also needed access via the Internet to a freelancer across the country. So SS was out. I was used to using Vault at my last job. It was just an extra expense, plus hosting and backups that we weren’t ready to take on. This really helped to seal the deal for me. Although Subversion is a little bit different process than Vault, I am sure we will figure it out along the way.