What is GitHub?
At the most basic level, GitHub is a hosted code repository service, built on Open Source Git technology. This allows developers to upload and download code to the hosted repository directly from their favourite coding tools. However, the continued addition of products and features means that GitHub now allows developers to do much more besides.
What does GitHub do?
GitHub provides several valuable tools for developers, including:
- CodeSpaces – a complete dev environment that allows coders to write, test and compile code online.
- CoPilot – an AI-powered assistant that helps to accelerate development by auto-suggesting code.
- Collaboration – allows developers to work together on projects, ideal for distributed teams.
- Code vaults – version history tools allow you to roll back or audit changes quickly and easily or to compare releases, side-by-side.
- Enhanced security – Private code repositories restrict access to authorised users and scan uploaded code for vulnerabilities like hard coded secrets.
All of these tools are designed to accelerate productivity, increase application quality and simplify the process of managing code updates.
Who uses GitHub?
According to GitHub, they have more than 100 million registered developers working on 372 million projects. This makes GitHub the world’s largest source code host.
The service is also extremely popular for hosting well known Open Source projects like:
Most popular development environments (IDEs) now offer support for GitHub as a source repository target, helping to simplify roll-out adoption by your development team.
Is GitHub only for coding?
GitHub’s tools are mainly focused on coding, but there are other valuable features, such as:
- Wikis – Public-facing web pages that can be easily updated to provide product and project information, or even product documentation for end users.
- Issue tracking – Allowing developers, testers and end users to submit problem reports.
GitHub is primarily focused on development, but as the platform evolves, more tools and features are being added to support more of the coding, testing and deployment lifecycle.
Why should we use GitHub?
GitHub is a proven, trusted solution for storing and maintaining code. There are a number of scenarios where your organisation may benefit from GitHub adoption:
- You do not currently have a code versioning repository.
- Your existing in-house code repository is no longer financially viable.
- You operate a distributed development team and need a central code repository.
- You have a cloud-first strategy and need to replace in-house infrastructure.
What are the top benefits of using GitHub?
GitHub could be a powerful addition to your development toolkit. When embedded in your operations, you should expect to see:
- A boost in productivity – according to a paper presented by the MIT Sloan School of Management, , developers working with the Copilot AI tool complete tasks 55.8% faster than programmers working unaided..
- Improved code management – Every code revision ever created is available in one place ready for review, comparison, testing and deployment.
- Improved availability – Hosted in the cloud, your code repositories are available to team members anywhere in the world, whenever they need them.
- Streamlined CI/CD processes – Advanced tools allow you to adopt continuous integration and development processes for faster code roll-outs.
Is GitHub free?
GitHub offers several code repository service tiers with the most basic being completely free, although there are certain caveats and limitations. Additional functionality and storage space is available with the Team and Enterprise subscriptions which are billed per user, per month.
Most of the add-on services like Copilot, Codespaces and Advanced Security are paid extras. Some offer a 30-day trial so you can properly assess functionality and value before commitment.
What are the alternatives to GitHub?
GitHub is incredibly popular – and with good reason. However, there are alternatives to consider. The 2023 TechRadar BY Devoteam report also identifies GitLab as a code repository technology that could be adopted immediately. Other potential alternatives include SourceForge and Bitlab.