Many Web services provide open source teams with an infrastructure for collaborative development, but what if you’re a small team of developers with little funding wanting to develop closed source software? Can you still engage in collaborative development while keeping your costs minimal? Yes, of course. We show you how.
If the team is developing an n-tier solution, there will also be the need to install and setup a database server. There isn’t much that can be said about it. Between Oracle, MS SQL Server, MySQL or PostgreSQL, all include the necessary features to be accessed over the Internet.
However, particularly during the data modelling phase of the project development, a database server can impose a great burden on the upstream link when every team member is trying to access it at once. Later on, the same can be true when anyone coding the top layers makes large queries on the database server.
For this reason it is best, if possible, for every team member to install their own local copy of the database server. They should either set them up for replication against the team member responsible for database management or perform only manual synchronizations (perhaps through backup/restore). When developing against the database, one should use their local copy.
Later, as the project comes to an end, it should be a simple matter to change the connection strings. During development though, just make sure to keep local copies of the connection strings and not include them in revision control. If you do, get your team to install their local database servers to the same relative path.
This section is exclusive to Windows development and Microsoft development frameworks.
Usually, team development at this scale and for this purpose happens because all team members already have access to the tools needed for development. If you are developing by making exclusive use of open source or free tools and frameworks, there shouldn’t be a problem hooking your team up with all of the required tools. However, if you wish to develop against private frameworks and with commercial tools, you will surely expect your team to be fully equipped on their own.
It may not be so all the time, or you may wish to make use of rapid-changing technologies (which one isn’t, really?) and want to ensure that during the whole development process you and your team have access to the latest versions. You may think that, this being the case, you are out of luck. How can you possibly have free access to MS SQL Server and Visual Studio Ultimate, for instance, and not just one license but as many licenses as you have members in your team? Well, you can.
For years, Microsoft has been running the Microsoft BizSpark program. This program offers start-ups and entrepreneurs access to a 3-year free MSDN Account (expansible to your team members), technical support, and access to business incubators, investors and a whole network of potential business partners. It’s the perfect setting to not just get free access to all of Microsoft’s operating systems, software and development tools, but also take your project to the level where you can actually market it, trying to secure the interest of a potential business partner or investor.
To be eligible, your business must be privately held, less than three-years-old and making less than 1 million USD in annual revenue. You’ll be required to sign-up a Microsoft Account, if you haven’t one already. You will also be asked about your business website, which you can set up as a single webpage in your Apache Web Server installed above, if you wish.
However, you may have noticed that I said you are required to have a business. Something that you and your team may not want to do at this stage. BizSpark seems to give some allowance on this matter. Just be completely honest about the nature of your endeavor when contacted by a BizSpark account manager and all should work out. If not, you should weigh your options. Particularly take a deep look at the options available in your country when it comes to starting a small business. Do not make assumptions. It’s my experience that you’ll find it easier than you may have initially realized. Many countries put a whole lot of effort in creating the best conditions for entrepreneurs and the creation of businesses at zero cost.
For development teams not completely aware of all of their options, a zero-cost setup may seem unlikely, if not impossible. But as this article has proven, it’s not only possible, but the number of options is huge. Your zero-cost setup may be different than someone else’s – what’s important is that there’s bound to be a perfect solution out there for you and your team.
Discussed just above, BizSpark is another solution that many don’t realize exists. If you’re a Windows developer, having access to all of Microsoft’s development tools and operating systems can prove invaluable to your progress. Having access to BizSpark is like being given thousands of dollars to spend on software; the difference is that it’s free with the caveat of a three-year time-limit.
From setting up a server to bug-tracking, we’ve covered about all there is to for small team development. If there’s a point you are lost with, or you have further questions, please post in our thread below. Also, if you’ve gone the zero-cost route yourself in the past, we’d love to hear about the route you took.
With that, happy developing!
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