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Fundamental difference between Visual Source Safe (VSS) and VSTS Team Foundation

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This Article gives an introduction to VSTS Team Foundation & fundamental difference between Visual Source Safe (VSS) and VSTS Team Foundation.

Team Foundation is a set of tools and technologies that enable a team to collaborate and coordinate a project (software or non software projects). The team collaboration is achieved by several tools and features available as part of "Team Foundation".

Team Foundation Server

The Team Foundation includes a server component called "Team Foundation Server" (TFS). TFS manages the central repository of the team data and enables communication between team members.

Team Project

Every project team have to create a new project in TF called "Team Project". You will choose a name matching your project name. Every team member will connect to this project so that they can effectively collaborate.


Collaboration means effective communication or exchange of information between team members. Team Foundation achives this by offering several key features. The Team Project is the central repository of all data related to a project, which is shared between all members of the team. Access to data is controlled by permissions for the members and their roles.

Project Portal (Team website)

Every team project has an associated team website automatically created by Team Foundation. This website is hosted on the Team Foundation Server and is accessible for all team members. Team members can use the project portal to save/retrieve documents, view reports, exchange information by posting messages, and use other SharePoint collaborative features like calendars and lists.

Team Explorer

Team Explorer is a plugin for Visual Studio IDE. Team members access the work items through the Team Explorer. It also provides features like checkin/checkout files, view reports and manage documents.


Alerts are (email) messages sent from TF when some events happen - like the status of a work item changes, a check-in occurs, a build is completed, or when a build status changes etc. It can be configured to send alerts to some specific members or the member who performed the specific action.

Source Control

Team Foundation provides the source control functionality like VSS. You can checkin/checkout files directly from your Visual Studio using the "Team Explorer" plugin.

Fundamental difference between Visual Source Safe (VSS) and VSTS Team Foundation.

The Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 product-line offers two choices for software change management:

1. Visual SourceSafe 2005

2. Team Foundation (TF).

Visual SourceSafe is a source control tool for professional software developers.

Team Foundation is a change management system that provides integrated source control, issue tracking, and process management for development teams.

File Storage

VSS stores the file data as files within the file system.

Team Foundation stores the files as data within SQL Server database. It uses stored procedures for efficient storage and retrieval of files. A transaction with SQL Server can be rolled back in case of a network failure during the save procedure, which make it more relaible.

Scalability difference between VSS and TF

Visual SourceSafe is designed for teams of twenty or less. Team Foundation can support teams of up to 2000 users. Team Foundation servers can contain as much data as a SQL Server database allows (terabytes) and your hardware can support, whereas the recommended size limit for a Visual SourceSafe database is 4 GB.

Server-Based or Desktop-Based

VSS is a desktop based, self contained software. It does not depend on any other software to do it's job.

TF is part of VSTS family and is a server based software that has several dependencies like IIS, SQL Server 2005, SharePoint Services etc.

VSS has 2 separate tools - VSS client and VSS Admin. The client tool provides the user interface to manage files. The Admin tools allow to manage the VSS database and users.

The TF has a server component (Team Foundation Server), but there is no client tool with a user interface. Instead of installing a client tool, you have to install a Visual Studio plug-in called 'Team Explorer'. Team explorer appears within Visual Studio just like your Server Explorer window and allow you to connect to the Team Foundation Server.

Source Control and other features

VSS is a pure source control and version management system. The only purpose of Visual Source Safe is to control your source files and manage versions.

Team Foundation is a development collaboration tool with several functionality built into it. It allows you to control source code, manage versions, track changes, bugs, progress, generate project progress reports etc.


VSS is ideal for small teams and small projects. VSTS provides the integrated collaboration tools required for large enterprise development teams.

VSS is easy to setup and configure. If you have installed any Microsoft products before, you will be able to install and configure VSS in less than one hour.

VSTS is advanced tool that has several dependencies and require lot of time to install and configure. Even if you have all the dependent software preinstalled, the installation and configuration of Team Foundation Server is bit complex.

While small teams may like to stay away from the complexity of VSTS, it is ideal for enterprise software development projects.

If you are using multiple tools for version control, bug tracking etc, it is a good idea to replace all of them with one tool that does everything for you - that is Visual Studio Team System.

Even though Microsoft claims that VSS will continue to exist as a separate product, it may not be 100% reliable. VSTS is the future software for configuration management for enterprise software development.

Team Location

Even though the latest version of VSS (Visual Source Safe 2005) allows HTTP based remote access to files, it is not the ideal tool for geographically distributed team.

If your team is spread across different locations (different cities/countries), VSTS is the ideal tool for your source control management. Its server-based nature is ideal for geographically distributed teams. Team Foundation Server's communication algorithms were designed to support distributed locations. It also provides a caching system to minimize network traffic between distributed sites. Also, Team Foundation Server provides robust data storage with SQL Server 2005 in the central location.

Thanks & Regs
Bharath Reddy VasiReddy
Jul 25 '07 #1
1 19314
Good for a starter to know about VSS and VSTS
Nov 2 '10 #2

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