A couple of weeks ago, I received an interesting e-mail from the Real Story Group. The e-mail talked about the differences between these two terms, and even though they’re closely related, they mean two different things. Although the material from RSG deals more with Web Content Management applications (such as Drupal or Joomla), these concepts are also applicable to document management.
For the people at RSG, “version control” means a collection of functionalities which knows ahead of time that the people who are working on that specific content will get in each others’ way. For example, when two people are working at the same time on a document, they’re continually writing over the content, in such a way that one person’s work is getting lost. Document managers and ECM (Enterprise Content Management) systems, just like WCMs, implement check-in and check-out functionalities: what they do is block the content or the documents when there’s a user working on it/them. In document management and ECM, however, version control goes a little further and allows for the user of a revision history for work performed on a document, its different versions, when previous versions had been recovered, etc.
Versioning is the ability that an ECM, WCM or document manager gives to store and save different versions of the same content or document. The goal of this capability is to let us recover previous versions if we want them, for example, when we’ve made a mistake. Remember that the version of a document or digital content is a variation of a digital asset or its metadata: in other words, a new word means having an update, edit or change with respect to a previous version (or its metadata)
Normally, in document management, both the capabilities for versioning, as well as for version control, tend to be grouped within the terminology of “version control”.