Remote vs. Local Development

In 2010, it was common knowledge that “remote” development was a big no-no. Back then, remote development meant patching directly into your production environment via SFTP or hacking with VIM (ok, Emacs people I know you’re out there too). It was the fast way to a 500 error on your live site or getting into a fist-fight with a co-worker over who overwrote whose file.

Times have changed.

Multidev: Remote Development Strikes Back

In 2016, hosting providers like Pantheon give us the ability to spin up custom environments at a whim. Gone are the requests to IT for another virtual machine that your new developer can work on; creating a Multidev environment is simply a click away on Pantheon. In this world, it’s hard to tell whether you should be working on a Pantheon site using a local development tool like our Kalabox project, or simply editing a Multidev environment.

What’s right for me?

Ultimately, you are the arbiter of your own fate. However, in the process of creating Kalabox we’ve noticed some trends that tend to dictate whether someone is happier (and more productive) developing locally or going remote.

Develop Remotely Using Multidev if…

  • ...you work on a project infrequently and only need to make a couple small changes.

  • ...you don’t need to see instant changes on your live site.

  • ...you’re not familiar with version control.

  • ...you have a great workflow in your IDE for working via SFTP and can configure it for your needs.

Develop Locally Using Kalabox if…

  • ...you work on a project frequently and may spend more than an hour on each change or feature you work on.

  • ...you need advanced tools like Xdebug.

  • ...you’re comfortable with version control and think staying up-to-date with the Git log is the best way to monitor project progress.

  • ...you have tools (like an IDE or front-end tooling) in your workflow that don’t operate well with an SFTP-driven workflow.

The Best of Both Worlds

Of course, the biggest problem with local development environments in the past has been setting them up and maintaining them. At Tandem, we saw precious development time being wasted on simply pulling down sites and configuring local development environments.

That’s why we’ve tightly integrated Kalabox with Pantheon, bringing you push-button downloads of Pantheon sites. Ultimately, this means you can have your local development cake and remote it too: we regularly use Multidev in conjunction with Kalabox, maintaining feature branches as Multidev environments for our clients to review while we pull them down to Kalabox to work locally. Check out the Kalabox docs for our suggestions on this workflow.

For now, we encourage you to take a critical look at your own workflow and consider how you can best use tools like Multidev and Kalabox. We’ve just released a new version of Kalabox with huge improvements in stability and performance, so it’s an ideal time to download Kalabox and start exploring other ways to make your team’s life happier and more productive.

Topics Development

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