I am considering using sourceforge, bitbucket or github for managing source control for my business. I have open projects and I participate in open projects such as gcc. But I also have a business where I develop closed-source software for my living.

How trustworthy are sourceforge, github or bitbucket in terms of keeping software secure from prying eyes? How stable is the hosting in terms of data loss prevention? Has anyone out there based their business logic with such an outfit? Has anyone out there surveyed several of the hosting solutions?

  • 3
    One note: Even if you trust them, you should have some automated backup of your own of your repository. Apr 1, 2013 at 20:25
  • Regardless of how secure they would like to be, you should assume that the law enforcement agencies in the country where they keep their servers will have access to your files. You may not be told if those files are accesses. If your software would be of interest to a foreign government, then this may matter to you.
    – Simon B
    Jun 11, 2015 at 10:18

8 Answers 8


There's no good, standard, way to evaluate the security of providers like this. Stability you can see, somewhat, but security is pretty much impossible to evaluate from the outside.

I'd actually talk to the providers you are considering about their security guarantees, and look at their contracts - if they don't make any guarantees, or if their contracts are riddled with 'we can not be held responsible' clauses, then that tells you how seriously they take security, and how much help you can expect if something goes pear shaped.

Also, don't evaluate this in a vacuum - think about what it would take for you to run your OWN servers, and how much effort and overhead that would take, and how likely you are to screw it up (leaving a massive security hole) by doing it in house.

  • 18
    +1 for mentioning the possibility of your own servers being less secure.
    – Peter
    Apr 3, 2013 at 11:22

We have a closed-source project hosted in such a way.

It's pretty widely accepted that stealing source code won't get anyone too far (good article here). bitbucket and github make their living from closed-source, so they have a natural imperative to keep things as secure as they can (and minimize bad press).

One note is that every once in a while, the service goes down for a while - probably (IMO) caused by open-source traffic.

But overall, we've weighed the pros and cons, and are happy.

p.s. If I'm not mistaken, github offers a "private cloud" instance for enterprise customers.

  • Thanks for the article. Have you tries the private cloud are are you just using the private repo?
    – emsr
    Apr 1, 2013 at 18:03
  • Just private repo. Apr 1, 2013 at 18:17
  • They do gitlab which is basically a self hosted github Apr 2, 2013 at 19:43

SourceForge is not considered trustworthy anymore. It has been hijacking accounts and replacing Windows packages with adware installers (GIMP, nmap, and others). SourceForge has also been active in filtering out users from specific countries. Nothing really prevents other hosting services from interfering with software installers since we have yet to see SF prosecuted legally. Caveat emptor.

EDIT: https://helb.github.io/goodbye-sourceforge/ is a good resource for hosting comparison (I'm not affiliated with them).

  • 1
    The question is specifically about outsourcing private hosting, so the issue of SF messing with public projects is not especially relevant here.
    – nobody
    Jun 11, 2015 at 14:00
  • 6
    @AndrewMedico - it's still the question of integrity, though... Jun 11, 2015 at 15:24
  • On the integrity front, when last SF was sold, the new owners discontinued the installer-modding program: ghacks.net/2016/02/10/… Oct 6, 2017 at 16:16

There's a similar question (with an answer written by me) on Stack Overflow:
How safe is it to host sensitive data on repository sites like github, bitbucket, etc.?


  • as with everything in the cloud, there's no 100% guarantee that some hacker won't access your data
    (on the other hand, that can also happen when you host your stuff yourself)
  • cloud providers may go out of service anytime. It's unlikely that this will happen to the big source code hosters mentioned, but you never know
    --> it's your responsibility to take backups of your stuff regularly!

Even when providers are trustworthy, you never know what crackers targets and any open site is crackable when the will to do so is there.

In my company we bought GitHub Enterprise, which is our very own github on our intranet. If you like GitHub and are serious about keeping your work private, this is probably the safest.

  • You have to ask yourself though: is your company better at providing security for your repository than heavyweights like GitHub and Bitbucket? Oct 10, 2013 at 9:29
  • 1
    @StefanBilliet Probably none of us are capable of securing our source 100%, but with keeping your github enterprise instance at a local network crackers will need inside help to do the same they can do anytime against a public server.
    – Sylwester
    Oct 12, 2013 at 21:36

A few good answers already covering the technical aspects of what you are concerned about - I won't reiterate those. Ultimately, in the event of a "security breach" you need to consider the legal recourse you have. What are the terms of the license, to what extent are they responsible for damages you suffer as a result for service failure etc. For your specific case, can the damages be recovered in cash. You also need to consider how secure your alternate is. Is an in-house server, presumable connected to the internet, any less likely to be compromised than Github? Are you skilled enough and putting the require resources into your installation to be certain?

I am working with an organization looking at putting data in the cloud - however, there data , although having limited commercial in value, is legally sensitive. No amount of cash damages would fix a security breach. As a result, their measure of secure is "more secure than running in-house systems". This is followed with legal jurisdiction - the provided must answer to the same legal system - in our case, same country, as they would fall under same laws regarding data security, privacy etc, and a breach is likely to be answerable in criminal, not just civil courts. Cross border legal disputes are to be avoided at all costs, as are cross border criminal complains.


One of the benefits of git is that it's peer-to-peer, so you don't actually need a master VCS, though many companies (including my own) do use github as a master repository.

You can assign access to individuals (either read only or read/write) and define individuals as administrators too, so you have a fair degree of access control.

Github does "hiccup" occasionally (angry unicorns) but is generally pretty stable, and we've never had any problems with data loss; but you do also have backup options

  • This doesn't really address the question of how trustworthy third-party source code hosting is. Apr 1, 2013 at 17:18
  • @M.Dudley True, but it does touch on stability which was one of my questions (admittedly not the most important to me).
    – emsr
    Apr 1, 2013 at 18:29
  • Angry unicorns. Oh my. Dec 20, 2015 at 2:21

Why are you not considering putting your source-code on a local box you maintain and back-up? This could be achieved through subversion/Tortoise-SVN quite easily and would obviate the need to utilize a distributed repository unless, of course, that is what you need.

  • 1
    It could be done with Git too.
    – Rig
    Apr 2, 2013 at 18:27

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