Tips and tricks for software dependencies management

When it comes to managing dependencies, especially in big projects with dependencies from a plethora of sources, things can easily go south. Despite being a tricky task, managing and organizing them is crucial for security and productivity reasons. To make things easier, here are some tips and tricks that can ultimately help you avoid dependency hell. 

  1. Automate dependency updates

Consistently updating dependencies is essential for protecting not just your software, but your organization, too. Attackers are quick to hack and exploit the software by targeting any bug or weakness they can find. This is why you should fix any weak points as soon as possible. 

Automating dependency updates can make sure you benefit from important updates as soon as they’re available. In addition to patching vulnerabilities, updating dependencies can even help improve performance and avoid dependency hell. 

  1. Get rid of unused/redundant dependencies 

A dependency that was crucial yesterday might no longer be needed today. This kind of refactoring happens all the time, but if you continue to install dependencies that you no longer need, you’ll only end up increasing your dependency footprint and ultimately make yourself vulnerable to bugs or problems in those dependencies.

So, before you add more dependencies to your program, take a look at the current ones and remove those that are unused or redundant. Static code analysis tools can help you find the origin of your most important dependencies and even determine if you can compress or remove them completely.

Another way to reduce the number of dependencies is to rank them according to how important they are for your application, and then remove those that are the least or not important at all. Also, make sure to keep an eye out for those that pose the greatest data security risk.

  1. Use lock files

Lockfiles can prevent tampering by ensuring that the contents of the dependency don’t change. These are fully resolved requirement files that specify the exact version of the dependency to be installed and are typically produced automatically by different installation tools. 

Lockfiles combine hash verification or signature and version pinning with your application’s full dependency tree. Only dependencies (and sub-dependencies) in the lock file can be installed to make builds more consistent and reproducible. 

  1. Restrict your app to a single (dependency) version

Restricting your app to a single dependency version can freeze your application and make the builds reproducible. But when you do so, you prevent builds from including dependency updates, such as improvements and bug or security fixes. The good thing is that you can mitigate this by using automated dependency management tools.  

  1. Introduce a dependency management policy  

And finally, to make sure your developers, DevOps personnel, and QA resources follow the measures you’ve laid out for software dependency management, it’s important that you establish clear guidelines.

Plus, with a policy in place, you can enjoy a number of other benefits. For instance, you can maintain license compliance, improve performance, and monitor security. But without it, you’ll only put your app and users at risk.

Software dependency management with Packagecloud

Packagecloud, a hosted package repository service, can help you manage software dependencies and effectively avoid dependency hell. It provides 100% visibility into software dependency relationships and keeps the codebase protected from security vulnerabilities, helping you stay on top of all your dependencies.  

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