Server-to-server replication copies and distributes data and objects from one database to another and then synchronizes the content between each of the instances to maintain consistency. One of the most compelling reasons to implement a server-to-server replication solution is its ability to give instant access to SharePoint.
Server-based replication helps businesses with users in geographically distributed locations communicate more effectively over networks that are periodically disconnected, have limited bandwidth, or high latency. It gives remote and entirely mobile operations, such as shipping fleets, improved access to business portals by replicating them on the local server, and by reducing data transmission costs.
In these kinds of remote scenarios, selective replication is critical. In other words, if IT managers want to have only applicable content replicated, they can define it according to specific metadata. On the other hand, if IT managers want to have the entire web application replicated, including the presentation layer, they can make the remote user experience virtually identical to the user experience at headquarters.
Let’s talk money. Bandwidth can be expensive. Even if an office is smaller, say between 50 and 150 people, bandwidth considerations may drive it to implement a server-to-server solution. For example, if employees are frequently and repetitively downloading the same data using expensive bandwidth, server-based replication may still be a more cost-effective solution than using WANs. But more importantly, the performance that is achieved with local access is key to efficiency, employee productivity, and acceptance. Time is money.
What about connectivity? In addition to traditional WANs, a growing number of organizations are relying on expensive and less reliable satellite communication to transmit data from head office servers to remote locations. Server-based replication can cut satellite communication costs by up to 90%, while ensuring that information workers have access 24/7 to business critical data and key SharePoint functionality. It virtually guarantees that all users, irrespective of network connection, have access to key business data. When replication is interrupted by network downtime, it has enough smarts to pick up where it left off and continue with the replication process when the satellite system is back up and running.
Organizations interested in disaster recovery solutions will be very interested in the server-to-server approach. Should the central server become unavailable due to a natural disaster, power outage, or other reason, database replication improves availability of content. Since the other servers will have the most current versions of content, an organization can continue business virtually unimpeded, without any operational processes hindered.
Remember, that SharePoint Replication is not intended to replace your backup and recovery solution (after all, data corruption at the original location will be replicated just as is to the destination); it is simply a choice to be switched to during the disaster, such as complete system failure or a data center destruction.
Finally, a logical separation of data is common where two farms are created with clearly distinct access and physical implementation, a partner portal and an internal intranet for example, but it is key to share information between these systems, and it is important to have a secure solution to replicate data between these environments.
In general, here are some key features to look for in an effective server-to-server replication solution:
1. Bi-Directional Replication
This is essential to ensure synchronization of content created at locations other than the central server. Both the site structure and permissions – not only data – should be bi-directional. To not enable communication from remote workers back to the central server would also cause remote workers to feel disconnected from their headquarter counterparts.
2. Transactional or Event-Level Replication
This type of replication is typically used in server-to-server scenarios that require high throughput to improve scalability and availability, frequent reporting, and data synchronization between multiple sites. It is essential to ensure near real-time replication since replication occurs every time an action takes place within SharePoint, such as the check-in or check-out of a document.
3. Replication that Can Cross the Firewall
It is important that cross-firewall replication still maintains strong security. For that reason, IT should be able to selectively replicate certain content and have the ability to select bi-directional replication through a firewall and not only one-way replication. This is essential for global organizations that cannot afford to be restricted by environmental and physical boundaries during the course of business.
4. Replication that Makes Use ofByte-Level Differencing
Byte-level differencing can cut costs dramatically by making it possible to replicate only the edits or changes to documents, rather than the entire document.
5. Selective Replication
Selection provides the ability to decide what specific content is replicated and what is not based on attributes – such as ‘published’ or ‘confidential’ – to even further reduce bandwidth requirements or to provide logical separation of data.
The basic demand for efficient replication of data has wide appeal and is relevant to many practical applications across the enterprise, from disaster recovery scenarios to simply making sure that remote offices have access to SharePoint data and functionality needed for success.
There are a few server SharePoint Replication solutions available on the market today, but the most award-winning, dedicated to SharePoint replication for a long time has been Syntergy (now Metalogix). If you are trying to evaluate options for your SharePoint accessibility challenges, contact Metalogix – their experts are bound to help you find the answers to all your questions.