The Benefits and Challenges of Data Replication

November 15, 2021

The mass pivot to remote work in 2020 permanently changed the way many businesses operate. With employees now scattered across regions and even the globe, IT teams must support data accessibility in many different locations. 

 

Accessing data from multiple sites is cumbersome and inefficient for many workers. However, organizations that employ data replication see marked improvements in availability and accessibility.  Distributed teams also benefit from the flexibility of running applications in the cloud, so data is usable anywhere, any time.

 

 

What Is Data Replication?

Data replication is the process of creating copies of your data and storing them in multiple locations, including offsite and in the cloud. As mentioned above, data replication is also an efficient way to ensure team members in geographically dispersed work environments have access to the same data and that all changes made to that data are universal across systems. 

 

Replication also increases the reliability and resilience of your data, making it a key capability for disaster recovery efforts. Data replication can protect your organization from data loss in the event of an unplanned disruption or cyberattack. Backing up multiple copies of the data ensures operations and IT systems are up and running and minimizes the risk of running foul with compliance and service-level agreement (SLA) requirements.

 

Depending on your business needs, data can be replicated in multiple ways, including:

  • Bi-directionally to or from a cloud host.

  • Between on-premises hosts.

  • Between hosts in different locations.

  • To separate storage devices on the same host.

 

The Types of Data Replication

There are several types of data replication in common use, and each is best suited for specific data environments. These types include: 

  • Full table: Every row in a table is replicated each time the job runs. Best for instances in which key-based incremental replication isn’t feasible.

  • Key-based incremental: A replication key (i.e., source table) identifies which data in a table to replicate. Best for tables that contain a modification timestamp column.

  • Merge: Uses bi-directional replication that combines changes from two or more databases into one updated database. Best for use in a server-to-client environment.

  • Snapshot: Point-in-time replication of a database that is distributed to multiple servers. Best for databases in which changes are infrequent.

  • Transactional: Automated, near-real-time replication and distribution between databases. Best for environments in which changes are predictable and infrequent.

 

The Benefits of Data Replication

Data is almost constantly changing, which can cause quality issues when multiple people pull the “same” data from different servers. Inconsistencies and out-of-date data can also impede recovery when a system failure occurs. 

 

Data replication plays an essential role in how gracefully a business shares and secures data in these areas:

 

Disaster Recovery

Disaster recovery is the process of restoring IT services and systems after a technology failure, natural disaster, or other outage. Data replication is a critical factor in the success of a disaster recovery effort because the amount of data lost during the event depends on the quality of the backups.  

 

Cyber Resilience

Like disaster recovery, cyber resilience is put to the test by unplanned disruptions. But unlike disaster recovery, cyber resilience is measured by how equipped the business is to holistically respond to and recover from the event with little to no downtime or loss of data. 

 

Accessibility

Today’s businesses are not constrained by geography. It is not unusual for an organization to have branches in multiple locations or even multiple countries. Employees in all locations need reliable access to accurate business data. Data replication puts copies of the data near every user, so everyone has the same version and latency is less of an issue. 

 

Server Performance

Placing copies of your organization’s data on multiple servers reduces the strain on bandwidth and capacity. When servers aren’t overloaded, users benefit from faster access to the data needed to work efficiently.

 

The Challenges of Data Replication

Data replication is an essential business process, but that doesn’t mean it is free of challenges. There are a few areas in which organizations tend to struggle with the implementation:

 

Cost

Data replication requires increased processing power, network capacity, and storage space, all of which add additional expenses at a time when many budgets are tight. However, this challenge is generally short lived, as replication provides a sizable ROI in a relatively short time frame. Comparatively, a wholesale migration consumes significantly more resources with a longer duration until the benefits are realized. 

 

Effort

The data replication process requires IT oversight for updates, monitoring, and regular testing. Between the global shortage of skilled technical labor and the overextension of many IT teams, it can be difficult to dedicate staff to the project.

 

Consistency

The more locations that need copies of your data, the more difficult it is to maintain consistency. Keeping data updated and uniform across many dispersed offices adds complexity and increases risk.

 

Get the Most Value from Your Data Replication Processes

Data replication is only useful if the copies are identical across all servers. To ensure your replication process creates and stores exact copies, the process should consistently follow a prescribed set of steps. For example:

  • Define a source connection

  • Define transactional log settings

  • Define a target connection

  • Create target tables

  • Create replication source logs, maps, and schedules

  • Run replication

  • Review and manage results

 

Adhering to the steps will create exact replicas of business-critical data that can be used across geographic locations and restore systems after a security event or other system failure. 

 

When performed manually, data replication can be time-consuming and prone to errors, such as keystroke mistakes. The most effective way to ensure that data replication processes follow all of the steps is to utilize data replication software.


There are many benefits and challenges when implementing a data replication process in your organization. Read this article to learn how it works, take advantage of the benefits, and avoid the challenges.

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