SQL Server Replication Types: An Easy Guide

on Data Integration, ETL, Tutorials • August 27th, 2020 • Write for Hevo

SQL Server Replication Types

When working in a distributed environment, each node might contain a replica of your data. One way to prevent data loss and avoid any interruption of operations due to an unexpected event is by keeping a copy/replica of your database, thereby allowing users to access their data whenever required. Each node needs to have an updated version of the database at any particular point in time to maintain consistency.

The present article aims at providing a step-by-step guide to help you understand various SQL Server Replication Types and replicate your data with ease. A complete walkthrough of the content will help you develop the skill to set up various types of Replication in SQL Server.

Table of Contents

Introduction to SQL Server

SQL Server Replication Types: SQL Server logo.

It is a relational database developed by Microsoft to store structured data. It is known as MS SQL. SQL Server is built on top of SQL (Structured Query Language) to interact with database objects. SQL Server is tied to Transact-SQL or T-SQL (Microsoft proprietary language) for its programming interface, such as declaring the variable, stored procedure, exception handling, etc. Initially, SQL Server ran only on Windows Server and Windows devices, however now it is supported on Linux as well.

Key features of SQL Server:

  • Scalable: It is easy to scale and supports large amounts of data.
  • Performance: It performs exceptionally well on both Windows & Linux.
  • Secure: It ensures data security & availability irrespective of whether the data is at rest or being worked on. It further supports data recovery during crashes/failures.
  • Analytics Support: MS SQL supports data analytics & machine learning. It uses languages like Python or R to perform such operations.
  • Integrations: It is very easy to integrate MS SQL with tools like Hadoop for big-data analytics using T-SQL commands.
  • Threading: MS SQL efficiently supports multi-threading & parallel processing even with a massive amount of data & ensures powerful analytics.

For further information on SQL Server, you can check the official Microsoft site here.

Introduction to Replication

SQL Server Replication Types: Database Replication Architecture
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Replication is the process of copying data from a central database, to one or more subscriber databases. The central database is known as such because it provides the data for replication. With replication in place, any changes that are made to one of the subscription databases, automatically reflect in the central record in a matter of seconds, following which, all the subscription databases receive the data updations from the central server in a fully-automated manner.

Replication takes place continuously and synchronizes your data in a matter of seconds, allowing users to have an identical set of data across all of their databases.

Some key features of Replication:

  • Scalability: Having one or more slave servers allows data reads to be done on them, thereby reducing the load on the master server, which only allows performing the write operation.
  • Backup Assistance: This involves replicating data to a slave that you can use as backup data. This backup can then act as a stand-alone server in a stable state.
  • Data Analysis: Data can be analyzed on the slave server without adding extra load to the master server with replication in place.
  • Distribution of Data: With replication in place, you can work locally on this data without connecting to the master server. Upon subsequent connection, the updated data will get merged with the master.

Terminologies used across all SQL Server Replication Types

The most popular terminologies used across all SQL Server Replication Types are as follows:

  • Article: It is the fundamental unit of SQL Server, which contains views, tables, procedures, etc. It lets you create various articles on an individual object and scale them either vertically or horizontally using the filter option.
  • Publication: A publication is a collection of articles, taken from a database. It allows you to define and configure properties at a significant level, allowing all articles to inherit them with ease.
  • Publisher Database: The publisher is a database that contains a list of objects designed as replication articles. The publisher may have one or more publications. Each publisher creates many internal replication procedures that define a data propagation mechanism.
  • Publisher: It is a database instance, that is responsible for making data available to other locations through replication. It may be storing one or more publications, with each publication defining a set of logically related objects.
  • Distribution Database: Each distributor should have at least one distribution database. The distribution database stores the article details, data, and the replication meta-data. It may hold more than one distribution database. However, all publications from one publisher must use one distribution database. 
  • Subscriber: It is a database instance that utilizes replication data from a publication. The subscriber can receive data from one or more publications and publishers. 
  • Subscription: It is a request for a copy of a publication to be sent to a subscriber. The subscription defines how, when, and where the publication data is to be received. 
  • Subscription database: This is the target database for a replication model. 

Simplify Your SQL Server Replication Using Hevo’s No Code Data Pipeline

Type 1: SQL Server Replication Using Snapshot Approach

It is the simplest of all SQL Server Replication Types, suitable for replicating small tables. Snapshot Replication creates a copy of all tables in the publication at once, then transfers the data to the subscribers, without requiring the users to manually update the data.

Type 2: SQL Server Replication Using Transaction Approach

All updates made to the data are kept in the distribution database and copied to the subscribing servers. This type of replication generates a minimal amount of traffic on the network and efficiently obtains all data updates from the transaction log of the publishing database.

Type 3: SQL Server Replication Using Merge Approach

SQL Server Replication Types include Merge Replication as well, which initializes the publisher, subscribers and allows data to be updated at all sites involved at both publisher and subscribers end as well. It merges all changes in the data at certain levels, ensuring each data copy is identical and always contains up-to-date data.

Type 4: SQL Server Replication Using Hevo Data

Hevo Data, an Automated No-code Data Pipeline provides you with a hassle-free solution to perform the SQL Server Replication with an easy-to-use no-code interface. Hevo is fully managed and completely automates the process of not only replicating data from SQL Server but also enriching the data and transforming it into an analysis-ready form without having to write a single line of code.

Hevo’s fault-tolerant Data Pipeline offers a faster way to move your data from SQL Server and 100+ other data sources(including 40+ free data sources) into Data Warehouses, Databases, BI Tools, or any other destination of your choice. Hevo will take full charge of the data replication process, allowing you to focus on key business activities.

Prerequisites

  • Working knowledge of SQL Server.
  • Permission to access the SQL Server database.
  • A general idea about data replication.

SQL Server Replication Types

Data replication in SQL Server can be accomplished through a variety of SQL Server Replication Types. You can replicate your data from SQL Server using any of the following methods:

Snapshot Replication in SQL Server

SQL Server Replication Types-Snapshot Replication.

Snapshot Replication makes use of two agents to carry out the replication process:

  • Snapshot Agent.
  • Distribution Agent.

The Snapshot Agent is responsible for creating files, having a schema similar to the publication and data. The files created by the Snapshot Agent are stored in the snapshot folder of the distribution server temporarily, which are then transferred by the Distribution Agent from distributors to the subscriber.

It does not track data updations like other types of replication, and hence, it increases the publishers’ load. SQL Server Snapshot Replication struggles while working with a large number of articles, and hence, consumes a large amount of bandwidth.

Advantages of SQL Server Snapshot Replication

  • It’s simple to set up. 
  • It requires low maintenance.
  • Database tables need not have primary keys.

Disadvantages of SQL Server Replication

  • Modifications made to the subscriber are usually lost after a new snapshot is delivered. 
  • The Snapshot Agent generates a high impact when it runs. 

For further information on Snapshot Replication in SQL Server, you can check the official documentation here.

Transaction Replication in SQL Server

SQL Server Replication Types- Transaction Replication.

SQL Server Replication Types also include SQL server Transactional Replication, which captures transactions from the transaction log of the published database and replicates them to the subscription databases. It allows you to either publish all or part of a view, table or multiple stored procedures as an article.

Transaction Replication makes use of three agents to carry out the replication process:

  • Snapshot Agent.
  • Log Agent. 
  • Distribution Agent.

The Snapshot Agent is responsible for creating files that have a schema similar to the publication and data. These files are temporarily stored in the snapshot folder of the distribution server. The Log Agent is responsible for monitoring the transaction log of the database. Each published database has a Log Agent set up for replication and copies the transactions from the transaction log of the published database to the distribution database.

Distribution Agent moves the schema and data from the distributor to the subscribers for the initial synchronization and then moves all the subsequent transactions from the published database to every subscriber as they come in.

Advantages of SQL Server Transaction Replication

  • It is suitable for highly transactional data. 
  • It requires low latency. 

Disadvantages of SQL Server Transaction Replication

  • Setting up Transaction Replication can be a challenging task, especially for beginners. 
  • Transaction Replication is prone to faults and can be affected even by events such as a primary key violation.

For further information on Transaction Replication in SQL Server, you can check the official documentation here.

Merge Replication in SQL Server

SQL Server Replication Types: Merge Replication.

Merge Replication makes use of two agents to carry out the replication process:

  • Snapshot Agent.
  • Merge Agent.

The Snapshot Agent is responsible for creating files that have a schema similar to the publication and data. These files are temporarily stored in the snapshot folder of the distribution server. The Merge Agent is responsible for updating all the subscriber databases, initially with the data from the publisher and then, it combines the data updations from all servers. It follows the rules created by the user for merging data.

Advantages of SQL Server Merge Replication

  • It lets subscribers update records. 
  • It allows offline subscribers to make changes to the data

Disadvantages of SQL Server Merge Replication

  • Setting up Merge Replication can be a challenging task, especially for beginners. 
  • It is prone to creating conflicts between the publisher and subscriber, requiring users to solve them often to set up Merge Replication again.

For further information on Merge Replication in SQL Server, you can check the official documentation here.

These are some of the various SQL Server Replication Types that you can use to start replicating your data in SQL Server.

Using Hevo Data for Replication in SQL Server

SQL Server Replication Types: Hevo Logo
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Hevo Data, an Automated No Code Data Pipeline, helps you replicate data from SQL Server to Data Warehouses, Business Intelligence Tools, or any other destination of your choice in a completely hassle-free & automated manner. You can ingest data from your MS SQL Server using Hevo Pipelines and replicate it to a warehouse of your choice. Hevo supports data replication from multiple variants of SQL Server like Generic MS SQL Server, Amazon RDS MS SQL, Azure MS SQL, Google Cloud SQL Server.

To learn more, check out Hevo’s documentation for SQL Server replication

Check out what makes Hevo amazing:

  • Secure: Hevo has a fault-tolerant architecture that ensures that the data is handled in a secure, consistent manner with zero data loss.
  • Auto Schema Mapping: Hevo takes away the tedious task of schema management & automatically detects the schema of incoming data from SQL Server and replicates it to the destination schema.
  • Quick Setup: Hevo with its automated features, can be set up in minimal time. Moreover, with its simple and interactive UI, it is extremely easy for new customers to work on and perform operations.
  • Transformations: Hevo provides preload transformations through Python code. It also allows you to run transformation code for each event in the Data Pipelines you set up. You need to edit the event object’s properties received in the transform method as a parameter to carry out the transformation. Hevo also offers drag and drop transformations like Date and Control Functions, JSON, and Event Manipulation to name a few. These can be configured and tested before putting them to use for aggregation.
  • Hevo Is Built To Scale: As the number of sources and the volume of your data grows, Hevo scales horizontally, handling millions of records per minute with very little latency.
  • Incremental Data Load: Hevo allows the transfer of data that has been modified in real-time. This ensures efficient utilization of bandwidth on both ends.
  • Live Support: The Hevo team is available round the clock to extend exceptional support to its customers through chat, email, and support calls.

Use Hevo’s No-code Data Pipeline to replicate data from SQL Server to a destination of your choice in a seamless and automated way. Try our 14-day full feature access free trial.

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Conclusion

This article teaches you about the various SQL Server Replication Types and answers all your queries regarding them. It provides a brief introduction of various concepts related to it & helps the users understand them better and use them to perform data replication & recovery in the most efficient way possible. These methods, however, can be challenging especially for a beginner. You will need to implement it manually, which will consume your time & resources and is error-prone. Moreover, you need a full working knowledge of the backend tools to successfully implement the in-house Data transfer mechanism.

Hevo Data provides an Automated No-code Data Pipeline that empowers you to overcome the above-mentioned limitations. Hevo caters to 100+ data sources (including 40+ free sources) and can seamlessly perform SQL Server Replication in real-time. Hevo’s fault-tolerant architecture ensures a consistent and secure replication of your SQL Server data. It will make your life easier and make data replication hassle-free.

Learn more about Hevo

Want to take Hevo for a spin? Sign up for a 14-day free trial and experience the feature-rich Hevo suite firsthand.

Tell us about your experience of working with various SQL Server Replication Types in the comments section below!

No-code Data Pipeline For SQL Server