SQL Server Replication Interview Questions

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When preparing for a SQL Server interview there are several topics that could be covered.  In this tip we cover some possible interview questions and answers related to SQL Server replication.


Here is a list of commonly asked replication interview questions or questions that may come up during your routine DBA duties. I hope you find them useful.


1) What is SQL Server replication? 

  • Replication is subset of SQL Server that can move data and database objects in an automated way from one database to another database. This allows users to work with the same data at different locations and changes that are made are transferred to keep the databases synchronized.

2) What are the different types of SQL Server replication?

  • Snapshot replication - As the name implies snapshot replication takes a snapshot of the published objects and applies it to a subscriber. Snapshot replication completely overwrites the data at the subscriber each time a snapshot is applied. It is best suited for fairly static data or if it's acceptable to have data out of sync between replication intervals. A subscriber does not always need to be connected, so data marked for replication can be applied the next time the subscriber is connected.  An example use of snapshot replication is to update a list of items that only changes periodically.
  • Transactional replication - As the name implies, it replicates each transaction for the article being published. To set up transactional replication, a snapshot of the publisher or a backup is taken and applied to the subscriber to synchronize the data. After that, when a transaction is written to the transaction log, the Log Reader Agent reads it from the transaction log and writes it to the distribution database and then to the subscriber. Only committed transactions are replicated to ensure data consistency. Transactional replication is widely applied where high latency is not allowed, such as an OLTP system for a bank or a stock trading firm, because you always need real-time updates of cash or stocks.

  • Merge replication - This is the most complex types of replication which allows changes to happen at both the publisher and subscriber.  As the name implies, changes are merged to keep data consistency and a uniform set of data. Just like transactional replication, an initial synchronization is done by applying snapshot. When a transaction occurs at the Publisher or Subscriber, the change is written to change tracking tables. The Merge Agent checks these tracking tables and sends the transaction to the distribution database where it gets propagated.  The merge agent has the capability of resolving conflicts that occur during data synchronization.  An example of using merge replication can be a store with many branches where products may be centrally stored in inventory. As the overall inventory is reduced it is propagated to the other stores to keep the databases synchronized.

3) What is the difference between Push and Pull Subscription?

  • Push - As the name implies, a push subscription pushes data from publisher to the subscriber. Changes can be pushed to subscribers on demand, continuously, or on a scheduled basis.

  • Pull - As the name implies, a pull subscription requests changes from the Publisher.  This allows the subscriber to pull data as needed.  This is useful for disconnected machines such as notebook computers that are not always connected and when they connect they can pull the data.

4) What are different replication agents and what's their purpose?

  • Snapshot Agent- The Snapshot Agent is used with all types of replication. It prepares the schema and the initial bulk copy files of published tables and other objects, stores the snapshot files, and records information about synchronization in the distribution database. The Snapshot Agent runs at the Distributor.

  • Log Reader Agent - The Log Reader Agent is used with transactional replication. It moves transactions marked for replication from the transaction log on the Publisher to the distribution database. Each database
    published using transactional replication has its own Log Reader Agent that runs on the Distributor and connects to the Publisher (the Distributor can be on the same computer as the Publisher)

  • Distribution Agent - The Distribution Agent is used with snapshot replication and transactional replication. It applies the initial snapshot to the Subscriber and moves transactions held in the distribution database to Subscribers. The Distribution Agent runs at either the Distributor for push subscriptions or at the Subscriber for pull subscriptions.

  • Merge Agent - The Merge Agent is used with merge replication. It applies the initial snapshot to the Subscriber and moves and reconciles incremental data changes that occur. Each merge subscription has its own Merge Agent that connects to both the Publisher and the Subscriber and updates both. The Merge Agent runs at either the Distributor for push subscriptions or the Subscriber for pull subscriptions.

  • Queue Reader Agent - The Queue Reader Agent is used with transactional replication with the queued updating option. The agent runs at the Distributor and moves changes made at the Subscriber back to the
    Publisher. Unlike the Distribution Agent and the Merge Agent, only one instance of the Queue Reader Agent exists to service all Publishers and publications for a given distribution database.

5) Does a specific recovery model need to be used for a replicated database?

  • Replication is not dependent on any particular recovery model. A database can participate in replication whether it is in simple, bulk-logged, or full. However how data is tracked for replication depends on the type of replication used.


1) What type of locking occurs during the Snapshot generation?

  •  Locking depends on the type of replication used:
    • In snapshot replication, the snapshot agent locks the object during the entire snapshot generation process.
    • In transactional replication, locks are acquired initially for a very brief time and then released. Normal operations on a database can continue after that.
    • In merge replication, no locks are acquired during the snapshot generation process.

2) What options are there to delete rows on the publisher and not on the subscriber?

  • One option is to replicate stored procedure execution instead of the actual DELETE command.  You can create two different versions of the stored procedures one on the publisher that does the delete and the other on the subscriber that does not do the delete.
  • Another option is to not replicate DELETE commands.

3) Is it possible to run multiple publications and different type of publications from the same distribution database?

  • Yes this can be done and there are no restrictions on the number or types of publications that can use the same distribution database. One thing to note though is that all publications from a Publisher must use the same Distributor and distribution database.

4) Data is not being delivered to Subscribers, what can be the possible reasons?

  • There are a number of possible causes for data not being delivered to Subscribers:
    • The table is filtered, and there are no changes to deliver to a given Subscriber.
    • One or more agents are not running or are failing with an error.
    • Data is deleted by a trigger, or a trigger includes a ROLLBACK statement.
    • A transactional subscription was initialized without a snapshot, and changes have occurred on the Publisher since the publication was created.
    • Replication of stored procedure execution for a transactional publication produces different results at the Subscriber.
    • The INSERT stored procedure used by a transactional article includes a condition that is not met.
    • Data is deleted by a user, a replication script, or another application.

5) Explain what stored procedure sp_replcounters is used for?

  • Sp_replcounters is a system stored procedure that returns information about the transaction rate, latency, and first and last log sequence number (LSN) for each publication on a server. This is run on the publishing server. Running this stored procedure on a server that is acting as the distributor or subscribing to publications from another server will not return any data


1) How will you monitor replication latency in transactional replication?

  • Tracer tokens were introduced with SQL Server 2005 transactional replication as a way to monitor the latency of delivering transactions from the publisher to the distributor and from the distributor to the subscriber(s). For details, please refer tip to this tip: Monitor SQL Server replication latency using tracer tokens

2) If I create a publication with one table as an article, and then change the schema of the published table (for example, by adding a column to the table), will the new schema ever be applied at the Subscribers?

  • Yes. Schema changes to tables must be made by using Transact-SQL or SQL Server Management Objects (SMO). When schema changes are made in SQL Server Management Studio, Management Studio attempts to drop and re-create the table and since you cannot drop a published objects, the schema change will fail.

3) Is it possible to replicate data from SQL Server to Oracle?

  • Yes this can be done using heterogeneous replication. In SQL Server 2000, publishing data to other databases such as DB2 or Oracle was supported; however, publishing data from other databases was not supported without custom programming. In SQL Server 2005 and later versions, Oracle databases can be directly replicated to SQL Server in much the same way as standard SQL Server replication.  For more information, please read tip: Introduction to SQL Server Heterogeneous Replication

4) How will you monitor replication activity and performance? What privilege do you need to use replication monitor?

  • The easiest way to monitor replication activity and performance is to use replication monitor, but you can also use the below tools to monitor replication performance:  
  • To monitor replication, a user must be a member of the sysadmin fixed server role at the Distributor or a member of the replmonitor fixed database role in the distribution database. A system administrator can add any user to the replmonitor role, which allows that user to view replication activity in Replication Monitor; however, the user cannot administer replication.

5) Can you tell me some of the common replication DMV's and their use?

  • sys.dm_repl_articles - Contains information about each article being published. It returns data from the database being published and returns a row for each object being published in each article.
  • sys.dm_repl_schemas - Contains information about each table and column being published. It returns data from the database being published and returns one row for each column in each object being published
  • sys.dm_repl_traninfo - Contains information about each transaction in a transactional replication
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About the author
MSSQLTips author Nitansh Agarwal Nitansh Agarwal is a lead with 4+ years of extensive experience in database administration where he handles large critical databases.

This author pledges the content of this article is based on professional experience and not AI generated.

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Comments For This Article

Monday, July 7, 2014 - 6:31:06 AM - SurendraP Back To Top (32571)

Nice !!!

Monday, April 22, 2013 - 6:07:18 AM - askmlx Back To Top (23467)


Wednesday, January 16, 2013 - 6:38:26 AM - satyam Back To Top (21476)

Nice article

Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - 4:32:15 PM - SDC Back To Top (18233)

Interviewee gets extra points if they go on for 5 minutes about what a piece of garbage Replication Monitor is but only if they then describe what they use to keep tabs on replication in its place.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - 10:21:56 PM - Simmy Back To Top (14784)

Nice article. A bag of mixed and useful questions for quick reference before interview.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - 8:07:31 PM - Nitansh Back To Top (14783)

Thanks for the additional information.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - 6:29:47 PM - Senior DBA Back To Top (14782)

A nice basic intro.  There is one notable omission - Peer to Peer replication (P2P).   In this day and age this is becomming more the solution for suppling data between geographical locations.   Although it works using merge replication there are several important differences.

1. P2P has conflict detection but no resolution mechanism.
2. P2P is an Enterprise and above feature.
3. With SQL 2005 the maintenance activity of removing a node requires the dismantling of the whole replication model.  In SQL 2008 and up this can be done without affecting the others. 


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