I am planning to have a work project with multiple file geodatabases, fgdb (consisting of images, grids, feature class, etc) and these will be passed along to three regional offices and will sit on their individual file servers (all servers are linked via distributor file system). And I was told that I can set them up to sync up during the after office hours.

There will be a "parent" fgdb which is sitting in my office and the rest are "child" databases. Of course, this will bring more complex questions, but allow me to ask below questions first.

  1. Do I need any add-on to do it?
  2. If no, where do I set this up?
  3. Will Symantec back up which run at night be affected or affecting this sync?
  4. Is there a way to bring non-ESRI files into fgdb ? (eg. .xls, .dat etc)

FYI. All users, are on 9.3.1 , with ArcMap only, without other ESRI products.

  • Can you clarify which license level you are using (ArcView, ArcEditor or ArcInfo)? Will your regional users be editing the child databases, or are they read-only, with the updates flowing only one-way from the parent to the children? Dec 22, 2011 at 0:43
  • @Stephen......All are on ArcView only (with one or two Spatial Analyst) and we are still running on 9.3.1. Ideally, regional users should be read-only, with updates flowing from parent to child only. This will make thing a lot easier.
    – gleeks
    Dec 22, 2011 at 2:00
  • When i used the word sync, i would mean that all gdb, parent and childs are using ArcSDE, am i right? so i should be using the word "replications" instead..
    – gleeks
    Dec 22, 2011 at 7:58

3 Answers 3


I update our regional offices using "xxcopy /clone" on evenings and/or weekends without any trouble to date. If your distributed file system allows it, add .lock files to an exclusion list. Otherwise there are errors (harmless) during copy if any are present in the master fgdb.

Our child fgdb's are read-only to all staff. I imagine there could be trouble if the master fgdb were copied to the regions while someone was in the midst of editing or updating a feature class. That would be fixed on the next update.

If someone in the regional office has an open Arcmap session (e.g. put their machine into sleep overnight) and the data it depends on is changed significantly they will be greeted with an FDO drawing error or similar in the morning. Closing and reopening the map has been enough to fix that.

Longer term, if you have Arcinfo look into geodatabase replication.

  • matt, have you heard abt RichCopy? Do you think this will do a good job as xxcopy? as we might have some problems with DOS command, so we thought something a User Interface might work better for us.
    – gleeks
    Dec 22, 2011 at 8:49
  • @gleeks, I've not used RichCopy. In principle I think it should work as well. Even DOS copy and xcopy would work, though at the expensive of a great deal of redundant data transmission. Dec 27, 2011 at 0:53

In alternative there is rsync. Rsync is generally more efficient because it will only replicate files which have changed, greatly reducing the time required for a backup after a baseline has been established. For instance, after the first LOOOONG sync, I can now backup my home directory (around 190GB) in less than 10 minutes.

Rsync could be a little more complicated to set up (at least on Windows) but should be more efficient in the long run. Rsync for windows is available through cygwin or one of the links on the wikipedia page.


Added a link to my post where I describe how to build a minimal (5M) rsync dist for Windows.

  • unicoletti, I am sure it too replicate new files as well right?
    – gleeks
    Dec 22, 2011 at 7:49
  • @gleeks rsync actually keeps directory trees in sync (technically it's a mirror), so it will, if asked to do so, even delete files that no longer exist on the source.
    – unicoletti
    Dec 22, 2011 at 7:58
  • am i right to say that rsync does sync all folders regardless windows explorer folders or/and fgdb? however, ESRI replication only works with fgdb and nothing else, am i right?
    – gleeks
    Dec 29, 2011 at 7:11
  • you're right. Rsync works at filesystem level and will copy whatever is present in the sync'ed folders
    – unicoletti
    Dec 29, 2011 at 7:18
  • does rsync allow two way synchronisation between two file servers and if it flag out conflicts when there are feature class with conflicting changes? also, where would be a good website to learn all necessary commands to setup/run this?
    – gleeks
    Jan 11, 2012 at 7:07

1). unfortunately, the esri geodatabase replication it seems will only work with arceditor and arcinfo level license.
More info is available in the esri help
If you have even one seat though that is all you need to set it up.
As you stated there are many other decisions to be made in the process.

2). After applying globalids to all db items you simply right click in arccatalog and use the distributed database menu section.
There are wizards to walk you through the configuration of choice.

3). Generally the answer to the backup question is yes.
the sync process has files open and locked. and vice-versa.

4). yes but not the way you are thinking. If you load tables into your gdb they become gdb items (i.e. they are not excel files any longer). There is not a way to add outside files into the sync process (ESRI replication).

I suggest reading the help extensively because the scenario you describe (without replication) is extremely difficult to manage and will provide challenges.

First add globalids
from arccatalog
or from arctools (batch)

Next add the gdb data to arcmap (this is not clear in help First time setup is in "arcmap") and open the distributed geodatabase toolbar.
Note: you can use personal sde as the parent also.

At that point you can manage the distributed gdb from many places (arcmap shown, arccatalog, arctoolbox). arccatalog distrib

The versions of fgdb only differ between esri version releases not the license levels.
Arcview license cannot be used to created an sde or personal sde geodatabase.
But arcview can use the geodatabase once it is created.
So directly there is no difference in the arcview created fgdb and the arcinfo created fgdb.
If you install sql express and esri personal sde then you are not creating a fgdb in sde.
It would be an mssql database enabled for use in esri.

MXD's don't get synced only the data in them. An mxd must be used to utilize the create replica wizard (however as stated here you can create them with arctoolbox, a geoproccessing tool or arcobjects).

■The Create Replica geoprocessing tool—The Create Replica geoprocessing tool can also be used to create replicas. The tool has many options but does not offer some of the more advanced options from the Create Replica wizard. The Create Replica geoprocessing tool is ideal in cases where you need to create replicas on a regular basis. Models and scripts that can be run repeatedly are easy to build in the geoprocessing environment. For example, a model can be built to create checkout replicas on a daily basis for each of your field crews. See the Create Replica geoprocessing tool help for more information.

■ArcObjects API—An ArcObjects API is also available to support writing code to create replicas in any of several languages. This is useful when you want to customize the create replica experience or need to create replicas with complex options on a regular basis.

Once created it can be maintained in a number of ways.

Replication is the communication link between the 2 databases.
Syncronization is sending the data back and forth through the replication object to keep each up-to-date.

Versioning is managed by the replication proccess.
However to say it only occurs during replication is not true. Please read the versioning help link.
All this information is available in the online help (with some reading)
Geodatabase essential readings
replication help
deciding two-way vs check in/check out replicas
versioning help

  • Brad, under "Replicas and geodatabases" in Help, it was mentioned that "data from a ArcSDE gdb must be used as the source for replica creation." I supposed this means i need a SDE afterall, am I right? when you say Applying GlobalIDs all fgdb, where exactly do i do that? and if i have to do these individually or is there a batch Apply?
    – gleeks
    Dec 22, 2011 at 7:55
  • Ok I learned something today. Yes source must always be sde. however don't forget the personal sde option. link post in edits.
    – Brad Nesom
    Dec 22, 2011 at 14:42
  • Brad, Can i ask if the fgdb created with ArcView license is different a fgdb created with SDE license? can mxd be sync too? also, pls correct me if i'm wrong: Replication is a part of the synchronization process, and versioning will occur only when two-way replication is run.
    – gleeks
    Dec 28, 2011 at 2:00
  • By the way, how different is two-way replica compared to checkout/checkin replication, since both allow child and parent objects to be modified?
    – gleeks
    Dec 28, 2011 at 3:21

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