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The PostgreSQL 9.0 Reference Manual - Volume 3 - Server Administration Guide
by The PostgreSQL Global Development Group
Paperback (6"x9"), 274 pages
ISBN 9781906966072
RRP £9.95 ($14.95)

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11.2 Log-Shipping Standby Servers

Continuous archiving can be used to create a high availability (HA) cluster configuration with one or more standby servers ready to take over operations if the primary server fails. This capability is widely referred to as warm standby or log shipping.

The primary and standby server work together to provide this capability, though the servers are only loosely coupled. The primary server operates in continuous archiving mode, while each standby server operates in continuous recovery mode, reading the WAL files from the primary. No changes to the database tables are required to enable this capability, so it offers low administration overhead compared to some other replication solutions. This configuration also has relatively low performance impact on the primary server.

Directly moving WAL records from one database server to another is typically described as log shipping. PostgreSQL implements file-based log shipping, which means that WAL records are transferred one file (WAL segment) at a time. WAL files (16MB) can be shipped easily and cheaply over any distance, whether it be to an adjacent system, another system at the same site, or another system on the far side of the globe. The bandwidth required for this technique varies according to the transaction rate of the primary server. Record-based log shipping is also possible with streaming replication (see section 11.2.5 Streaming Replication).

It should be noted that the log shipping is asynchronous, i.e., the WAL records are shipped after transaction commit. As a result, there is a window for data loss should the primary server suffer a catastrophic failure; transactions not yet shipped will be lost. The size of the data loss window in file-based log shipping can be limited by use of the archive_timeout parameter, which can be set as low as a few seconds. However such a low setting will substantially increase the bandwidth required for file shipping. If you need a window of less than a minute or so, consider using streaming replication (see section 11.2.5 Streaming Replication).

Recovery performance is sufficiently good that the standby will typically be only moments away from full availability once it has been activated. As a result, this is called a warm standby configuration which offers high availability. Restoring a server from an archived base backup and rollforward will take considerably longer, so that technique only offers a solution for disaster recovery, not high availability. A standby server can also be used for read-only queries, in which case it is called a Hot Standby server. See section 11.5 Hot Standby for more information.

ISBN 9781906966072The PostgreSQL 9.0 Reference Manual - Volume 3 - Server Administration GuideSee the print edition