Promote replicas for regional migration or disaster recovery

This page describes how to use and promote cross-region replicas (replicas created in a different region from that of the primary) for regional migration or disaster recovery.


There are two common scenarios for promoting cross-region replicas:

  • Regional migration: Perform a planned migration of a database to a different region.
  • Disaster recovery: Fail over a database to another region in the event that the primary's region becomes unavailable.

Both use cases involve setting up cross-region replication and then promoting the replica. The main difference between them is whether the promotion of the replica is planned (in the case of regional migration) or unplanned (a failover to the replica's region is needed to continue operations because the primary has become unavailable).

Regional migration

You can use a cross-region replica to migrate your database to another region with minimal downtime. The general idea is to create a replica in another region, wait until replication catches up, promote it, and then direct clients to the newly promoted instance.

The steps involved in promotion are the same as for promoting an in-region replica; follow those instructions to ensure that the newly promoted instance has all of the transactions that were committed to the original primary instance. Once you have promoted the replica and verified that the newly promoted instance is working, update all database clients to connect to the new instance.

Disaster recovery

Cross-region replicas can be used as part of a disaster recovery procedure. You can promote a cross-region replica to fail over to another region should the primary's region become unavailable for an extended period of time.

Verify failover criteria

Because replication is asynchronous, when a regional outage occurs and a failover is attempted, some recent transactions that were committed to the primary may be lost (not replicated to the replica). Whenever a primary instance becomes unavailable, the following steps show (1) how to determine the amount of data, if any, that may have been lost in the cross-region failover and (2) how to ensure that the promoted replica reflects as many recent writes as possible.

You can check the replication status of the replica with the Always On Availability Group dashboard in SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS), or with another tool. For related information about using Transact-SQL, see the following:

Promote a read replica

Once you determine that the failover criteria are met, you can promote one of the replicas to a writeable, standalone instance. Consider the following scenario:

  • Region A (us-central1) has a High Availability primary instance (db-a-0)
  • Region B (us-west1) has a High Availability cross-region replica (db-b-1) of db-a-0
  • Region C (us-east1) has a cross-region replica (db-c-1) of db-a-0

You could choose to promote db-b-1 in Region B to become a standalone writable instance.

See Promoting a replica for detailed instructions.

Ensure the machine type is appropriate

Ensure that the machine type of the newly promoted instance is appropriate for its workload by monitoring metrics on the instance such as CPU and memory usage. If the newly promoted instance is smaller than its former primary instance, we recommend that you resize the promoted instance to match its former primary so that it can handle the same amount of load.

Enable high availability for the promoted instance

For a disaster recovery configuration, we recommend that you configure the replica that you intend to promote as a high-availability replica. Alternatively, configure the newly promoted instance as high-availability. If you choose not to configure the read replica with high availability, you can also configure the instance with high availability if and when you promote it.

When promoted, read replicas are automatically configured with backups. Configuring a read replica for high availability is done the same way as for a primary instance. For more information, see configuring the instance for high availability.

Recreate additional replicas

If you promote a replica to become a primary instance, you need to recreate any other replicas of the former primary instance. For example, consider the configuration referenced earlier and repeated here:

  • Region A (us-central1) has a High Availability primary instance (db-a-0)
  • Region B (us-west1) has a cross-region replica (db-b-1) of db-a-0
  • Region C (us-east1) has a cross-region replica (db-c-1) of db-a-0

If the primary instance (db-a-0) becomes unavailable, you can promote the replica in region B to become the primary. To again have additional replicas in regions A and C, delete the old instances (the former primary instance in A, and the replica in C), and create new read replicas from the new primary instance in B.

The resulting configuration would be:

  • Region A (us-central1) now has a cross-region replica (db-a-1)
  • Region B (us-west1) now has the primary instance (db-b-1)
  • Region C (us-east1) now has a new cross-region replica (db-c-2)