Manual Standby Database under Oracle Standard Edition

Oracle’s Standby technology has been rebranded as DataGuard
in recent versions of Oracle. Oracle has added a layer of technology
automation on top of the standby technology, making automatic Standby
technology seamless. But what about the folks on Standard Edition Oracle? Are
they left out in the cold?

Well, it turns out that it is still possible to create a
*manual* standby database on Oracle SE. Here’s how you do it.

1. First you need to create the initial standby
database. Here are the steps to do that:

a. Put the primary database in archivelog
mode, if it is not already, and add at least LOG_ARCHIVE_DEST and
LOG_ARCHIVE_START to your init.ora.


b. Next, create a hotbackup of the
primary database. Although you can do this with RMAN, it is probably easiest
to just do it manually so you know what is going on. For each tablespace do:

SQL> alter tablespace EXAMPLE begin backup;
SQL> !cp example01.dbf /my/db/backup/
SQL> !cp example02.dbf /my/db/backup/
SQL> !cp example03.dbf /my/db/backup/
SQL> alter tablespace EXAMPLE end backup;

In the above example, the ‘!’
symbol tells sqlplus to run the command from the shell, so we’re using the Unix
‘cp’ command to make copies of those files (which are now frozen in backup
mode) in another location.

c. Now, create a standby controlfile
from primary database:


d. At this point, you want to copy
everything over to the standby server including datafiles, standby controlfile
& config files:

$ scp /my/db/backup/*.dbf oracle@

e. From the standby machine, edit
the standby init.ora file. Use this parameter to tell Oracle where files on
the primary database will be located on the standby. For example if you had
files in /ora/oracle on primary, and they are moved to /export/home/oracle on
standby, this would work for you:


Note that you can use MULTIPLE
pairs of values here, if you have files in different locations. Alternatively,
you can startup and mount the standby database then issue:

SQL> alter database rename file '/ora/oracle/myfile.dbf' to /export/home/oracle/myfile.dbf' as an example.

Now you’re also likely to have a
new location for your archived redo log files, and that’s where the parameter
LOG_FILE_NAME_CONVERT comes into play.

Important note, neither of these
two parameters work for the ONLINE redolog files. Those you will have to
rename yourself. If you do not do so, you will get an error at the time you
try to SWITCHOVER your standby database. Such errors are easily remedied by
running that command.

f. Now, it’s time to start the
standby instance and mount it.

SQL> startup nomount pfile=/export/home/oracle/admin/SEAN/pfile/initSEAN.standby
SQL> atler database mount standby database;

g. Almost there. Lastly, we need
to recover the standby database using the AUTO option. Note that you should
build a simple shell script to startup sqlplus and run these commands. A name
like would work well. You can then run this periodically,
say every half hour, from cron to apply any new archived redolog files that
have showed up via below.

SQL> recover standby database;

h. Now, of course, you’ll want to
test your standby database. You do this by starting up in read-only mode.

SQL> alter database open read only;

i. Don’t forget to put it back in
standby mode so that when your script runs from cron, it won’t
return errors.

SQL> shutdown immediate;
SQL> startup nomount pfile=/export/home/oracle/admin/SEAN/pfile/initSEAN.standby
SQL> atler database mount standby database;

2. What scripts should run via cron on the primary and
standby database?

As we mentioned earlier, a script called
would work well on the standby database. This script applies new archived redologs
that have arrived from the production system. Run it every half hour and see
how that works for you. The database must be mounted in standby mode (not
read-only) or this script will fail.

You’ll also want a script on the production server. Name it, and run it every thirty minutes to start with. This can use rsync
to move redolog files from production to standby. A command like this would

$ rsync -e ssh -Pazv /ora/oracle/arch/ oracle@remote:/export/home/oracle/arch/

Note that you may want to adjust options to ssh to your
needs. In addition, this presumes you have ssh autologin configured. Read up
on the ssh-keygen command. The .ssh directory contains a public key, which is
shipped over to the standby machine, and put in the "authorized_keys"
file. ssh will then login without a password. Rsync uses ssh as the transport
mechanism, so it also executes without a password. Rsync is very smart and
only copies blocks and pieces of files that are different, so it is very fast, and
also does checksums to guarantee consistency.

3. Is the standby database behind the production

Yes, keep in mind we are creating a manual standby
database. The standby database will tend to be behind production by about half
the size of a redolog file. So if those files are 100M, and you generate 100M
of transactions in 30 minutes, then on average standby will be fifteen minutes

4. What types of changes and statements on production
will not be automatically applied to standby?

In database parlance, any PHYSICAL changes to the db, plus
any commands, issues with the NOLOGGING option. Physical changes include
creation of new tablespaces, adding new datafiles, renaming datafiles, autosizing
of datafiles, altering redolog files, altering controlfiles and so on. In
addition, primary database processes or commands using the UNRECOVERABLE option
will not be propagated to the standby database.

There are specific and detailed instructions for making some
of these physical changes on the standby db manually, however in many cases
recreating the entire standby database per the instructions above, might be the
best option.

5. How can we verify that the standby database is up to

If you already have the script running
from cron, disable it.

Then login with sqlplus and issue:

SQL> alter database open read only;

Now that you have the database open read-only, run whatever
SQL commands you want to in order to verify some change which you know about on
production. When you are done, shutdown, and startup in standby mode again. Don’t
forget to reenable in the crontab.

6. What happens if the standby system restarts?

You could have it automatically start the standby database.
In that case, be sure to just check the logfiles. If you want to do it
manually in those instances, fire up sqlplus and then issue:

SQL> startup nomount pfile=/export/home/oracle/admin/SEAN/pfile/initSEAN.standby
SQL> alter database mount standby database;

7. What kind of messages can I expect to see in the
standby alert.log?

The alert.log is going to have a lot of extra messages since
we are repeatedly trying to RECOVER when there may or may not be new
transaction logs. When it does this it will say, "looking for archived logfile
1_356.dbf, not found". On the other hand, if it finds it, it will say
that it is applying it. You can use unix commands "grep" and
"less" to scan through the alert.log file quickly.

8. What other scripts should be put in place?

a. a script to cleanup old archived
redo logs on primary.

b. a script to cleanup old archived
redo logs on standby

c. a script to rotate and archive
the alert.log file when it gets large

d. a script to watch the alert.log
file for ORA-xxxxx errors and report them to nagios if it finds any (on both
primary and standby)

e. a script to login (via ssh autologin)
and check what the latest archived redolog file is, and then also login to the
standby and check the alert.log file to verify that those transactions have
been applied.

9. How do we switchover in the event of a failure of the

Switchover *can* be done with a script, however I recommend
with our manual standby database that you (a) monitor for emergencies on
production and (b) manually perform the failover if necessary. This will avoid
false positives. Also, it allows you to ship additional redolog data if you
have it available from production.

The switchover is a two-step process.

a. Apply remaining redo as we have
done before with commands in

b. Startup the database normally,
in a read-write mode.

10. What network changes need to happen to failover?

The listener.ora file should be already configured. You can
use the same config as primary with a different IP, or you can give this db a
different tnsname. For instance, you could call primary SEANA and standby
SEANB. Then in your application server configs, when you failover, your
database connection configurations need to be updated to point to SEANB. The
app servers will probably also need to be restarted at this point.

11. Why can’t the primary ship redologs and synchronous

Basically they call it a *manual* standby database for a
reason. DataGuard supports options that look like the following:


Again, these are not available in Oracle SE.

12. Once we’ve failed over, how do we switch back to the

Switching back to the primary database involves these steps:

a. Follow the steps in item 1 above
to create a standby database on what was the primary system.

b. If you want to be perfectly
clean syncing, do the following:

SQL> shutdown immediate
SQL> startup restrict
SQL> alter system switch logfile
SQL> shutdown immediate

c. Copy over the last archived redolog

d. Apply them and switchover as
described in item 8 above.

13. Are there special init.ora parameters? What makes
our standby database special?

The main two things that make it a standby database

a. The standby control file
(created from primary)

– alter database create standby controlfile
as ‘/my/path/to/standby.ctl

b. The process of mounting as a
standby database

– startup nomount pfile=standby.ora

– alter database mount standby

There are of course some init.ora parameters which are
special for the standby database as well:


So if you do a "shutdown immediate" on the
standby, you would start again with:

SQL> startup nomount pfile=/export/home/oracle/admin/SEAN/pfile/initSEAN.standby
SQL> alter database mount standby database;   


Standby database technology in Oracle is a powerful high
availability solution. Even if you’re using Oracle SE, you can still take
advantage of these features built into Oracle, with just a little scripting,
hand holding, and ample monitoring. Do your research, test, test, and test
again on a development server. And don’t forget to monitor all your logfiles
for errors. Following these guidelines, you should be in very good shape, at a
much lower cost.


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Sean Hull

Sean Hull
Sean Hull
Sean Hull is a business and technology consultant, author and speaker. He is the founder and senior consultant at Heavyweight Internet Group in New York and has worked as a database consultant and expert for ten years. He is the author of "Oracle and Open Source" on O'Reilly & Associates and his articles have appeared in Oracle's own OTN website, DBA Zine,, and many others. Using techniques, technologies, and perspectives discussed in the book, articles, and seminars, he has taken his career into exciting areas. He has served as Technology Consultant, Project Manager, CEO, and mentor with a background in programming, systems integration & administration, project development and management. He can be reached at or visit for more info about consulting services.

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