How Does One-Way vs Two-Way Data Synchronization Work?


One-Way vs Two-Way Synchronization

Learn about hybrid content synchronization

One-way vs two-way synchronization – are they so different?  In today’s content landscape, “synchronization” certainly contains many nuances. But are we referring to file synchronization between devices? Maybe between different cloud storage accounts? Or possibly between entire data environments? Even once we’ve established the two entities being synchronized, the behavior of that synchronization can also take on various forms.

Today we’re going to discuss the distinction between one-way (mirrored) and two-way (bi-directional) storage platform synchronization. And there is certainly a difference. Learn about the benefits and challenges for both models as well as best practices for synchronizing your files across systems as we answer the following questions:

What is data synchronization?
What is one-way file synchronization?
How does file synchronization work?
What is bi-directional synchronization?
What’s the difference between one-way and two-way content sync?
What are the benefits? What are the challenges?
When is it useful?
What are some use case examples?
Why is it valuable?
What key features should exist in file synchronization tools?

What is data synchronization?

According to, the definition of data synchronization is “a process of establishing consistency among systems and subsequent continuous updates to maintain consistency.”

“The word ‘continuous’ should be stressed here as the data synchronization should not be considered as a one-time task or one-way operation. It is really a process which needs to be planned, owned, managed, scheduled and controlled.”

What is one-way file synchronization?

One-way synchronization (also known as mirroring) pushes files from your source platform to the destination system.

What is two-way file synchronization?

On the other hand, two-way synchronization pushes and pulls files in both directions, from both systems.

What is the difference between one-way and two-way content sync?

Admins can choose between these file synchronization models based on their needs. One-way sync will sync any added or updated content in the destination, for example. On the other hand, two-way sync (or bi-directional syncing) will synchronize whether you update the file in the source or destination.

How file synchronization works and how to implement it

How you implement file synchronization will depend on your needs. And there are several file synchronization techniques you can use. These can include using a hosted system, using a third-party tool, and creating your own sync system for instance.

Why is content synchronization important?

Because working within multiple, dissimilar file systems can cause problems that a synchronized environment can solve.

Content sync challenges vs. advantages

Problem Solution
If systems are not kept in sync, it may create conflicts when users are working on similar content and attempting to save and share through different file platforms. Businesses that sync files keep consistency among various dissimilar file platforms.
Systems that are not kept in sync may not be up to date, creating errors and confusion when users attempt to work on the files. Syncing files can let admins ensure that file versions are up-to-date across platforms and that permissions and authorship are maintained across systems.

In what scenarios is two-way synchronization vs one-way sync helpful?

Two-way synchronization is particularly helpful in two scenarios:

  • hybrid storage environments
  • long-term migrations

Hybrid storage environments

Hybrid content management is an increasingly popular storage option. This storage environment is popular with businesses who cannot migrate and/or consolidate files due to compliance or security mandates, or who have too many line-of-business systems to abandon on-premise storage. With both existing on-premises platforms and new cloud-based systems, bi-directional syncing keeps files on both platforms up-to-date.

Long-term migrations

Two-way synchronization is also useful in situations requiring long-term enterprise content migrations. Businesses will often start with a two-way sync until they are ready to “unplug” their source system, allowing admins to continue working out of the old system while integrating the new system or training users. When admins are ready to make the switch, their user content will be waiting for them in the new system and they can pick up right where they left off, with no disruption to business operations.

Important features of file synchronization tools

Key features to look for in a file synchronization tool are:

  • Synchronizes your data only when it needs synchronizing.
  • Flexible filtering system to include only the files you want.
  • Encryption for security, especially when synchronizing across the Internet.
  • Compressing data sent across a network.
  • Conflict detection where a file has been modified on both sources, as opposed to where it has only been modified on one. Undetected conflicts can lead to overwriting copies of the file with the most recent version, causing data loss. For conflict detection, the synchronization software needs to keep a database of the synchronized files. Distributed conflict detection can be achieved by version vectors.
  • Open Files Support ensures data integrity when copying data or application files that are in-use or database files that are exclusively locked.
  • The assess platform compatibility to understand how each platform manages files, and how it may differ.
  • Full simulation of the synchronization, so you can accurately predict what will happen to your files before you begin to transfer them back and forth.

Final considerations

Users of bi-directional syncing should consider a robust platform synchronization tool to help administrators easily configure a sync between their existing systems.

Additional features to look for with two-way sync are filtering controls and file parallelism settings to help address common problems like slower throughput speeds. Your two-way sync tool should be able to perform in the largest environments and be capable of full bi-directional synchronization across a wide variety of cloud-based and on-premises content management platforms.


Learn more about hybrid content synchronization.