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ArcGIS Server allows you to configure geodata services. A geodata service provides access to a geodatabase remotely through the LAN, WAN, or Internet using ArcGIS Server. The service exposes the ability to query the geodatabase for information, make copies using data extraction, and perform geodatabase replication operations. A geodata service may be added for any type of geodatabase including ArcSDE geodatabases, personal geodatabases, and file geodatabases.
You can publish a geodata service in ArcCatalog, the Catalog window or ArcGIS Server Manager. You can start with a geodatabase or a map document that has a layer with a geodatabase connection. If you start with a map document, you need to publish a map service and enable the Geodata Access capability. For more information on publishing these services, see the ArcGIS Server help.
Once configured, geodata services provide access to remote geodatabases. The geodatabase replication tools support local geodatabases through geodatabase connections and remote geodatabases through geodata services. For example, you can execute geodatabase replication commands from a geodata service in ArcCatalog. You can also browse to geodata services within the geodatabase replication wizards. The distributed geodatabase geoprocessing tools support geodata services as well.
To access remote geodatabases in ArcMap, you can use a map service with the geodata access capability enabled. When you add the resulting map service to ArcMap, you'll be able to execute commands from the Distributed Geodatabase toolbar. For example, you would need to use this method if you wanted to create a checkout replica from a remote ArcSDE geodatabase using ArcMap.