Merge replication-right approach for my situation?

I will soon have a VM clone of one of my production servers that I will be using for development before deployment to production.  The problem is that these 2 servers will be in different datacenters with slow links between them, and I'm going to occasionally need to refresh the data on the dev server with new prod data.

My thoughts are that I could probably do this easier if I could only import changes made to the prod db since the last synchronization, but this could be weeks or months between these events.  Would merge replication be the best way to do this?  The prod db is a fairly busy database.  Would weeks of changes be intesive to synchronize?  Affect the performance on the db?  Is there a better way to do this?
IntercareSupportAsked:
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Scott PletcherSenior DBACommented:
IMO, replication would not be a good choice in this situation.

For that long a period of time, just take a full db backup, compress it, copy and restore it.

If that takes too long, then if possible schedule it every <n> weeks, to start, say, early Sat, for some/all databases (set whatever schedule you need for each db).  

Then when everyone comes in Monday, the dev dbs are in sync with Fri's prod dbs.
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IntercareSupportAuthor Commented:
Thanks.  That may be the way I need to go, but since these files are so big I'd really like someway of sending only the changes.  Would the overhead of tracking the changes for this long affect the production system much?
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Scott PletcherSenior DBACommented:
>> Would the overhead of tracking the changes for this long affect the production system much? <<

Depends on how it's implemented.  

If the source is 2008, Change Data Capture (CDC) would be your best bet.  When you need to re-sync, you could use the CDC function and it would generate only the final changes with only the last active data.  Thus, it would do all the work of giving you *just* the data that needs pushed over.
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IntercareSupportAuthor Commented:
I can't believe I never heard of this.  Very cool stuff.  Thanks.

The more I read, though, the more problematic it seems for my situation.  You have to set up cdc on any tables you need to track.  Well, my main db has over 5000 tables and this would mean that I need to enable this feature on all my tables.  And how to apply these changes back to the development system does not look trivial.  Am I not getting the right picture about this feature?
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Scott PletcherSenior DBACommented:
Hmm, If it's that many tables, you probably want to look into a commercial, 3rd party compare-and-sync product, like the one from RedGate SQL Compare & Data Compare (there are *many* other products, just do a web search).
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IntercareSupportAuthor Commented:
Thanks.
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