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I find myself writing more and more applications that use the SharePoint Object Model and web services, looping through them, and collecting information.

I was wondering if anybody has to date written an application to instead collect information about the farm at intervals, and push it into a SQL database in an organized fashion? I can see this being useful as it would allow me to query data across site collections as well as to take the load off of SharePoint.

Does something already exist, or is there a better way to achieve the same outcome?

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I'm not aware of any community tools/scripts that do this, but this is the approach taken usually with 3rd party management tools like AvePoint's DocAve and Metalogix ControlPoint. They take a subset of the farm data and store them in their local databases.

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