When you populate a table – whether from a file or an NIS map – you can use any of these options:
Replace - With the replace option, NIS+ first deletes all existing entries in the table and then adds the entries from the source. In a large table, this adds a large set of entries into the master server's /var/nis/trans.log file (one set for removing the existing entries, another for adding the new ones), taking up space in /var/nis. Thus, propagation to replicas will take longer.
Merge - The merge option produces the same results as the replace option but uses a different process. The Merge option updates existing entries rather than deleting and then replacing them. With the merge option, NIS+ handles three types of entries differently:
Entries that exist only in the source are added to the table.
Entries that exist in both the source and the table are updated in the table.
Entries that exist only in the NIS+ table are deleted from the table.
When updating a large table with a file or map whose contents are not vastly different from those of the table, the merge option can spare the server a great many operations. Because it deletes only the entries that are not duplicated in the source (the replace option deletes all entries, indiscriminately), it saves one delete and one add operation for every duplicate entry. Therefore, this is the preferred option.