Posted on: 04 02 2021

Live copies in AEM explained

Written by
Mark de Vos
Reading time: 5 mins

We often speak to customers who are struggling to roll out multi-language requirements in AEM. This is usually due to a lack of understanding of just how many capabilities are available in AEM to assist you with this process. The concept of live copies in particular can be difficult to comprehend beyond the basics. This article is your no-nonsense, easy to digest exploration of live copies and how best to use them. So, let’s begin.

Multi-Site Manager (MSM)

Multi-Site Manager is the general term used for all functionality related to live copies in AEM. Multi-site management is focused on content automation as managing several sites or languages creates a lot of work and content to author and govern. MSM can be used in many different scenarios including management of multiple language sites, multiple stores, and much more. In this article however we’ll primarily focus on MSM as it applies to multi-language use cases.

Let’s say we have several master languages, all localised according to their respective regions. Like in the image below where there is an English master which can be rolled out to any country and where central global content is managed. This means content additions and changes are managed from the master prior to being rolled out to localised sites which, depending on governance rules, can be localised as needed by adapting or adding content.

Live copies language structure

Standard Master with live copy structure

The same can be applied for any language depending on whether there is a need for localised versions of that language, or whether the master can serve all.

Centralising content creation and governance prior to roll out is exactly where live copies come into play. Simply put, AEM live copies are copies of a master page with a connection that is ‘alive’ meaning that at any moment of time new changes or additions can be rolled out from the master to the live copies. The copies inherit content from the master. This decreases the amount of work for authors, leaves them with more control and visibility while ensuring consistency.

Understanding the blueprint

In the Adobe documentation you'll find the term "master" is used in reference to the language master, indicating which language is the “source”, “blueprint” or “master copy” for live copies. Basically in this context you can understand the terms blueprint, master and source to mean the same thing. That said, in many ways “blueprint” is the most appropriate term as we can see in the below image:

Live copies in AEM

The live copy concept with a blueprint and its live copies

The left side of the image reflects the complete blueprint of a site which shares a live relationship with the green section on the right. In this example the green section represents a Canadian English live copy site. If a change was made on the About us page on the blueprint side, it can then be rolled out to the About us of the Canadian side. Every relationship is different and while you can configure AEM in such a way that every page you create on the blueprint site is automatically created on the live copy site, it is possible to break relationships with the blueprint as well.

Breaking the relationship

In AEM it is possible to “break” the relationship with the blueprint and allow the creation of local pages. In the image below there is a Product C which is marked in red and only for Canada. This product page clearly shouldn’t have any relationship with the Master English as it is only available in Canadian markets.

Live copy with local page in AEM

A blueprint overview with its live copies and one local page

Now that we have covered some of the basics let’s take this a step further. Let’s review how we could localise a page which is actually a live copy.

Breaking the live copy on component level

The paragraph title may not say much to people who aren’t familiar with the authoring experience in AEM but all will soon become clear. Imagine a page being constructed of several components. Illustrated in the below image:

Live copies in AEM components
Standard page divided in components

This could be a standard page setup for one of the master site pages. Let’s say that for the Canadian site this page requires some additional text/content on component C. Some extra legal text for instance. With this page being a live copy, you would need to break the relationship with the master, but this break can be limited to Component C only, enabling component A and B t o retain a live relationship with the Master English page.

Here’s a higher-level view:

Live copies in AEM complete overview

A blueprint overview with a broken inheritance on component level

Component C on the blueprint still has a live relationship with Component C on the UK site but is now disconnected with the Canadian site.

On the live copy pages this would mean the following:

Live copies in AEM broken inheratence for componentStandard page dividid by components where one has a broken inheritance with the blueprint

All the components on the UK site are locked and cannot be edited due to their live relationship with the Master. Meanwhile, over on the Canada site both component A and B are locked, still inheriting content from the Master, however Component C is unlocked and therefore editable.

Technically we can break the inheritance on an even deeper level by excluding nodes, fields, paragraph item or page properties from the roll out. This can be interesting and useful in cases where a certain field or property is localised and should not be changed.

Blueprint roll out vs. page roll out

Returning to the topic of roll outs, and as discussed earlier, an author is capable of rolling out an individual page, but on a higher level it is also possible to roll out a complete blueprint. This functionality is not so much concerned with the ability to push multiple source pages with modifications to the live copies, it is rather focused on the process of creating a completely new site with all live relationships intact and activated.

The roll out itself (on a blueprint level) allows for added optionality via roll out configurations. The standard AEM live copy roll out will create an exact copy of the source page, but often this will not cover a business’s needs and requirements. Roll out configurations let you manage and configure many things such as deleting and updating content from the source. Page properties can also be edited or the order of child pages can be modified via the roll out. Even options around permissions for live copies can be set allowing for international governance.

Visually the roll outs can be placed as shown in the image below. A roll out configuration is based on a root page of the live copy site, which in this case is the Canadian site.

Live copies in AEM and blueprint structure

Blueprint overview with a live copy configuration

The concept of live copies can be quite daunting in the beginning, which is entirely understandable, but it enables extremely powerful functionality when it comes to managing content across languages and sites. Our AEM consultants have deep knowledge of and experience with planning and implementing content automation with MSM and live copies. So, if you’re looking guidance and support with multisite and/or multi-language site roll outs, we’re here to help.

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