Send in the clones

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Rick Cook

Disk cloning can significantly reduce the time and effort needed to update existing systems or bring up new ones. By preparing an image of the disk containing the files the user needs and using cloning software, the entire setup can be transferred to the target computer in a matter of minutes.

Cloning is also a fast way to bring back a system that has been messed up by an over-enthusiastic user fiddling with the controls. Rather than spending the time to figure out what was actually done to the system, you can restore it to basic configuration by copying over a disk image.

There are a number of programs available for disk cloning, including Symantec's Norton Ghost and LabExpert from SmartStuff.

There are a couple of considerations when using cloning software. First, cloning assumes that the data aren't important. The cloned image consists of only system and application files that are common to all the systems. Cloning a disk image isn't a substitute for backup, and if you are upgrading a system you should back up the data before cloning the disk. Alternatively, you might want to keep all the users' data in a separate volume that isn't cloned.

Secondly, cloning works best if the hardware and software configurations of the source and target systems are substantially the same. That includes things like video and NIC drivers and other hardware-specific software. If you have many different configurations to support, cloning is considerably less useful.

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This was first published in December 2000

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