Four cloning solutions for OS X

Jesus Vigo examines four cloning solutions for OS X to further diversify your disaster recovery plan.

At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, I can’t stress enough how important a regularly scheduled backup solution is to your data lifecycle. Also, know this: one size doesn’t fit all!

When considering data backups, there are documents that can take a while to restore, but how about a desktop? How about an entire office full of desktops? Linking online with an operating system, applications, patches, and settings can range from a few hours to a few days, depending on the scope of the project.

The solution for this is called a thick image. More commonly called cloning, this process involves taking a “snapshot” of the desktop at a specific time. Basically, a base node is created with all required software applications, system settings and patches installed and configured before the snapshot is created. The resulting image file is then stored as a backup in the event of a complete system failure. If needed, the contents of the image file can then be read and copied back to the node (or multiple nodes simultaneously in a process called multicasting), which restores the device to the point in time where the image was first taken. .

Although images tend to be quite large in size, hence the “thick” prefix, they largely compensate for storage size for both their efficiency and the ability to get a desktop fully operational in just 20 minutes.

Let’s take a look at four cloning solutions for OS X to further diversify your disaster recovery plan.

Developed by a former Apple employee, Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC) quickly creates a clone of your computer and even optimizes the data on the drive by enabling incremental data backup and removing (or archiving) previously deleted data.

CCC is a fully native OS X application that handles cloning perfectly. It also allows you to start directly from the outdoor unit in case the indoor unit fails. Once the failed drive has been replaced, simply start a cloning process from the external drive to the indoor drive and you will be synced in no time.

The CCC solution is ideal for one-to-one scenarios, but misses the mark when it comes to mass deployment, as there is no server functionality for image multicast over the LAN. In addition, all clones must be run one by one, which makes deploying multiple computers at a time laborious and time-consuming. It’s also the most expensive solution ($ 39.95) on this list, though Bombich Software offers discounts for education and corporate customers, as well as volume licensing and support.

Their slogan states: “Heroic system restoration for mere mortals”. Super Duper! is an easy-to-use cloning app that allows block-level bootable clones. It also features Smart Update, which evaluates files on both the internal and external drives, compares differences, and copies only the data changed by the most recent event. This saves processing time and gives you peace of mind knowing that everything has been backed up.

Super Duper! It has been hailed by many as a one-to-one cloning solution with the flexibility of being able to call bash scripts before and after a backup session, plus the ability to run scheduled as well.

Similar to other offerings on this list, Super Duper! it lacks a server component or one-to-many casting capability to allow for mass cloning of multiple computers over a network. Instead, an external HDD must be used to “sneaker net” the image on each desktop, taking away the time-saving features, since the process must be performed on each desktop one at a time.

It should be noted, however, that the Super Duper! it’s very simple: there is a licensing model, and that’s it! There are no complex terms or volume licensing issues to contend with at a lower price ($ 27.95) than its direct competitor.

3. Clonezilla Live / SE by Steven Shiau (NCHC Free Software Labs)

Clonezilla is the only free open source cloning software on the list. Based on the Linux kernel and supporting countless file systems, Clonezilla has the ability to create an image from OS X, plus it can handle dual-boot and triple-boot environments using Windows and Linux.

By using a Live CD to boot to the desktop, Clonezilla’s approach is slightly different. While creating an image, the desktop cannot be used. The process produces an exact, bit-for-bit copy of your computer’s file structure and all partitions it contains. This can, in turn, be used to distribute across multiple nodes on a LAN.

This leads to the SE version of Clonezilla, the server edition. The SE version can be installed on a server and used for centralized management of creating images from desktops and sending them to other desktops, which greatly reduces the time required to commission a fleet of office computers.

The one-to-one (or one-to-many) function found here has a distinct drawback that sets it apart from the previous entries. As mentioned above, the desktop cannot be used during the imaging process. This means that the schedule, while technically still possible, is typically relegated to out-of-hours cloning sessions involving scripts to ensure a successful backup can be performed. This makes Clonezilla a risky proposition, as there may be no one to detect a problem with the software until the next business day, which may already be too late.

Apple’s NetInstall service is included in the OS X Server app (1.0+) from the App Store ($ 19.99). A full-fledged server is also included in that purchase, making it very useful compared to the other offerings on this list.

NetInstall (and its distribution component, NetRestore) works with the System Image utility available in OS X to elegantly create boot images (NetBoot) for network booting, Apple computer images to use for mass-deploying OS X (NetInstall), or restore existing configuration snapshots (NetRestore). Being designed by Apple, it includes all the software needed to make this service operational – only the hardware and backbone network infrastructure is required.

While working smoothly in a one-to-one or one-to-many environment, NetInstall’s Achilles heel is in the image creation process itself. The modular nature allows for the compartmentalization of applications and updates, making it lightweight, but settings and configurations must be done using scripts. As the scope of deployment or backup grows, processes will grow exponentially too, creating huge overhead that could negatively impact the speed at which the end user will have access to their data or a restored desktop in the event of a loss. catastrophic.

A positive aspect of the modular nature of Apple’s offering is the level of flexibility it offers to those experienced in bash scripting. A powerful and organized server with a code-oriented SysAdmin will be able to literally backup and restore nodes using an efficient workflow, at the touch of a button!


Whether it’s cloning one machine or 100, bootable images, scheduling and synchronization add efficiency and failover support to your existing disaster recovery plan in a one-to-one environment.

If SMB / Enterprise support is required, augmenting your network with a cloning server offers reliability, integrity, and the ability to mass deploy devices. Redundancy is as important for data backup as multi-factor authentication is for security. It provides a secondary safety net to fall back on in case of failure of the primary one.

What cloning solution do you use for OS X in your organization? Share your experience in the discussion thread below.


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