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Using Clonezilla multicast

Last week I finally had a chance to use Clonezilla and see how well the multicast facility works. It wasn’t planned to be used just yet, but due to a software mightmare in our second computer room, we were forced to do the machines over. So as is the norm, first thing to do is set up the template master computer, do it right, create an automatic answer file, run SYSPREP and then upload the image to the server. All of that went without a hitch.

We then physically moved the server to the second computer room, as we had to disconnect the room from the rest of the network due to Clonezilla using its own DHCP server. One we had hooked everything up and started booting clients, we discovered some interesting quirks. If left past the 7 second boot prompt, some of the clients would “freeeze” up and not load the system, while others went in ok. I’m not sure why this happened, it was odd. Nonetheless, after getting 33 out of the 37 pc’s ready, the image started itself. 4 computers couldn’t get connected in time, so they missed the initial clone. Speed wise Clonezilla seemed to work pretty well, we restored a +- 7GB image in about 8 minutes. There were slight pauses during the multicast, probably to let the clients catch up or something. I may have seen Ghost Corporate do the same before, but it was a while ago so I’m not too sure.

Once the clone was done, the machines rebooted themselves and proceeded to configure Windows according to the answer file we had left for Sysprep. We did a separate clone for the 4 computers who missed the first clone, and that too went ok, though one computer had a strange issue where it hung.

Overall as with any clone, most of the work is in the initial set up. Once that was done, things moved rather smoothly. While impressed by the speed of Clonezilla, I’m still a bit concerned about it’s overall stability. Also, it’s a bit more disruptive that Ghost Corp, which worked with a pre-existing DHCP server on your network. That way I could clone systems without needing to disconnect other parts of the network. However, Clonezilla has the edge in that it’s free and supports many more filesystems than Ghost does (or did, I haven’t used later versions of Ghost.) Clonezilla itself is part of the DRBL environment, which is useful if you want to boot and run Linux distros off the network. In many ways it’s similar to a thin client setup.

In closing, if you are in a school, community project or even small business and don’t want to stomach the high license costs of Ghost Corp, take some time to evaluate Clonezilla Server Edition. It may just do the trick for you if you can live with some of it’s complexities during setup and use.

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