DD over netcat on a BIPmedia VPS

dd is a very handy shell command for writing raw data blocks from one place to another. Since it can read directly from raw device files, it is very useful for copying entire partitions or drives from one location to another. One traditional way to get this drive data from one location to another is to pipe DD’s output stream over SSH to a shell on a remote machine which in turn uses dd to pipe it to a given output file/device. This is commonly invoked as:

dd if=/dev/sda | ssh username@servername.net "dd of=/dev/sdb"

 

This would make an exact copy of the local /dev/sda device on /dev/sdb attached to servername.net. This method generally suffices for fast speed transfers and smaller amounts of data, and also has the advantage of using SSH‘s built in encryption for secure transfers.

The problem, however, is that because of this encryption SSH has a lot of overhead which sacrifices transfer speed. When data encryption is not a concern (i.e. for internal network transfers), then there is another option. Netcat (or nc on some systems) is a handy utility for setting up quick and dirty TCP or UDP sockets for the transmission of, well really anything. I will get into the details of how to perform a transfer akin to the one referenced above, however let’s first take a look at some of the speed comparisons of dd over netcat vs dd over SSH.