Well, it's been 4 months since my original post about full backups/imaging and restoring. No responses, so I thought I would update here what I've learned in hopes of helping others.
1.) I found a great site here on LinuxQuestions.org Just do a search forums with "Learn the DD Command Revised".
I setup a Linux environment by downloading some VM Appliances. I attached another Hard Drive to the Linux VM and performed a DD from /dev/sda to /dev/sdb. Then removed /dev/sda and booted /dev/sdb as /dev/sda. It booted up exactly.
The command I used was:
dd if=/dev/sda of=/dev/sdb
2.) I then wanted to see how to create the image of /dev/sda to a file. So, I found another link that gave me a good example of this at:
So, I again used my Linux VM with 2 internal drives [/dev/sda(8GB) and /dev/sdb(8GB)]. I did a fdisk on the /dev/sdb drive and created 1 partion with the file system ext3. On the /dev/sdb1 partition I created a folder called backup which is where I wanted the image file to be written.
The command I ran was:
dd if=/dev/sda | gzip > /mnt/sdb1/backup/sda.gz
The command wrote the sda.gz file in about 13 minutes. Of course this is all logical, since it's a VM, but the source disk had 2.3GB of data, the file was 1GB in size. Not a bad compression ration!
3.) That's all fine and good, but the proof is in the pudding, so to restore it. I didn't want to risk destroying my /dev/sda disk so I attached another 8GB drive as /dev/sdc. I did nothing as far as fdisk to create partition(s) on this drive.
To restore the file to the /dev/sdc drive I ran the following command:
gzip -dc /mnt/sdb1/backup/sda.gz | dd of=/dev/sdc
After another 13 minutes it was restored. To prove it was good. I shut down the Linux VM, removed the /dev/sda and /dev/sdb drives and booted the /dev/sdc as /dev/sda. It came up perfectly!
I'm really pleased by the results and hope this helps someone else. Next on the list is to try and run this DD command and copy the image over the network using 'netcat' or some other network shell command.
All further posts will be made in a more appropriate forum, but wanted to close out my request with some information.