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when should clone solution be used ?

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I am embarking on a customization/ migration project and solution layering, patching, upgrading are all coming into play. 

Say we have Dev --> QA --> PROD environments

Note - Internally, we have still been exporting from Dev to QA as an UNMANAGED solution. From all the readings, it seems that we should export as MANAGED (?) (Any insight here is welcome)

Scenario for my question regarding patches:

  • Day 1: Base solution is created in DEV and exported to QA
  • Day 2: Patch is created in DEV.

For now, I also exported the patch separately and imported to QA. Up until now, DEV and QA match exactly.

But, when do I clone Solution? What is the trigger to know when to clone the solution? Because now when I have to import to PROD, I definitely need to clone solution, which I presume I will do from DEV ? At that point, DEV and QA will not match anymore.

What is the recommended practice : as soon as I clone solution in DEV, should I also clone in QA ?

Also, MSFT documentation says we cannot delete patches, but I've seen on Youtube videos people mentioning you can delete patches. Thought I'd mention since that can influence when to Clone Solution.

Thank you in advance for your help.


Thank you