FOG, A Linux-Based Cloning Solution

” FOG is a Linux-based, free and open source computer imaging solution for Windows XP, Vista and 7 that ties together a few open-source tools with a php-based web interface. The FOG server, by default, provides DHCP, NFS, PXE, FTP, HTTPD, and WOL services to the clients on the network. FOG doesn’t use any boot disks, or CDs; everything is done via TFTP and PXE.”

The above paragraph, taken from the Fog wiki page, pretty much sums up why I like Fog so much –it’s easy to set up, a simple web-based interface, no need for boot disks or CD’s and best of all it’s free clip_image001

What I use it for

A by-product of working in the IT support field is you end up being a go-to-guy for friends and family for all things IT. I make life easier for myself by keeping a backup copy of a fresh image of their Windows with all drivers, plug-ins and software already installed . Having a boot image saves me time in the long run since none of them can ever find their system restore or driver CD’s. I currently have Fog  up and running on my home network as a possible replacement to Macrium Reflect – a trial if you like.

As I explained in a previous post I insist anyone who needs their machine looked at to bring their machines down to me without me paying for travel, which also means I can take my time working on it.

How FOG works

With FOG up and running on my home network, the idea is I register each Windows machine with the FOG Server, upload a fresh boot image onto FOG and pretty much forget about it. When a machine needs re-imaging I set up the imaging task on Fog’s web-based management interface (say from my phone), plug the machine in my router and PXE-boot into FOG, which takes care of applying the image without any more work from my part.

Capturing an image

Note that the process of capturing an image is referred to as “uploading” an image in Fog – the reason being the client machine PXE-boots into Fog which builds the image and uploads it onto the FOG server over the network.

The process is explained below using my brother’s Dell as an example client.

  1. The Dell would have Windows XP installed afresh with all drivers, plug-ins, Office 2007 and the usual software ready to capture the image to begin with
  2. It will need to be physically connected to my router (along with the FOG Server)
  3. I log onto FOG’s management interface using any web-enabled device and register the Dell with the FOG Server
  4. Still on FOG’s management interface, I create an image object, associate it with the Dell and create the upload task
  5. PXE-boot the Dell into FOG, which automatically takes care of capturing the image and uploading it onto the FOG Server

Applying an image

When the Dell needs re-imaging (for whatever reason) the next stage would be to apply the image onto the Dell

  1. As before, the Dell will need to be physically connected to my router
  2. I create an imaging task for the Dell using FOG’s web-based management interface
  3. PXE-boot into FOG, which automatically pushes the right image to the Dell, again without any more work from me

Final Thoughts

With a number of Windows machines to maintain I have been looking into setting up an imaging solution over my home network for quite some time now. I need to give it a thorough trial to see if it works for me in practice.

“Is it good enough to justify dedicating a PC for imaging tasks only? That’s the question in my mind right now – a possible solution may be to run it as a virtual machine on my main PC. I might look into it.

I’ll be sure to keep a log of my trials with Fog, but first I want to put together a couple of videos to show FOG in action.

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