Is FOG the right tool for the task?

  • Hey guys,

    I´m new to FOG and I´m evaluating if it will be useful in my company.

    My situation is as follows:

    We do have a self-developed solution for automatically backing up and restoring mainly Windows-machines, based on WinPE, IPXE running on a WDS and Windows Powershell. Computers get a PXE Bootmenu and can select there if they want to backup or restore the device, then the equivalent WinPE is downloaded by HTTP/IPXE from the server and executed. All of this is based on a Windows Server where we also store the images.
    For several reasons we don´t want to use the integrated imaging solution of FOG but to stick with a proprietary software that´s being executed within the PE.

    Now, what I´d need is a way to somehow “marry” the management features of FOG with these existing tools if possible. Or maybe you´d have a recommendation how to do it without FOG (I´m more of a Windows guy :-)).

    With “marry” I´m referring to a preferrably Web-based solution where users could mark a specific machine for backup, so it will be automatically imaged the next time it reboots. Currently they have to go there to reboot and select the backup option manually. So somehow this webinterface would need to edit the IPXE parameters in a way that during the next boot no longer the menu appears, but directly the “Backup-WinPE” is loaded on client side.

    If that could be integrated with the “Inventory” feature of FOG, even better so I´d have name and MAC details already there.
    Do you see away I could do that with FOG? Important to mention is that the guys marking the machines for backup are non-IT guys, so it should be fool-proof if you know what I mean 😉

    Any feedback or idea is very much appreciated.
    Thanks in advance

  • yes it can do what you want. FOG stores all of its data in an easy to read database. We looked at automating FOG from another of our applications in the past (but didn’t bother going forward as it didn’t actually save us much admin). For FOG tasks (scheduled, instant, delayed etc), simply insert something into the fog.scheduledTasks database for a scheduled task etc (the fog.taskTypes gives you an indication of what you can do). The backup process kicks in from the pxe by default in FOG. You can set a task to reboot the PC too in FOG if you wish.

    Obviously it is a DISK BACKUP not an incremental backup. Expect the backups to take many minutes if you run high compression. Even low compression is a heavy task.

    It will be a network backup, local backups (to USB etc) will not be possible unless you configure multiple storage nodes per PC (not practical).

  • Senior Developer

    @lordbadhabit said in Is FOG the right tool for the task?:

    We do have a self-developed solution for automatically backing up and restoring

    Now, what I´d need is a way to somehow “marry” the management features of FOG with these existing tools if possible.

    Sure this can be done. It’s probably not too much of a quest but you’re on your own with this as we can’t and don’t want to provide special solution for company XYZ. So feel free to use whichever part of FOG you like and integrate with what you have. FOG is licensed under GPLv3 - as long as it’s

    “In purely private (or internal) use—with no sales and no distribution—the software code may be modified and parts reused without requiring the source code to be released.” (quoted from wikipedia)

  • I really don’t see any way for us to support your imaging solution that you guys built. I’ll help you use FOG, and not anything else.

  • Moderator

    @lordbadhabit Thank you for adding a bit more clarity on what your end goals are. I also work with some people that are in a highly regulated environment that doesn’t allow alterations of systems once they are commissioned.

    Using the fog methodology there are some bits you can use.

    1. You can limit the items on the pxe boot menu for general users.
    2. The pxe boot menu has an option to Deploy Image (I still call it quick image, but meh I still like the old name).
    3. From the Deploy Image menu you can select from any number of captured images for deployment.
    4. There is an option for the Deploy Image menu to only show the image associated with the captured target computer (i.e. only allows you to deploy to the system captured from).
    5. You can either have the target computers set to pxe boot by default and it will boot through the fog server, the fog server will then redirect the client to boot from the local hard drive after XX seconds. There are risks here, if the FOG server is unavailable the target computers may fail to boot.
    6. Another option would be for the target computer operator to press F12 during the POST phase of booting to get the target computer boot menu and then they can select PXE boot from there. I know its a bit more hands on, but with simple instructions anyone can switch the computer to pxe boot. Once the FOG menu appears then they can select Deploy image and then the image for that target computer. I’m not seeing the need for an IT Tech to reimage a target computer.

  • Hi George,
    Thanks for your response.

    Maybe I didnt explain myself to the level I intended to.
    I understand that FOG is not a full blown backup tool with file level restore and so on (that is one of the reasons why we don´t want to use it as that).

    What I do need is the “logic” FOG is offering. The machines we need to backup are industrial machines where we´re not allowed to change a single bit, so any Agent-based whatever backup solution is out of the game and we have to do Disk-Level backups and restores.
    Also the main focus is not on “it´s free”, more on “it just works and not-IT guys are able to do what they need to do and not more”.

    After all what I´d need is “just” a possibility to tell a machine that is already configured to boot from PXE, or more precisely to tell the PXE server “the next time this machine is asking you, you´ll tell it to directly boot image X instaed of entering the menu”, if that costs a reasonable amount of money, I´m fine with that.

    If it is Linux based…well, I´d have to live with that 😉


  • Moderator

    First let me say that FOG is not a backup tool. It never has been and it never should be. Yes you can do that for backup and restores, but understand its a disk level backup and restore. You can’t easily restore a single file from a FOG archive. With that said, there are indeed people that do use it to backup systems.

    But I think you would be better served by another tool. For endpoint backup where we need to ensure we have a solid backup, we use Veeam Endpoint (free). This integrates well with our Veeam B&R for our virtual environment. BUT I also use it on my home computers (both windows and linux) to backup to my NAS. Understand this is all for free. There are some limitations like only backups once per day, and no notifications for backup failures and such. That stuff is reserved for the paid for model. Users can initiate a back or restore from the desktop tool.

    As for inventory and package deployment, I would look at PDQ Deploy and PDQ Inventory together. They have free models, but their paid for versions are reasonably priced and well worth it.

    Both of those solutions above will keep you in the windows camp, if that make you happy to live there.

    Can you make fog do what you want, yes but you may need to do some programming and tweaking to get a clean solution.

    As for your question about pxe booting on next reboot. If you are using Dell’s yes you can do that. With the dells you can use the command and control utility to update the bios to pxe boot on next restart. This switch can be set from a power shell script or vbscript deployed as a fog snapin or pdq deploy package. There are a number of way to make this work. It just depends on the amount of effort you are willing to put into a “for free” solution.