• Hey!

    Yesterday, I started a thread on /r/TechnicalSupport and the best suggestion I got was to check out FOG. At work we do lots of imaging using Clonezilla and it works pretty well, but I’m wondering if there’s a better solution.

    So, the primary thing I’m trying to ‘fix’ or improve upon is that we keep several external hard drives floating around in technician’s vehicles, this way if they come to one of our computers in the field that needs to be re-imaged they can do so. It’s low-tech enough that our technicians who aren’t great with computers (we service other stuff, too) can either do it themselves or call another tech for a quick walkthrough. It works well enough.

    The problem is, it’s really difficult to keep these external hard drives up-to-date for a few reasons. First, they’re external drives and tend to sit in techs’ vehicles more than they do on my desk. Second, I haven’t found a way to update these drives all at once. And other inconveniences (and duties) compound on top of those meaning that generally I don’t get to update any drives besides my own…

    So, the solution I thought of yesterday was to use a hot-swap SSD enclosure (or two) and put our several drives in a RAID 1 array. I was hoping that, by doing this, if I made changes to any one of the drives it would be reflected 1:1 to the rest of the drives. (Which is my understanding of how RAID 1 functionally works.) The plan was, as technicians left the office they could eject a SSD from a hot-swap bay and put it into an external SSD enclosure, and go about their business in the field. Upon returning to the office, they would return their drive to the hot-swap bay and the RAID 1 array would (as I understand it) start rebuilding the returned drive to however I have the rest of the array set up. (Thus ‘updating’ it.)

    I understand that’s a pretty low-tech/brute force solution to the problem, but so far it’s the best solution I have thought of. I’ve been informed that I might run into issues with certain types of RAID controllers/configurations that could cause compatibility issues that I wouldn’t have foreseen, so I definitely need to do some more homework before committing to that solution…

    Anyways, I was referred to check out FOG and I’m trying to figure out if it’s a good fit for me, but looking at all of its functions I am a little overwhelmed. It seems like it’s used for stuff at a higher level than what I’m doing. We do image computers we sell to customers, but that’s handled well enough with Clonezilla, I can see benefits to network image deployment but most of our computers end up at customers’ locations so we still need to be able to bring our own drive and reimage things in a lot of cases.

    • I am willing to build a dedicated machine for this process. I intend to do this, I’m just trying to figure out how I should build it and if I need any additional software with it. (Will any hardware specifications in particular affect the performance of FOG?)

    • Our network at the office is not Gigabit. I could get a small Gigabit router (or possibly upgrade our network) for my workspace to set up between my FOG server and the computers I image locally.

    • I have a strong preference for working in Windows, could I run a FOG server inside of a VirtualBox VM or a Hyper-V VM?

    Does FOG sound like it will help me improve my workflow any?


  • Does your company own the computers you’re imaging? Are these computers at branch/satellite locations?

  • Moderator

    @zovc said in Does FOG sound right for me?:

    @george1421 A disk duplicator might be the right solution, yeah. Thanks for that suggestion!

    I’m just looking at the overall workflow and the amount of extra stuff you would need to maintain with the recommendation. You CAN get larger duplicators to do 8 drives at a time if you were really serious about it.

    FOG could work here, but I think there are better solutions (such as the duplicator) that have less overhead.

  • @george1421 A disk duplicator might be the right solution, yeah. Thanks for that suggestion!

  • Moderator

    @zovc It really sounds like you need something like a disk duplicator to do what you need. Something like this [ https://www.amazon.com/StarTech-com-SATA-Hard-Drive-Duplicator/dp/B003WV5DLA ]would be more in line. You have a master disk and then clone it to your mobile disks with that stand alone device.

    One issue I might have with your current workflow is crud possibly coming back from a client site to your campus infecting your network. A stand alone duplicator may not be a bad idea.

  • @george1421 Hey!

    Essentially, yes, data flow should always bee one way. In the event that I ever needed to get data from one of the ‘secondary’ drives I could always transfer that data off of them before returning it to the ‘cluster’ and updating it. In pretty much any regular case, though, it would just be returning the drive to the cluster of drives to have it caught up to the other ones. (Assuming any updates were made in that time.)

  • Moderator

    Tell us a bit more about these portable drives. (by the way the raid solution is not practical here).

    Is the data flow always one way (from your master source to the external drive)?

    My intuition is telling me that FOG is not a good fit for this task, and that clonezilla would be a better solution. You could automate clonezilla a bit to make your workflow a bit easier, but lets not rule out FOG straight away.