I can’t believe I never wrote about this before. I mean, I set this thing up for my last company last year some time, and it was just so super loaded with epic awesomeness that I wanted to tell everyone about it. Not sure why, but it looks like I never got around to writing about it.. Oh well, it is time to remedy that now.
So at my current company we are looking for a good OS deployment solution, and have settled on Microsoft SCCM. This got me thinking however to last year around this time when at my last IT gig we were looking for a similar solution. Lets go back in time to last year.
We were using Ghostcast Server. We had numerous laptop and workstation images, and for each one we had to keep a set of boot disks or CD’s. This was set up by someone who had left the company earlier, and we they never made an improvement to the process. It was the lameness of having to hunt around for old floppy disks or CD’s that got me thinking that there had to be a better way that didn’t involve boot disks, or a lot of money for that matter.
Doing a little research lead me to one of the best open source projects I have ever seen. It is called Fog which is a free computer cloning solution! Here is a description from their site:
Fog is a Linux-based, free and open source computer imaging solution for Windows XP and Vista that ties together a few open-source tools with a php-based web interface. Fog doesn't use any boot disks, or CDs; everything is done via TFTP and PXE. Also with fog many drivers are built into the kernel, so you don't really need to worry about drivers (unless there isn't a linux kernel module for it). Fog also supports putting an image that came from a computer with a 80GB partition onto a machine with a 40GB hard drive as long as the data is less than 40GB.
Fog also includes a graphical Windows service that is used to change the hostname of the PC, restart the computer if a task is created for it, and auto import hosts into the FOG database. The service also installs printers, and does simple snap-ins.
Here is a basic overview of how it all works from their page as well:
We really liked this option because it was free, and it was really easy to set up on Ubuntu server. The Help Desk guys liked it because it eliminated the need for random boot floppies or CD’s. The Help Desk could use the network boot option and boot right into Fog, select their image and deploy away!
The way I set it up in our environment, because we were a Windows domain, was I added the PXE options on our Windows DHCP server to point to Fog for TFTP. I think I had that thing up and running in about 20 minutes. For installation you can use the easy to follow user guide here: (Fog User Guide)
Know of other free “Ghosting” solutions? Which ones do you like? Hit us up in the comments!