VMware Virtual Machine Backup Best Method

We have successfully created two virtual machines using VMware ESXi 4.  We are in the process of developing a backup scheme for ESXi, but are unsure of the best method to do so.

After researching on the internet for some time, we have found that there are a number of various ways to backup the virtual machines.  Some say to just backup the virtual machines as files (just as you would backup a song or a word document).  Others suggest to use cloning within ESXi.  Someone else mentioned to just use snapshots and back the snapshots up.

What is the best practice for creating backups of virtual machines that are stored somewhere else (be it a NAS, External HDD, DVD, etc.) which can be easily restored later if needed?  What backup method produces the smallest backup size for better storage utilization?  

We want to backup the virtual machines, NOT the server itself (the HDD with the hypervisor and everything under it).

Thanks in advance.
getekeAsked:
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Alex GalbraithSolutions ArchitectCommented:
You could simply use ghettoVCB?

http://communities.vmware.com/docs/DOC-8760

Free FTW! :)
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forrest2002Commented:
You can "back-door" in the ESXi and enable SFTP and use a program like WinSCP to copy the files to whatever medium you like. You can use the same method to restore as well.

Do you have a backup in place for your other servers now? We are looking into the latest version of BackupExec which allows the backup of ESX devices.

HTH,
Forrest

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Alex GalbraithSolutions ArchitectCommented:
Trying to save points? Why would you want to resubmit the question?
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martingagnonCommented:
We have been using vRangerPro from Vizioncore for two years already and it has proven to be very effective.  It uses compression and everytime we have had to restore a VM it went perfectly.

http://www.vizioncore.com/products/vRangerPro/
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getekeAuthor Commented:
I was catching some heat from my manager and I just wanted to word the question differently. I'm sorry for the confusion.
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coolsport00Commented:
Actually, it's somewhat of a different question, and he would be 'wasting' points for having 2 :)

This has been a regular post on EE for some time (backing up ESXi VMs). A simple answer?...yes, it can be done; although, I personally don't like the methods to do it. VMware took b/u capability out of ESXi in June of last year. (((BULLIES))) :)

So, there are a couple ways to approach this - ghettoVCB as "jkagalbraith" suggested, or Veeam FastSCP (http://www.veeam.com/vmware-esxi-fastscp.html). With Veeam, you have to power down the VM and it's a manual process, but it's a simple GUI interface and easy to use. If all you need is a 1-time copy because the VM won't change much, Veeam will probably suffice for your needs. Neither 'ghetto' nor Veeam has a 'job schedule' capability (I believe ghetto doesn't, from my readings on it), which is the downside to both.

Regards,
~coolsport00
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getekeAuthor Commented:
coolsport00: That was the answer my boss was looking for. Im amazed at the fact that VMWare doesnt provide the functionality themselves. it almost feels like you have to hack into ESXi just to back up a lousy VM.

Why did they take the functionality out of ESXi? The whole snapshot idea is so convenient. How does vmotion work then? I thought vmotion was a more advanced type of snapshot system. Or is it only removed from the free version/s?
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coolsport00Commented:
Tell me about it!

Why???....I have one word for you ----> $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$!!! :)

VMotion is a reflection/function of vCenter. For it to work you 1. have to have CPU-compatible ESX/i hosts and, 2. the appropriate licensed vCenter version. VMotion does take a snapshot as part of it's functionality, but removes it when the 'migration' (VMotion) is complete. You need to purchase that to have that functionality, a minimum of the Advanced Edition (see Edition comparison here: http://www.vmware.com/products/vsphere/buy/editions_comparison.html)

~coolsport00
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