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VMWare ESXi 4 cost effective backup options

We are about to start using VMWare Esxi on 4 physical servers.
We want to do backups to a NAS unit.

I see the free version of ESXi doesn't support backup.
We are small company with a small budget.

What is the most cost effective way to backup our VMDK image files without shutting down the virtual machines, which are a combination of Linux and Windows.

I addition to the ESXi hosts we also have a dedicated WindowsXP computer to run vSphere which is currently running Retrospect Professional for local backups plus a few key workstations.
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Paul Solovyovsky
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ESXi 4 can only do backups with the paid version.  The cheapest version is vSphere Essentials, @ $500 that will give you 3 ESX/ESXi license and a vCenter license.  Fromt there you can purchase Vizioncore vRanger or Veem Backup at around $500 a CPU.  If you have 1 CPU the solution will cost you approx. $1K.

Otherwise you can run NTBackup to the NAS inside the gues operating system
Like paulsolov said your best bet using VMware technologie is to either use vSphere Essentials + vRanger or Veeam Backup or the other option is to backup each vm individually using windows server backup software.

One software (windows one) that I use is Macrium Reflect that goes for around 40$ per vm. Using this method will backup your VM to SAN/NAS, windows share etc.

You could always backup to D-Link DNS-323 to give you more space.
Veeam doesn't support ESXi any more :-(
Veeam Backup & Replication
Veeam Backup & Replication is the first enterprise-ready solution that combines backup and replication in a single product for fast recovery of your VMware ESX and ESXi environment.

Just for your information ESX 4.1 was the last build of ESX era, from now on VMware will only publish ESXi update. So every major vendor now support ESXi.
To clarify Veeam doesn't support ESXi operating in standalone like it used to. i.e. without vCenter Server.

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ESX 4.1 and future release do not support VCB, therefore it is not an option going forward.  vStorage API has replaced it.

Veeam and vRanger do not support free ESXi because VMware told them to take that option out, otherwise they both support paid ESXi
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Can I extend this question a bit ?

I notice SNMP client is missing on the free version of ESXi4 does the essentials package enable SNMP ?

Still need to buy essentials but at $500 for 3 servers that's okay.