Can someone point me in the direction of a good tutorial for how to backup VMs in their entirety from an ESXi server, for archive/backup purposes?
There are a number of options available to you for full virtual machine backups. Here are a few:
1) Use VMware Data Recovery - if you own the correct license, you can use VMware's backup utility to backup your virtual machines. More info here: http://www.vmware.com/products/data-recovery/
2) Use VMware Consolidated Backup, which is really just a framework for backups but can get you full virtual machine backups. More info here: http://www.vmware.com/products/vi/consolidated_backup.html
3) Take a look at the VM backup guide from VMware. This one is from ESX 3.5 but a lot of the info is still relevant. http://www.vmware.com/pdf/vi3_35/esx_3/r35/vi3_35_25_vm_backup.pdf
4) Finally, there is a really great third party ecosystem for VMware with lots of great products. I'd look at Veeam Backup 4.0 which supports ESXi and offers great performance especially when backing up ESX 4. http://www.veeam.com/vmware-esx-backup.html
Hope this helps!
Also check out this 100% free scripted solution:
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Another option is[ esXpress VMware backup|http://www.phdvirtual.com/products/esxpress-virtual-backup]
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+1 for Veeam although im yet to test their latest product which is apparently 10x faster than the version I am using.
For those of you citing to not use a major comercial product, how do you address putting the backups to tape and ensuring you track the cataloging of the information? Veeam, for example looked interesting, but when I was at VMworld, and I asked them how do I now take all these backups performed by their product and dump them to tape and keep track of things? I was not thrilled by their response. This to me is one of the key challenges the non-major players have. I like their solutions, but the tape integration part is what I find limiting. When you have hundreds and hundreds of virtual machines, you need to be able to address these challenges.
In most virtual infrastructures, there is no "one size fits all" backup solution that addresses every need. It is not unusual to find multiple solutions in place, including in-guest agents combined with VM backup tools like Veeam Backup. Veeam, for example, does not allow you to do item level restores in Microsoft Exchange, so you'd likely use a backup agent for that. The same is true for other applications.
In an environment like you describe below (hundreds of VMs), you would almost definitely need mutliple backup solutions to address all of the business needs. Having software that can write to a tape drive will likely be one of them. I wouldn't expect vendors like Veeam or Vizioncore to rush to include tape support in their products as this is well addressed by other vendors.
Just deployed Veeam version 4 on ESX 4.0. Backing up 5 virtual machines totaling 700GB provisioned space.
I'm backing up to a rotation of daily USB drives set to 4 rollbacks. This allows me to restore files from or entire VMs from any day in the last 4 weeks.
The initial pass processes at around 24MB/s the subsequent passes with block tracking (the new feature) is processing at 180. This is so much faster than version 3.