File copy solutions For a powered off VM is possible to simple copy all the files in the VM folder. To use also with a powered on VM you need to do create a VMware snapshot to unlock the *-flat.vmdk files To make this copy several tools could be used:
Datastore browser (directly from VIC or vSphere Client)
Veeam Backup 3.x http://veeam.com/vmware-esx-server/backup/documents/Veeam_Backup_User_Guide_3.0.pdf 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 servers. Backup is easy, but recovery can be hard – and that’s when the clock is ticking loudest. But with Veeam Backup & Replication, fast recovery is easier than you ever thought possible.
vRanger Pro 4 Data Protection Platform http://www.vizioncore.com/products/vRangerPro/literature.php http://www.vizioncore.com/products/vRangerPro/documents/vRangerPro-DPP-FAQ.pdf vRanger Pro Data Protection Platform (DPP) is a comprehensive backup and recovery solution for virtual infrastructures that complements existing data protection strategies to reduce the backup window with minimal impact on IT resources. With vRanger Pro, administrators can ensure all virtual assets are properly backed up on a regular basis and that "computing ready" virtual environments can be restored and populated with recovered data as quickly as possible. With faster VM recovery organizations can minimize costly outages to applications and business services.
vRanger Pro 3.3 http://www.vizioncore.com/products/vRangerPro/vRanger3x.php Vizioncre vRanger Pro 3.3 is the ideal solution for customers wanting the same reliability of vRanger Pro 4.0 DPP but require features that are not yet supported in the 4.0 version. Supports VMware 3.X, 4.0 (vSphere) and ESXi.
Trilead VM Explorer http://www.trilead.com/ Trilead VM Explorer is a management tool that eases management, backup and disaster recovery tasks in your VMware ESX environment. Backups can be stored to ESX, Windows, Linux and FreeBSD based storage platforms or directly to a SAN. VM Explorer has only to be licenced once for your infrastructure, you don't have to pay any fees per ESX Server, CPU, or anything similar.
PHD Virtual esXpress http://phdvirtual.com/products/esxpress-virtual-backup esXpress radically alters the notion of how to protect data in virtual infrastructures in one simple way: we use the virtual infrastructure to backup and restore itself! esXpress v3.6 is Compatible with VMware ESX v3, v3.5 and vSphere4.
PHD Virtual in the current 5.x product now supports ESXi and you can backup to network storage (CIFS/NFS) as well as local attached disk.
Another good option. vBackup's Standard Edition is free and should provide all of the functionality needed in small environments.
The free ESXi "problem"
With the free version of ESXi then you cannot actually use a third party tool to perform any backups. This is against your EULA. If it is the paid version of ESXi go for it. So be sure which you are using to be sure you do not violate the EULA.
As for other mechanisms, you can snapshot the VM and then copy the data via the vSphere Client/VIC as well. There is also VMware Converter. These tools do not violate the EULA.