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[Discuss] Manual or third-party ESX(i) backup?

> From: Scott Ehrlich [mailto:scott at]
> I do mean human (or scripted).    If you run VMWare on a workstation,
> and you preserve the VM folder for each VM, you can easily restore
> what you have.
> Does the same hold true, in theory, for the server side?

Regardless of workstation or server, you can't simply copy the VM guest directory and expect it to be preserved right - you have to shutdown the guest first (power off, not sleep) in order for that to work.  Not only that, but there's no good way to do incrementals in a reasonable amount of time or space.  Worse yet, even if you *do* shutdown and copy the directory, there are still some pitfalls to fall into...  Particularly around sparseness of the vmdk (or whatever guest disk format you're using.)  For example, in ESX, you can ssh in and copy the files, but cp and tar and scp are unaware of vmware sparseness.  You have to copy instead by using the GUI utility to "Copy" and "Paste" from source to destination.  The vsphere gui knows about magic behind the scenes and performs the sparse copy as efficiently as possible.  There may be some equivalent command-line utility, but I don't know it.

On the server, I'm a fan (I think i've mentioned) of using ZFS storage shared via iscsi to the ESX head.  That way, the ZFS server can snapshot and do efficient incrementals, without ESX even needing to know.

For workstations, or in my case, VMWare Fusion or Parallels or VirtualBox, I am not aware of any good way to do guest backups and incrementals.  I actually install backup software into the guests to let the guests back themselves up.

Parallels has a checkbox whose intent is to make guests more friendly for backup via timemachine.  But years ago when I used it, it caused reliability problems, and I haven't heard anybody yet say they had good luck with it.  So I'm still using guest-run backup software.

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