Backing up VM files from ESXi

If you’re like me, then you have a separate, backup copy of your images and VM files so that if something happens to your VMware Server/ESXi Server or your storage of choice where your production vm files are stored, you can quickly move them from your backup location to a new vm server while you work to get the problem resolved.  This was pretty straight forward with VMware Server.  You go to your vm server, browse to the files where the “Virtual Machines” are stored, and copy them to a backup location (completely seperate from your production storage device, i.e. SAN, NAS, DAS, or local RAID storage).

This has changed in ESXi because you can’t log into your ESXi server (like you would a windows machine).  So, how do you get to the files?  There’s probably a number of different ways, but the way that I found is to use… VMware Converter!

Just like you used VMware Converter to move your VM files from the VMware Server to the ESX Server, you can also take your VMware ESXi files and move them to a network share (or your desktop) using VMware Converter.  You then have VM files that you could easily move to another VMware Server, or use VMware Converter to move them to another ESXi Server should something happen to your production server/storage.

With the full VI3, your options are available through the VMotion, HA, and other technologies available for virtually no-down-time moves from one physical server to another.  But, you don’t get that free with ESXi.  :)

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9 Responses

  1. man i have an esxi (free) and downloaded the free converter how do u copy VMs to other places with it??? cos i cant please indicate how to do that i beg u

  2. Can you give a quick description of how exactly you are backing up your VMs using VMware Converter? I am not seeing it in the application.

  3. Using VMware Converter to copy/backup files, you’ll need to open VMware Converter and follow these steps:

    * Click File/New/Import
    * After clicking Next twice, choose ESX Server as the source (ESXi works with this). Click Next
    * Type the name of your ESXi Server, the root user name, and password. Click Next
    * Select your Virtual Machine (must be turned off) Click Next
    * Click Next to Source Data (or make changes if you need to)
    * Click Next
    * Destination Type… Chose VMware Standalone Virtual Machine
    Note: This is where I could not convert from ESX to ESX, but I could convert from ESX to Standalone (which is basically VMware Server files).
    * Give it a name and select location (i.e. another network share, or your local computer). Also, select VMware Server for the Type of Virtual machine to create. Click Next
    * Select your VM options Click Next
    * Click Next at Networks
    * Click Next at Customization
    * Click Finish to start the conversion.

    Once the conversion completes, you will have the files on your network share or local computer (where you specified above). You can then move those files to a backup location of your chose. You now have a manual backup for DR purposes.

    Note: This only creates a backup of the virtual server. You will still need to backup the data inside the virtual server on a regular basis because in a DR situation, you can restore the virtual machine, and then restore data within the virtual machine.

    Hope this helps!

  4. You can also use the Infrastructure Client built-in “Datastore Browser” to upload and download files.

    http://searchvmware.techtarget.com/tip/0,289483,sid179_gci1303412,00.html

  5. What you need is a good dose of F5! ARX storage virtualization will help with the snap shots of images for stores and the App Readynetwork moves server logical functions in conjunction with VMotion through iControl scripting.

  6. @mikeyP

    nerd !

  7. The problem with using VMWare Converter is that it deletes the entirety of your backup if it fails for whatever reason. (At least on ESXi conversions…) We’ve had severe problems trying to use it to export large drives when converting servers, as it only take one little hiccup on the NAS unit or wherever to cause a complete failure of the transfer. (I was nearly in tears when we had one conversion fail at 96% after 22 hours…)

    Instead, what we do now is use the VMWare Converter to export only a single drive at a time to an NFS location (usually the NAS), and then use the command-line tools in ESXi to convert them over. (vmkfs-tools -i )

    ESXi’s linux install does include a rudimentary Rsync command, which should be able to do a backup, but we’re still experimenting with it as there doesn’t seem to be a crontab file to schedule the jobs.

    You can enable remote SSH access to your ESXi’s command line by modifying a particular file: /etc/inetd.conf

    I used the vi editor to modify it. You just have to remove the # in front of the SSH line. NOTE: Make sure to block your ESXi server’s SSH port in your organization’s firewall! We started getting brute force attacks against our SSH ports within 24 hours of them being opened.

    I think you could possibly make another linux server connect via SSH to the ESXi server and then run Rsync jobs to your NAS unit to do backups…

  8. I basically do what Ciscoospina is describing. However, I don’t power off the VM. When I do the conversion, I choose “physcial Machine” as my source. And, then from there I store it as a VM wrkstation 6.5 image on some other network storage location.

    I’ve not restored one of these yet, but bascially, if I had to, my thought was that I would just run the converter again and use the VM worksation image as my source and my new ESXi server as my destination.

    If anyone sees anything wrong with that, I’d sure like to hear about.

    FYI, work in a lab and I manage five different ESXi servers that hold about a dozen VM images combined.

    I think VM is the bomb.

    S.

  9. This is teh only reason I prefer VM Server over ESXi. Although your methood will work, it is waaaaay easier to just copy them as you would do in VM Server…

    I also found recently with an old VM, that by converting it to VM Server 2 the performance was somehow less than awe-inspiring. I ended up not converting it at all and it now runs just fine. Anyone else have this issue?

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