Standalone ESXi (4.1) host without any vCenter Server.
How to backup virtual machines as quickly and storage-friendly as possible?
I know I can access the ESXi console and use the standard Unix
cp command, but this has the downfall of copying the whole VMDK files, not only their actually used space; so, for a 30-GB VMDK of which only 1 GB is used, the backup would take 30 full GBs of space, and time accordingly.
And yes, I know about thin-provisioned virtual disks, but they tend to behave very badly when physically copied, and/or to blow up to their full provisioned size; also, they are not recommended for actual VM performance.
It is ok for me to shut down the VMs before backing them up (i.e. I don't need "live" backups); but I need a way to copy them around efficiently; and yes, a way to automate shutdown/startup when taking a backup would also help.
I only have ESXi; no Service Console, no vCenter Server... what's the best way to handle this task? Also, what about restores?