Six Reasons Small Businesses Need Virtualization

If you run a small or mid-sized business, server virtualization promises cost savngs and improved IT efficiency. To help ensure you understand the advantages, we drew up a list of the most tangible benefits that virtualization has to offer small and mid-sized businesses.

By Paul Mah
Wed, January 11, 2012

CIO — Server virtualization has been around for more than 10 years and while issues such as storage and I/O bottlenecks can still rear their head, the multi-faceted advantages offered by virtualization are real and attainable even if you run a small business—and since your competitors may not have discovered the benefits of the technology yet you may gain a significant competitive advantage. To help ensure you understand server virtualization, we drew up a list of the most tangible advantages that virtualization has to offer smaller businesses.

1. Increase Server Efficiency

As you no doubt already know, the traditional and most compelling reason for implementing server-side virtualization is to make more efficient use of computing resources with regards to processor cycles and RAM. Beyond savings in energy and cooling costs, small and mid-sized businesses can cut their capital expenses as fewer physical servers are purchased to replace a larger number of ageing machines as they are decommissioned.

Implementing server virtualization at its simplest revolves around squeezing in as many virtual machines (VMs) as possible within physical server hosts. As you become more comfortable working with VMs, you can adopt a more streamlined approach and a more an appliance-like attitude towards VMs. You can accomplish this by creating VMs based on the logical services they provide as opposed to simply mirroring physical servers with virtual ones.

For all the advantages of server virtualization, virtualization does not magically free you from the usual administrative overheads required for managing physical servers. This is an especially pertinent fact to remember or you risk making mistakes your IT department (or VAR) may have difficulty untangling. Indeed, virtualization management is even more challenging given the propensity towards "VM sprawl" due to the ease with which VMs can be created. This is also exacerbated by the intrinsic challenge of monitoring inter-VM network traffic and identification of performance bottlenecks.

Improve Disaster Recovery Efforts

Disaster recovery (or DR) revolves around being able to reinstate things to a state of normalcy after a disaster. As you can imagine, backing up a fully virtualized infrastructure by making copies of VM files images is a far easier process than trying to do the same with disparate hardware servers.

Moreover, it takes just a fraction of the original hardware equipment to host an entire infrastructure using virtualization. What this means for cash-strapped small and mid-sized business is that you could afford to buy a small number of servers to be housed at an alternative location. In the event of a disaster, these servers could then be relocated as necessary, loaded with the latest VMs and put into action faster than the lead times offered by most IT vendors.

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