Small Business Server Virtualization

Optimize your IT investment

If you run a small or mid-sized business, server virtualization promises cost savings 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.

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

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Increase Server Efficiency

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 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 overhead required for managing physical servers. This is an especially pertinent fact to remember or you risk making mistakes your IT department or Managed IT Service Provider 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 file images is a far easier process than trying to do the same with disparate physical 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 time offered by most IT vendors.

Using virtualization as a means of disaster recovery requires some forethought and planning. Care must be taken to draw up appropriate processes and security procedures in tandem. The responsibility for the safekeeping of VMs should be clearly defined, ranging from near line backups to backup copies located at remote locations.

Increase Business Continuity

Business continuity is different from disaster recovery in that the goal is achieving zero or a minimum amount of interruption to business operations. Given that the most common source of failure in the data center is the failure of server hardware, this is where a server virtualization feature called live migration helps preserve business continuity by eliminating the need for downtime.

Using live migration, administrators are able to seamlessly move live VMs between physical server hosts without having to first power them down. Live migration works by synchronizing disk and memory states in the background between two physical servers, then stopping the origin VM and starting the target VM at the same instant. Finally, the appropriate updates to ARP tables are made to ensure that incoming data packets are routed to the correct network destination.

Live migration can facilitate server maintenance or hardware upgrading without you having to schedule any maintenance downtime. Moreover, a heavily loaded VM may also be moved to a beefier server in order to better balance workloads across a pool of available physical servers. An extension to this concept is performing the above-mentioned load balancing autonomously, or even shifting VMs onto a fewer number of physical hosts during off-peak times, powering redundant servers down to reduce electrical consumption.

Aid Software Development

If your company does any software development work, virtualization gives your businesses the opportunity to lower costs by eliminating the need to spend money for additional hardware. Also, development teams save time by not having to endure the lengthy process of requisitioning new servers. Moreover, it is a trivial matter to setup a test server with the appropriate VMs to test various builds of an application on all supported platforms.

Test Security Updates and Patches

Virtualization makes it a trivial task to test out new software updates or security patches prior to their deployment on live systems. Moreover, internal development teams will also benefit from testing N-Tier applications on a virtualized replica of the current infrastructure to test for problems arising from unanticipated interactions between the various components.

Move to Desktop Virtualization

One increasingly popular facet of virtualization is client virtualization, which entails running the entire desktop environment within a centralized server. With all processing done within the server, client devices are typically thin clients that serve as an end node to connect I/O peripherals such as keyboard, mouse, display, audio connectors, and even USB ports over the LAN.

While there are similarities between client and server virtualization in terms of the basic infrastructure required, businesses should not make the mistake of mixing them together due to differing objectives and technical considerations. The term "virtual desktop infrastructure" or VDI is used to describe the hardware and software components required to support a desktop virtualization deployment.

Simplify using your business technology.

Is virtualization the solution for all your server environment concerns? Contact us to schedule a consultation to discuss your business requirements, goals and direction. Together we will be able to determine whether server virtualization brings the benefits and rewards your business desires. Whether you need first time virtualization assistance or need help with an existing VMware or HyperV install, our engineers can provide the assistance that is needed for your business.
Call 972-728-8600, email, or fill out the form above and we will contact you to discuss your virtualization needs.