Why Virtualization is a Good Idea for Your Small Business
Introduction
Large enterprises have hundreds, thousands even millions of clients and scores of data
that could require dozens of servers to store them on. So, it’s easy to understand why
executives at large enterprises embrace server virtualization. But a business doesn’t
have to store data by the terabyte to benefit from virtualization.
One thing is certain; there are plenty of managed IT services providers (MSP) out there
that can help you get started should you choose virtualization for your small business.
Since most MSPs are small businesses, their teams have a unique understanding of what
small-business owners need to run their businesses efficiently.
What is virtualization?
Virtualization is a virtual – as opposed to actual – version of something like hardware,
software, an operating system or network. With virtualization, special software is used to
allow a server, for instance, to run several operating system images simultaneously.
Server virtualization provides a small business with almost unlimited storage space. One
server can be “divided” to accommodate multiple tenants each in its own virtual
compartment. Since small businesses rarely require the amount of storage space that
large enterprises do, server virtualization could go a long way toward helping a smallbusiness owner get the most of the servers he already has on site.
Let’s look at some of the ways that server virtualization could benefit your small business.
Efficiency – Virtualization maximizes server space, which reduces the number of servers
needed to store important company data. CIO Paul Mah, offers this caveat:
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 virtual machines can be created. This is
also exacerbated by the intrinsic challenge of monitoring inter-VM network traffic and
identification of performance bottlenecks.
One way to avoid having this happen is by enlisting the aid of a managed IT services
provider. This transfers the responsibility of monitoring and managing your virtual servers
on the shoulders of well trained, experienced IT professionals who can act as a support
system for your existing IT team.
Economy – Virtualization may not save you a bundle, but it will cut down on your
energy consumption, which will lower your monthly bill. Because you’ll need fewer
servers, you’ll save a little money there as well. For a small-business owner, these minor
savings can mean a lot in the long run, especially if his business is located in an area
with high energy costs.
Virtual servers require fewer people to maintain them than physical servers do. A fulltime staff IT professional could garner a starting salary of $50,000 or more per year. Add
to that the cost of regular training and certification, and a small-business owner could
find herself paying as much as $75,000 a year for one person. Now, imagine if you have
to hire five or six full-time IT professionals. The more skilled and experienced someone is,
the more he will want to be paid.
Disaster Recovery – Fires, theft and natural disasters happen, often without warning.
What would happen to your business if all of your important files were stored on inhouse servers that got destroyed in a tornado or fire? With virtualization, that becomes
less of a worry, especially if you conduct regular checks to ensure that your data are
being properly backed up, that the data can indeed be recovered if necessary and
that when recovered, the data are usable.
Virtualization cuts down on the risk that an employee or thief could easily walk off with
important company files, something that can happen to a small-business owner who
backs up his company’s files on external hard drives.
Of course, it’s important to store the physical servers on which you’ve created your
virtual machines away from your office location. That way, if disaster strikes, your servers
are less likely to be lost along with everything else, and you’ll be able to minimize
downtime.
Business Continuity – Unlike disaster recovery, business continuity is about quickly
recovering from things like power outages and server crashes. These two common
occurrences could cost a small-business owner a lot of money depending on how long
she and her employees remained idol waiting for power to be restored or a server to be
repaired. Imagine a hotel that couldn’t book reservations or check in visitors because
of a crashed server. No matter how understanding they might be, people would still go
somewhere else, taking much-needed revenue along with them. With virtualization, this
wouldn’t happen.
One useful feature of server virtualization is something called live migration, which
reduces downtime to a matter of a few hours or several minutes.
The beauty of live migration is that, in the event of a power outage or server failure, the
virtual machine continues running while it is moved from one physical location to
another, allowing you and your employees to remain productive and go about your
usual business.
Virtual Desktop – This is a growing trend in the business world. Also known as client
virtualization, desktop virtualization separates the PC desktop environment from the
physical machine with the help of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). Now, here again is
where managed IT services providers come in handy. They offer a variety of
virtualization solutions such as VDIs, which they are skilled at implementing and
managing.
With virtual desktop infrastructure, employees can access the company network from
their laptops, tablets or smart devices.
Conclusion
Virtualization has worked well for large enterprises. It could work well for small
businesses, too. But there are still some who aren’t sure if it’s a good idea. Caution is
good. Fear is not. Before dismissing the idea of virtualization out of hand, take some
time to learn more about it; do some serious research. If you know other small-business
owners who are already using virtualization in their companies, talk to them about the
pluses and minuses.
Choosing virtualization for your company is no small matter. Reducing costs and your
carbon footprint and increasing efficiency are great. But implementing virtualization is a
process, and introducing a virtual server solution into your small business will have to
happen slowly over time, otherwise, you could end up causing as many problems as
you solve.
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Why Virtualization is a Good Idea for Your Small Business

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