Symantec recently released the results of its 2011 Small Business Virtualization Poll in which it surveyed over 650 small businesses worldwide. Turns out 70 percent of these businesses show an interest in virtualization, but less than 40 percent of those same businesses have actually deployed a virtual environment.
For a lot of small business owners, lack of knowledge and experience have held them back from taking the leap forward. To help move you in the right direction, here’s an overview of what virtualization is and how it can benefit your company.
What is virtualization?
Perhaps what makes the concept of virtualization confusing is there are different types of virtualization including desktop, operating system, server, data and storage virtualization.
Essentially, virtualization allows a computer to work as many computers.
Here’s a basic example. Let’s say you primarily run on a Mac (thank you Steve Jobs), but there are some business applications you occasionally need to boot up the PC for. Instead of working with two computers, and using up vital desk space, a virtualization software like VMWare Fusion or Parallels Desktop allows you to run Windows simultaneously in your OS X desktop, so you can open PC-only software on your Mac.
When people speak of virtualization, though, they are mostly referring to server virtualization. Server virtualization allows you to take one physical server machine and run several virtual server environments on it. Again, one computer to work as many computers.
So, for example, instead of having three separate physical servers—one to host your website, one for your database, and another working as an email server—virtualization software enables you to create three virtual servers on one machine to fulfill these roles.
Why would I want to virtualize?
As Symantec’s poll reveals, the top three reasons small businesses are considering virtualization are:
1) Reduces capital expenses. No surprise this heads the list: there’s a big savings in only having to buy one server if it can perform the work of multiple servers.
2) Reduces operating expense. With less hardware running 24×7 you’ll be able to save money on your energy bill. Additionally, you’ll spend less time and resources in managing and maintaining virtual servers than the same number of physical ones.
3) Ability to use fewer servers for the same number of applications. Consolidation is a big advantage of virtualization. It means greater efficiency since you’ll be maximizing the utilization of server resources.
If that’s not enough good reasons for you to consider virtualization, other benefits include:
Easier disaster recovery. It takes less time to restore a virtual server since you’re not worrying about reinstalling software and reconfiguring the system.
Extends life of legacy applications. Older software can still be accessed on virtual machines running the required operating system.
Scalability of servers. If a virtual server has to take on an increased load, you can simply increase the resources allotted to it.
How do I get started?
If you feel your small business can benefit from virtualization there are many software products available such as VMWare vShpere, Microsoft Hyper-V Server, Citrix XenServer, and Oracle VM and VirtualBox.
But before you jump into acquiring software, it’s highly recommended you speak with an IT consultant who can review your business needs and help you define a virtualization strategy. You’ll want to partner with an expert consultant who can help keep your virtual servers running optimally so you focus on growing your business.
(Photo credit – techojito)