2011 is playing at as the Year of Virtualization for the small business. While virtualization technology has been widespread among large enterprises for years, the technology has penetrated small businesses to a great extent this year. According to ESG, virtualization is the number 1 spending priority for 2011.
So what is driving the rapid adoption of virtualization technologies among small businesses? There is some evidence that the world’s economic downturn has driven SMBs to turn to virtualization for the potential cost-savings, scalability and business agility. Another driver could be the fall in technology costs. Technologies that enable virtualization have become more affordable for small businesses.
We asked some of these questions in a recent survey of more than 650 small businesses worldwide, which revealed that small businesses are interested in technology (70 percent are considering the technology), but appear to be struggling with its adoption (only 10 percent have deployed virtualized servers and another 17 percent are now doing so). Additionally, when asked about the challenges in server virtualization, respondents said the top three were performance, backup, security and patch management.
Similar to what we’ve seen in enterprise environments, some small businesses are neglecting to protect their data and systems in virtual environments. Just 15 percent of small business respondents always back up their virtualized servers—likely due to budgetary issues (according to 53 percent) and staffing issues (according to 23 percent). Gartner is reporting that through 2012, 60 percent of virtualized servers will be less than secure than the physical servers they replace.
So what’s a small business to do? Virtualization has long been touted as a technology that can save time and resources. We’ve found that just a few best practices can help SMBs reap the benefits of virtualization and avoid the performance, backup, security and patch management issues our respondents were worried about.
Define a virtualization strategy: Work with a consultant to develop a strategy. Proactively develop guidelines and assess your data protection and security needs. Determine if you should move to the cloud for these services.
Secure your virtual environments: Consider what security solutions you need to secure your virtual environment, including a firewall, antivirus, and endpoint security. Make sure you have established security practices as an additional layer of protection.
Protect your data: Have a simplified approach to backup. Implement a solution that protects both physical and virtual environments.
Virtualization has the potential to improve server utilization, reduce hardware and admin costs and reduce power consumption, but these benefits are only possible with a few simple steps to ensure virtual environments are protected and managed appropriately.