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Information Unleashed

Virtualization for SMBs: A Mystery No More

Created: 29 Aug 2012
Tom Powledge's picture
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Today’s small and medium-sized businesses are in a unique position. They can now do business globally thanks to online sales, and they can adopt new technologies once reserved for large enterprises due to cost and simplicity. Virtualization in particular is opening up new opportunities for SMBs. But while virtualization is being adopted by an increasing number of businesses, some SMBs may still be unfamiliar with just how virtualization works, and the advantages and challenges it poses.

At its simplest level, virtualization simply creates a pool of shared resources, allowing them to be used more efficiently. Virtualization is most commonly applied to servers, which allows for environments with incompatible requirements to be run on the same server, isolated from each other. Virtualization is also frequently used with desktops and storage, giving businesses centralized control over these resources. For SMBs in particular, maximizing the utilization of their limited resources is vital.

The Advantages of Virtualization

As businesses grow beyond the need for one or two servers, virtualization becomes a more attractive proposition. One of the most important benefits is an improvement in efficiency. The physical IT resources are simplified, meaning fewer hardware upgrades are required. In addition, updates and patches can be applied centrally, and with limited IT staff, this kind of time savings can be significant for SMBs. Virtualized resources can also be used in conjunction with backup and recovery solutions to ensure availability in the event of an outage, because they are easily backed up.

Virtualization reduces costs by allowing for greater server utilization. Instead of each application requiring its own server due to differing configuration needs, they can be consolidated servers, with hypervisors – virtualization managers – managing the separate environments. Servers can be pooled and separated as necessary, quickly adapting to current needs – especially useful for an SMB where a few extra projects can double resource needs. Deploying fewer physical servers also reduces maintenance costs.

Challenges Introduced by Virtualization

The ease of virtualization can also present difficulties. Storage management can be an issue, as data may be duplicated between virtual machines. It also increases the complexity of monitoring and reporting, with the reduced visibility inherent in a virtual environment.

In a virtualized environment, it can be a challenge to identify problems that arise due to the reduced visibility inherent to the technology. Because applications are separated to run in the virtual environment, it can be harder to see the state of their components. This can make file recovery more difficult.

Security is also a continuing concern for virtual environments just as with physical network components. Previously implemented security tools may need to be reconfigured or replaced in order to maintain adequate protection.

Overcoming the Challenges to Implement Successful Virtualization

To begin the implementation process, first consult with a consultant or reseller. These experts can help determine your needs at the outset to proactively avoid the challenges involved. You should also closely examine your current IT infrastructure to consider how virtualization will affect it.

Determine what hardware and software you want to virtualize and how many users will need to be accommodated. For the initial deployment, consider virtualizing lower-priority applications, expanding as your comfort level increases. Before going live, perform tests to verify adequate functionality of virtualized systems.

In order to ensure adequate security and availability of your virtualized services, it’s important to address visibility and complexity concerns. Be sure to deploy a backup solution that will automatically perform backups and implement a disaster recovery solution that can automatically detect failure and initiate recovery, minimizing downtime of applications and servers.

For small and medium-sized businesses looking to make the most of their IT resources, virtualization offers significant advantages. It can streamline operations and reduce costs if implemented intelligently. Creating a plan and working with a vendor can help SMBs overcome the challenges to enjoy an effective virtualization implementation.

For additional information, we invite you to download a white paper discussing this topic in greater detail. The paper may be downloaded here.