Virtualization seems to be the way to go in the business world today. Many companies are talking about it, and most have either already implemented it or are thinking of using it. Though there are costs to virtualizing, most businesses say they’re worth it since virtualization often brings big savings in the long run. When talking about virtualization, however, most of the discussion revolves around how large companies are able to take advantage of the technology. Often left out of the conversation are the risks and benefits associated with small businesses employing virtualization. There are a number of important items to consider before deciding if it is right for your small business.
Virtualization offers some significant benefits depending on a business’s server needs. The idea behind server virtualization is to consolidate multiple physical servers, taking their operations and applications, converting them into virtual machines, and placing them into fewer physical servers. With fewer physical machines, there are savings from reduced costs for cooling the systems and less energy use. The consolidation also streamlines and optimizes server operations.
It’s easy to see why this would be beneficial for larger companies, but a small business obviously has different needs. If your small business has a relatively simple server infrastructure, runs only a few servers smoothly, and employs a few dozen workers or fewer, the benefits from virtualization may not make up for the up-front cost of new hardware and software installation. If your small business is more technologically intensive, runs many servers at a fraction of their processing capabilities, and employs a hundred or more workers, you may want to take a closer look at virtualization.
Another important function of virtualization is to serve as a way for systems to recover from a catastrophic hardware failure. Disaster recovery involves backing up a fully virtualized infrastructure. By backing up important systems and software in a virtualized environment, businesses can quickly get back up and running with minimum downtime. Some businesses may even choose to place the backup servers in a different location, allowing for them to be relocated in the event of a disaster.
Adopting this strategy once again depends on the amount of resources your small business has at hand. It also raises some security questions, since very important backup data would be contained in an easily accessible space. Disaster recovery plans also require more planning in order to safekeep the virtual machines. If your small business can spare the time, effort, and resources for it, using virtualization for system backup purposes can be worth it in the end.
One of virtualization’s major benefits is how it makes the IT department’s job much easier. Virtualization is able to automate many of the tedious tasks that take up so much of the staff’s time and efforts. This leads to added savings and an IT staff that is more capable of responding to other technical problems. Virtualization also allows the IT department to grow at the same pace as the business. Building new servers in a virtual environment can be done at a fraction of the cost and time commitment. Upgrade costs are similarly reduced.
If your small business could stand to benefit from these advantages, virtualization may be the solution. The IT workers at many small businesses often feel stretched and asked to attend to many different tasks as problems rear up. Even if your small business isn’t experiencing these IT problems, if you anticipate that it will in the near future, addressing it with virtualization is a safe bet.
If the costs of virtualization still seem like a barrier to implementing it, a number of tech companies have potential solutions. Some companies offer virtualization services that only come with the most basic features, reducing the installation costs. These services are often considered small business-friendly, giving smaller operations many of the benefits of virtualization at only a fraction of the price. Other low-cost options include free virtual offerings through open-source solutions and operating systems that already come with virtualization features. These options allow a small business to gain access to virtualization, but if you choose to go this route, make sure your IT department has the necessary skills to implement them.
Using virtualization for your small business requires some careful considerations about the benefits involved and whether your business can handle the costs and risks.If you still fill stuck, there are virtualization training online courses you can take to help answer any virtualization questions you may have. A small company with few servers and a small IT operation will see few gains from virtualization, but if your small business can gain significantly from increased server efficiency, system backups, and a more effective IT department, virtualization could hold the answers.