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Virtualization has quickly become one of the most popular components of a modern IT environment, with experts estimating that, as of 2016, as much as 76% of all businesses are using some form of virtualization as part of their technology infrastructure. The biggest reason for this increasing rate of virtualization is the range of benefits this technology offers, such as reduced overhead and maintenance costs, faster data backup and recovery, better business continuity, and more efficient IT operations.
Bringing virtualization into your operations means integrating this new technology with your existing technology, a process which requires careful planning. Switching over to a virtualized environment isn’t as simple as plugging in a new device or transferring data from one platform to another; in fact, it can create a massive disruption to your operations if not implemented correctly.
If a virtualization project is on the horizon for your small business, there are three best practices you should follow.
Randomly choosing an aspect of your infrastructure to virtualize will create major problems for your business. Before taking on a virtualization project, you need to carefully consider which business goals this project will help you achieve. Conducting a full IT infrastructure audit – or ideally, having a trusted IT provider conduct one for you – is a necessary step in the planning process. An audit will help you understand how virtualization should be implemented, calculate your ROI, and set realistic expectations for the outcome of the project.
If you’re looking at implementing server virtualization, your audit should focus on determining:
Scalability is one of virtualization’s biggest selling points, but it’s also one of the main reasons you need to be cautious when beginning a virtualization project. Just because the potential for virtual resources is limitless, doesn’t mean the physical hardware components of your infrastructure can handle supporting those resources.
A good backup solution is just as important for virtual systems as it is for physical ones. You have the option of backing up the system as a whole – a significantly more time-consuming process – or simply backing up the data contained in the system. If you already have a backup solution in place, it may not be fully compatible with a virtual system. However, there are many great software packages available that make both physical and virtual machine backups easier.
There are several options available to complete backups for a virtual system:
However you choose to accomplish this task, it’s important that backups are completed regularly, and the data is easily accessible in the event of a disaster.
Before you jump into a virtualization project, you need to make sure you have a clear and complete understanding of the limitations of this technology. Compared to the advantages it offers, limitations are few and far between. But they still exist, and you need to be mindful of them.
Server virtualization has the most limitations, mainly due to the way virtualization divides processing power. If you have large databases stored on a virtual server that involve a high volume of ongoing processes, processes associated with other functions or tasks will be slowed down out of necessity. If the physical component of your server fails, all of your virtual components become unavailable. A second physical server that is configured to act as a backup can solve this issue but can prove to be an expensive solution that may not fit your budget.
The most important thing to keep in mind when considering a virtual server is the expert maintenance required to keep it running smoothly, especially when you have a large-scale, complex setup in place. If your budget won’t allow for the manpower needed to handle this task, it’s best to stick with smaller scale projects until you are more familiar with the technology.
Making the transition to a virtual environment can be hugely beneficial to your business, but it’s not something you can simply decide out of the blue to take on. Using this technology to your full advantage means taking the time to consider how best to implement it.