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Shedding Light on Virtualization

A Contributed Article by Tom Powledge, vice president of product delivery, SMB and Cloud for Symantec Corp.

To some small and medium-sized businesses today, virtualization may seem somewhat mysterious. It's an extremely popular topic in IT today, and SMBs might see other businesses enjoying its benefits. But they are unsure of exactly how it works and how to effectively leverage it to improve their own business.

In order to understand what gains can be made through embracing virtualization, it's important to understand what it is. Servers are the most common candidates for virtualization, which entails dividing physical machines into separate "virtual" servers that each exists independently from the others - while residing on the same physical machine, with discrete operating platforms and applications. This is made possible through hypervisors, or virtualization management software. Desktops can also be virtualized, delivering applications to end users from a centrally managed location. It's an ideal technology to improve SMB agility.

Why Virtualize?

One of the most important benefits of virtualization is the centralized control it provides, reducing operational expenses. This allows administrators to easily apply patches and system updates to virtualized desktops, and virtualized servers can be easily commissioned and decommissioned, to meet the constantly changing needs of the business. This also presents an advantage in testing new systems and configurations with minimal consequences. A simpler physical infrastructure can also free up IT staff to handle employee needs more efficiently.

Because multiple virtual servers can be run on a single physical machine, virtualization can also reduce capital expenses by purchasing less hardware, which allows for higher utilization rates. It also provides a robust environment to keep data available in case of failures, because the nature of the virtualized resources makes the production of a backup image simpler. This keeps downtime to a minimum, which is vital for today's SMBs.

What You Need to Know

Despite the benefits virtualization has to offer, there are some new challenges that are introduced in a virtualized environment. Because virtual machines can be so easily commissioned, data may be duplicated unnecessarily. In addition, monitoring and reporting can be more difficult to manage in a virtual environment.

Visibility can also be a challenge at the server level, because of the self-contained nature of the virtualized environment. SMBs need to employ management solutions, to give complete visibility into the virtual environment. In addition, the security tools that protected the physical environment may require adjustment to keep information safe in a virtualized environment. Ensure that disaster recovery tools can adequately assess system failures and quickly recover the resources, and establish security processes such as user authentication when accessing servers.

Steps to Successful Virtualization

The best way to initiate the virtualization process in your business is to discuss your situation with a virtualization expert such as an outside consultant or a Value Added Reseller (VAR). You should discuss the current state of your IT infrastructure as well as your goals. Once this is accomplished, you should make a detailed assessment of your current systems to determine the effects virtualization will have, and decide what processes you would like to improve.

With this assessment, you can determine what hardware and software to virtualize. You may want to start small, with less-critical applications that are not highly resource-intensive. Once you are accustomed to the initial implementation, you can expand your virtualization initiative.

As part of the virtualization process, be sure to implement solutions that will back up the virtual environment, as well as disaster recovery solutions. Without the highest possible uptime, virtualization can't live up to its full potential as a viable solution. Effective backups also limit information sprawl, ensuring higher utilization rates and further improving the cost-efficiency of the deployment.

Like any other technology adopted in the workplace, virtualization requires intelligent planning to achieve success. By taking steps to minimize the challenges it poses and make the most of its benefits, today's SMBs can dispel the mysteries this innovative technology has to offer and work their own magic, to create a more streamlined, effective business.

To learn more about how to successfully implement virtualization in an SMB environment, download a Symantec white paper here.

Published Monday, September 24, 2012 6:36 AM by David Marshall
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Comments
Shedding Light on Virtualization « VT News - (Author's Link) - September 24, 2012 7:51 AM
Shedding Light on Virtualization : VMblog.com – Virtualization … | Web Hosting Geeks - Shared Web Hosting, VPS, Dedicated Servers, Virtualization and Cloud Computing - (Author's Link) - September 25, 2012 11:53 AM
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