Thursday, August 21, 2008

Virtualization for the Small Business, Part I: Introduction

Virtualization. Virtualization. Virtualization. That's the vendor-chant enterprise IT professionals have been hearing, and heeding, for the better part of a decade now. But what is it? And what does it mean for the small businesses' bottom line? In this multi-post series, I'll be exploring how virtualization can benefit smaller companies, as well as specific products appropriate for use in these environments.

Generally, the term "virtualization" in the computer sense refers to a layer which abstracts resources from resource demands. This series will focus on server platform virtualization, which turns a powerful server computer into a virtualization server. This virtualization server can host multiple logical servers (Windows, UNIX, Linux, etc) on the same hardware.

Server platform virtualization achieves this by providing each logical server with "virtual hardware". Logical servers could be your e-mail server, web server, payroll server, servers for specialized industry applications, even test servers. To the logical servers, the "virtual hardware" looks just like real computer hardware, and they function normally. Some virtualization vendors even provide tools to migrate existing physical servers to logical servers for loading onto a virtualization server. At any rate, all of these different server types can now reside in the virtualization server, providing the same services to your network as when they were separate physical servers themselves.

What does all this technical jabber mean to the small business owner? When my clients ask that very same question, the basic answer is nearly always the same:
  1. Cost savings
  2. Flexibility
  3. Fast, simple disaster recovery
In my next post, I'll go into more detail about these advantages of server platform virtualization. After that, we'll be off to investigate just which products meet the cost and administration needs of small businesses.

Until next time!

Michael O'Brien is a partner at Praece Strategic Technology Consulting, helping small and medium businesses align technology plans with business goals.

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