One of the hottest small business technological trends of the past decade is taking infrastructure and systems and transforming them from physical to virtual. Nearly every aspect of the office from employee onboarding through document management is now done on computers. The next step is to take these computer based systems off our physical computers to virtual environments.
In technical circles, the process of virtualization is the creation of a virtual copy of something actual like a server, network or storage device. Virtualization allows one device to run as more than one device. Running Windows on your Mac, or partitioning a physical hard drive into smaller sections that each act as a separate hard drive are examples of virtualization. In general, there are four types of virtualization:
- Operating System virtualization. Running more than one operating system on the same device.
- Server virtualization. Running more than one server on the same physical server.
- Storage virtualization. Linking together multiple storage devices into what’s perceived as one device. Cloud storage is a common form of storage virtualization.
- Network virtualization. Network virtualization is the combining of network connections like Internet and other Data into one seemingly visible network and then dividing the connection into separate connections. E.g., Taking a 5mb connection and assigning 2mb to your server and 3mb to employee’s computers.
In small businesses, the most popular type of virtualization is server virtualization and when many experts speak of “virtualization” they’re normally talking about server virtualization. The four types of virtualization do share common benefits though. These benefits include:
- Decreased physical hardware. When you virtualize systems, you need less hardware. Imagine an office that has both Mac and Windows computers, you can run either OS on the same machine which means no need to duplicate computers. If you have more than one server, you can bring them together onto one server, possibly being able to get rid of unnecessary equipment.
- Reduced overhead. With virtualization you will be able to get rid of hardware, which means all associated operating costs - e.g., electricity bills - and capital expenditures - e.g., maintenance - related to the hardware are decreased, or eliminated. You save money in the long run.
- Increased efficiency. As virtualization solidifies different systems into one, you’ll be able to more efficiently use the hardware components e.g., there’s no need to have separate Internet connections for email, servers and computers.
- Easy Disaster Recovery. With virtualization, you don’t need to invest heavily in backing up your company’s data, you can take the money saved from virtualization and invest it in a small number of servers that house backups offsite. When a disaster strikes, you can be up and running again quickly.
- Extended device lifecycle. It seems that current hardware is out of date almost as soon as you buy it, and within a couple of years it’s struggling to meet demands of more modern programs. With virtualization your programs are stored on servers, so the need for modern equipment is lessened. This means you can use your current equipment for longer.
The biggest benefit to virtualization is that it isn’t an all-or-nothing solution, you can virtualize different functions at your own pace, often times starting with free or low cost solutions and working up to more advanced and costly implementations. If you’re interested in virtualizing your business or would like to learn more, please contact us.