Virtual Storage Has Real Benefits for Small Businesses
Improve hardware use and manageability as well as reduce costs with storage virtualization.
Virtualization was initially developed for large companies to make their infrastructure, particularly servers and storage, operate more efficiently and to cut spending costs on new hardware. Like many technologies, server and storage virtualization products are now being developed for small businesses to bring the same benefits to their networks.
Many smaller companies start by creating a virtualized server environment. Using hypervisor software, you can divide a single server into multiple virtual servers, each one running its own operating system and associated workload. This lets one server run many more different applications than the one operating system, one workload model of an un-virtualized server.
Storage virtualization is the logical next step. Like server virtualization, storage virtualization can help you get more use out of your existing hardware and makes your network more flexible and manageable. Storage virtualization can also help you expand your storage capacity without investing in new servers or storage appliances.
Storage virtualization sounds more complicated that it actually is and well within the scope of most small business networks with more than one storage device. Storage virtualization pools all of your computing resources from multiple storage devices (such as storage servers or network-attached storage devices [NAS]) into a single, virtual storage resource. This virtual storage resource no longer appears to users—or their applications—to be associated with a particular hard disk, storage server, or NAS device. This is called a ”layer of abstraction“ between the storage hardware and the applications that access the storage. It’s the ultimate in shared storage, because you can assign any storage resource to any user, regardless of the resource’s location on the network.
The storage may be virtual but the benefits are real
Small companies can benefit from storage virtualization in a variety of ways. First, you’ll get more use out of your existing hardware through increased utilization, which means that you can use more of your storage capacity, including disks that are now only partially used. Some storage hardware is running at as little as 20 percent capacity, but storage virtualization can increase that to 80 percent or possibly more.
Second, when you’re using your storage devices at their true capacity, you don’t need to buy as much storage or invest in new storage as often. That can turn into a significant cost savings for your small business.
And third, storage virtualization can make it easier to manage storage, particularly if you have more than one stand-alone physical storage device, like NAS appliances, on your network. Because your storage appears to be a single virtual device, you can manage all of your storage resources from one console. Storage virtualization lets you allocate resources to users and manage your devices without having to worry about the hardware or software that use it. You can also move data between storage resources easily, no matter which physical device it’s stored on. Also, with storage virtualization, you change or update storage resources without having to shut down the servers, which can minimize server downtime and its impact on employee productivity.
As your small business grows, so will your storage needs. Storage virtualization is a cost-effective way to expand your existing storage capacity and take advantage of innovative technologies that can help your business operate more efficiently.
Is your company using a virtualized server or storage environment? Share your experience!