What Is Virtualization and How Does It Work for Your Small Business?
I hear people talking about virtualization all the time. They’re usually talking about enterprises and data centers and they usually mean server virtualization. But desktops can be virtualized too, which can be helpful to small and medium-size businesses.
First things first: what is virtualization? Virtualization is the process of running multiple virtual machines on a single physical machine. The virtual machines share the resources of one physical computer, and each virtual machine is its own environment.
Large companies—the ones with dozens, even hundreds, of servers—use server virtualization to consolidate the number of machines they”re running while making them operate more efficiently. Few smaller-sized companies have the number of servers needed to make server virtualization a cost-cutting item on their balance sheet.
However, virtualization can help small businesses by enabling them to maintain less equipment, get better use from that equipment, and make backup and recovery more reliable. Here’s how:
One server, many operating systems. Virtualizing your server lets you run different OSes, such as Windows and Linux, in different virtual servers on the same physical server. For example, if you’re a small gaming company, your programmers can develop a game in two different environments, say Windows and Java.
Once you have one virtual server configured, you can use that same configuration to set up new virtual servers, which takes just a few minutes. Compare that to the hours it takes to configure a new physical server, and you’ll see how efficient server virtualization can be.
Server virtualization technologies are quickly gaining ground with companies of all sizes. In fact, I just read a June study from AMI Partners that says medium businesses are much more interested in server virtualization this year than last year: 50 percent more of them are looking at the technology now than then they were in 2009.
Disaster recovery. You can take regular snapshots—as often as you want—of your server. Then, you can use any one of those snapshots to return your server to a particular configuration from a particular point in time. You know, like before that virus hit your network.
Save money, save time. Marcus L. Wilson, president and CEO of intelligIS believes that desktop virtualization is the best way for smaller companies to use virtualization to save money.
“There’s more benefit for small and medium businesses with virtual desktops than server-based technologies. In a 10- to 20-user network, you”re going to have only a couple of servers but 20 to 30 desktops. What’s more expensive? Obviously the desktops, and it takes more resources to maintain them. The average cost for just one desktop is $1,100 plus licenses,” he said.
Marcus suggests setting up a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, or VDI. VDIs use desktop virtualization and thin client workstations instead of desktop PCs. A thin client workstation costs just a few hundred dollars, and you can get years of use from one.
Minimum install, maximum usage. With a VDI, you only have to deal with the server on your network. So, when you want to install a new program, you install it just once on the server. All of your users then access the application through their thin clients. This is a huge time and money saver over installing new software on many individual PCs.
Intrigued? Learn more about VDIs by reading “Enterprise Virtual Desktop Infrastructure: Design for Performance and Reliability.
Are you looking at implementing virtualization in your company? If so, where–on the server or the desktop? If you’re already using desktop virtualization, is it helping you save money and better manage users’ workstations?