5. Shared Storage, Yes: Virtual Storage, Maybe Not
There is a lot of hype out there about storage virtualization. However, all but the more -savvy small businesses can probably do without it. The big thing for some small businesses, though, is having centralized storage that is shared between users. That can mean a storage server or other type of storage that is accessed over the network. But it doesn’t have to be virtual.
“Some people will tell you that virtual servers must have virtual storage, however those themes usually come from vendors or their supporters whose livelihoods are tied to virtual storage,” said Schulz.
6. Speed of Deployment
Some organizations need to be able to provision servers rapidly. In some cases, failure to do so is a distinct competitive disadvantage. If that’s the case in your business, virtualization is a must. Ordering a physical server, connecting it on the floor, adding the applications etc. takes days if not weeks. But once a virtual framework is in place, it can be done in no time at all.
“In a virtualized environment, you can dynamically allocate resources on demand, so you can bring up a server in a matter of minutes,” said Chris Giroux, a virtualization specialist at CDW.
7. Take a Server Virtualization Test Drive
Before making a big decision to go all virtual, it might be wise to try out virtualization on a small scale. Roth suggested buying an inexpensive tool such as VMware Workstation, which costs around $199, and is a good way for IT staff to get to know virtualization. It also establishes a good foundation for a simple virtualization infrastructure.
“VMware Workstation is an easy way to try out virtualization and see value early,” said Roth. “It is available for a 30 day trial, and it can show immediate value.”
8. A Virtualization Study Hall
Don’t be afraid to study up on virtualization before implementing anything. A good place to start is Virtualization for Dummies. It provides a basic understanding of virtualization and what it can do for you. That knowledge will help you decide whether to go ahead or not.
9. Don’t Buy In to Server Virtualization Hype
Probably the worse reason to go virtual is because you got caught up in the buzz of it all. This happened in the nineties when most small businesses felt obliged to get on the Web. That resulted in millions of websites that were costly at the time and of limited value. Back then, some businesses really did need to be online, but many could have waited a year or two.
There is so much hype around virtualization today that it would be easy for some businesses to rush headlong into it without thinking. Don’t do it!
“A sure sign that you don’t need to virtualize is if you are doing it just for the sake of using a new technique, technology or tool, said Schulz. “Take a step back and ask if you want to virtualize a server or if you need to. That goes in hand with assessing the costs versus the benefits and risk of not doing so.”
10. Get Help from a Reputable Vendor
Although server virtualization can be quite complicated, the good news is that vendors are making it much easier to deploy virtualized servers. Solution bundles include servers and storage and pre-installed virtual servers for turnkey operation.
“Some of these solutions are targeted for smaller SMBs making for very rapid and easy acquisition, installation and on-going support, especially when you do not have a resident super geek in-house to take care of the technology, or if you prefer to focus on running and supporting the business vs. investing in science projects,” said Schulz.
CDW, for example, offers a free server virtualization preparedness self-assessment tool (pdf doc) for small businesses to see how ready they are for virtualization.
Drew Robb is a Los Angeles-based freelancer specializing in technology and engineering. Originally from Scotland, he graduated with a degree in geology from Glasgow's Strathclyde University. In recent years he has authored hundreds of articles as well as the book, Server Disk Management by CRC Press.
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