The potential advantages for virtualizing your servers are many, but this article focuses on the three main reasons why a small business may want to look into virtualization. Virtualization is usually something that you hear about in a larger company that has several servers and hundreds of employees, but it does have its place in much smaller businesses if done correctly because it can improve disaster recovery, server utilization, and reduce power consumption.
Improve Disaster Recovery
You have the potential to get your server back up and running faster if there was a critical hardware failure on your server it that server is virtualized. You could potentially copy the “virtual server” file over to another piece of hardware and then install a virtual machine player such as “VMware Player” and boot up your “virtual” server file within minutes and have it fully functional again almost regardless of the hardware that it is physically running on.
If this hardware problem had happened in a regular, non virtualized environment, you would have to fix the hardware problem on that specific server before using it again, or at minimum restore from backup to another piece of hardware. This usually isn’t just a matter of waiting on the restore files to be copied, but usually a fresh installation of the operating system on the replacement hardware is involved.
With virtualization, your server can be backup up and functional in the amount of time that it takes to do a file copy. Note, obviously that the larger the virtual server file, the longer it would take to copy the file. Nevertheless, the amount of time involved with doing a file copy vs. a restoration from tape or online backup would be significantly less.
Improve Server Utilization
Most Small Businesses that I have encountered that have a 2-5 servers could really manage on much less in today’s “virtualization capable” world. A lot of small businesses of this size tend to “dedicate” a server to particular Line of Business Application or function such as a Mail Server, Database Server, File Server, etc. Most of these servers are using only a fraction of that server’s processing power. With Virtualization, those servers can be consolidated onto fewer physical servers and the amount of processing power and memory needed can be added as the needs of the virtual servers change.
Reduce Power Consumption
When you combine your servers and eliminate unneeded physical servers, you are going to see a reduction in the amount of power consumption. This is not only due to not having as many servers or monitors plugged in, but also in the reduction of cooling costs associated with cooling those unneeded servers. I don’t know of a study out for how much you can save in a small business of the size that we described above, but I know that in larger environments the savings costs associated with cooling their data centers can be as high 85%.