Virtualization seems to be the latest trend for business (and personal) these days. Everywhere you turn, people are talking about the “cloud” and utilizing their “online services”. But how realistic is this move for businesses? And is this just a passing fad?
First off, let’s be clear the concept of virtualization for computers isn’t as new as Microsoft or other big contenders would have you believe. In fact, the original computing world was completely “virtual”. Back then, we called them mainframes. All data and applications were in a central location; the only thing the user had was a terminal in which to log into the main servers.
Mainframes were powerful but the architecture had quite a few drawbacks. Limitations, such as capacity of simultaneous users and distance from the mainframe servers, directed companies more towards personal computers and stand-alone devices.
The idea of virtualization has risen again because of many advancements which makes the concept and technology far more accessible. In today’s world, virtualization refers to a diverse array of solutions and possibilities. Understanding the differences and possibilities are key to gaining the benefit of the technology.
Small companies (< 50 desktops)
Smaller companies can see real cost benefits from virtualizing their support or auxiliary systems. When we speak about virtualization for smaller businesses, we are talking primarily about utilizing the services of another company to eliminate the need of locally maintaining hardware and software.
Example: A mid-sized manufacturing company with roughly 15 employees was getting bombarded with spam in their email box. The spam was causing important emails from clients to be delayed and even rejected.
The cost for purchasing a local spam filtering software was a flat server rate plus individual cost per user. Divided across 15 boxes, it worked out to over $200/year/user.
Solve-IT.ca recommended they move to a virtualized spam filter, where they were able to reduce the cost of spam filtering to just a few dollars a month per user, or < $100/year/user. There was no compromise in service and in fact they gained message queuing, mail archiving and the ability to reply to emails in the queue in the event of a server outage.
Larger companies (> 50 desktops)
In larger companies, they can benefit from the same shared services as small businesses. But there are other opportunities available, such as Hyper-V, a Microsoft technology which allows for a single server to act like multiple.
Example: A large pharmaceutical company had at one time maintained close to 27 servers to store all their critical clinical trials data. This large number of servers was starting to impede the space allotted for computers and thus the ability for the company to continue to grow.
Rather than simply place more servers into the room, Solve-IT.ca worked out a new architecture for the environment that reduced the 27 servers down to 7 and allowed for additional growth within the existing environment. In addition to saving floor space, this allowed the company to retire the other 20 servers and save on maintenance time, reduce their carbon footprint and experience a utilities cost saving.
So what’s the right virtualization solution?
Virtualizing a company’s IT has to be done with a lot of care and forethought. Without the proper planning, critical systems can go down and data can be lost.
It is also not a “one-size-fits-all” environment. The solution has to fit with the company’s needs. For instance, a lawyer firm Solve-IT.ca recently worked with had legal requirements to maintain all data within Canada. Thus, it was critical for us to work with them and find the right solution to meet their needs and not compromise their data.
Are you interested in virtualizing your environment? Curious what options may be available to you?
Give us a call and book some Discovery time with Solve-IT.ca. We’ll be able to review your existing setup and provide our assessment on what architecture would make the most sense for your business.