Virtualization – myth or solution?

We come across more and more businesses that have their server environment virtualized or are thinking about it. Yes, this is the new way of installing and maintaining server environments but does it defeat the purpose in a Small Business Environment?

Companies in the Caribbean can generally be categorized as Small Business and have limited staff and technology in use to support their business process. They operate in an harsh environment with salt air and hot sun – a combination that can be killing for IT equipment. Server are not in ventilated environments but rather tucked away under someones desk. They have problems with the heat and in many cases we see them shut down automatically due to that (good thing this protection exists). Now – do you want to run a virtual environment on that and what is the purpose?

Yes, virtualization can in some cases be a very good solution. For instance when the business needs to run an additional server for a proprietary program or for any other reason. Having a server operational that only used 10% of its resources, making these virtual would be a plan to consider. However, with the server under someones desk, if this fails all services fail. We think that virtualization is a solution that will only work properly when the following conditions apply;

  • At least two physical servers are available to allow a fail over situation and have the ability to load balance between server hardware.
  • All servers should be operated in an environment that is cool, dry and safe for influences from outside (think storms)
  • The virtual environment needs to be monitored and in case problems occur quick response is needed
  • Data backups can be done through images and/or file level backup
  • Your IT supplier needs to have the knowledge and experience to use a virtual environment

So basically yes, virtualization can offer solutions to a Small Business environment but are in general not easy to setup or maintain but they do offer a way of fail over in case of an emergency on hard- or software.

To allow virtualization quite a strong server is generally needed with a 64bits architecture – so keep in mind that when considering virtualization it could very well be that your current server may not have the specifications to allow this to be installed.