Small Business IT Tips: – Virtualization

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Using Virtual Machines to run your business services is probably the cheapest and easiest way to boost your business efficiency and lower costs.

Some ideas where you can use virtualization

  • Maintain your old systems.  You know that old Windows XP laptop that runs your entire payroll system, that you have to lug around to your accountant every quarter because a software update would cost $10K.  Clone it to a virtual machine, or create a new Windows XP virtual machine and install your payroll software.  Now you can run payroll from your new Core i7 MacBook Pro.
  • Consolidate all of your servers.  Maybe you have a web server, an Exchange server, a radius server, a database server, a firewall, and a file server and you’re IT guy thinks he’s super awesome for getting them all to fit in a nice floor mount network rack that you managed to get used at a second hand office supplies warehouse.  Great! But did you ever stop to think about how much power all of those machines are going to use?  According to a 2009 IBM study, the average server used 425 Watts at “average load”… that means you could be using about 2500 WATTS!  That is a pretty great reason to consolidate all of your servers and have it pay for itself.
  • Phone Systems.  Who says you need one of those large phone system boxes hanging on your wall that can only be serviced by an outside contractor.  How about a Voice Over IP Sytem…All Running from a Virtual Machine.  You just blew my mind!
  • Support old hardware.  If you have an old plotter, printer, scanner, or other piece of old hardware that doesn’t have drivers for the new operating systems, virtualize it.
  • Recover your ancient backups.  Frequently I get contacted to recover data from really old media or software that can’t be accessed any more.  Solution,  load up an old virtual machine that supported that media.
  • Run an in-house mail or webserver with instant failover and recovery.  With virtual machines your can create snapshots, do live syncs, and be up and running from a crash or a hack in a matter of minutes.

The best part about virtualization is that there are paid versions… and there are FREE ones.  Personally I think the best one is VirtualBox . Virtualbox does have a few limitations but it’s cost of free is great, and without going into the extensive details about what a Hypervisor is or how different types of hypervisors work.  Just know this,  they are all pretty flexible and most can do pretty much the same thing.

For a good performing Virtual Machine Host, all that you need to provide is a decently powerful machine and as much RAM as you want to buy.  You could in theory run all of the suggested ideas above from a single machine with a Quad core processor and about 8GB of RAM running the free Ubuntu Linux OS.  Of course, server class hardware would be best, but it’s not required.

To find out how Gridstorm can help you Virtualize your systems, call 614-655-1000