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.