Virtualization: Is it right for my business?

Virtualization is an innovative technology that helps companies save vast amounts of money and operate with greater efficiency. Large companies with vast IT resources were the first to implement it. Now, businesses of all sizes are joining the bandwagon. How do you know if virtualization is right for your organization?

Does virtualization make sense for my business?

Virtualization only starts to make sense at the 5-7 server mark, says, “especially if a company has low, per-application server utilization rates.” At 10-15 servers, you will definitely see a return on your investment.

If you think your company might benefit from virtualization, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • How do most of your users work? Users who require a full desktop experience are ideal candidates for virtualization.
  • Do you have sufficient server capacity?
  • Can your network infrastructure handle user bandwidth requirements?
  • Are you looking at a large scale refresh of desktops in the near future? If the answer is yes, virtualization could help you delay the costs associated with replacing lots of desktops at once. You may also be able to replace aging desktops with thin clients, which further cuts your capital expenditures and maintenance costs.
  • Do you have sufficient storage capacity? According to Info-Tech Research Group, you should estimate 30 to 40 GB per user, depending, of course, on their job requirements.

What are virtualization’s pros?

As an IT Manager, you know if your company is in a position to take on such a project. The main benefits that you’ll want to point out when justifying the allocation of resources are:

Benefits of Virtualization

  • Fewer physical servers required.
  • Ability to continue using legacy software.
  • Reduced maintenance and energy costs.
  • Enables move to the cloud.
  • Longer hardware refresh cycles.
  • Instant offsite access to files and applications.
  • Ability to use thin clients.
  • Less downtime and fewer unplanned outages.
  • Quicker and easier backup and disaster recovery.
  • Less time spent providing desk side support.
  • More efficient IT infrastructure.
  • More efficient deployment of hardware and software installation and upgrades.
  • Reduced operating costs.
  • Increased security.

What are virtualization’s cons?

With so many benefits, is there a downside to virtualization? While there are no real drawbacks, there are factors to consider before making your final decision:

  • Of course, cost is a factor. A substantial investment in hardware and software (including virtualization software) may be required depending on the current state of your network.
  • What kind of learning curve is involved for you and your staff? New skills and experience may be required so you can implement and effectively manage a virtualized environment.
  • Software licensing can be tricky in virtualized environments. It is critical that you understand your application vendors’ licensing requirements to prevent costs from spiraling out of control.

Additionally, not all applications are well-suited to virtualization. These types of apps include:

  • mobile
  • media-rich
  • some security apps
  • apps that require specific peripherals

If your organization has a significant number of employees using these types of software, it may make more sense for you to invest in additional hardware or deploy virtualization technology on a smaller scale.

Here is what some IT professionals on have learned from their experiences implementing virtualization:

Real-World Advice on Virtualization

  • Research virtualization to make sure you have a thorough understanding of it before you begin. Identify a resource you can go to with questions such as a colleague, consultant or an online community forum.
  • Don’t get caught without enough RAM. Fully investigate how much you will need and use, now and in the future.
  • Plan ahead and set up failovers on the major components of your network’s infrastructure to achieve adequate redundancy and avoid downtime.
  • Have a clear understanding of how your software vendor treats licensing in a virtualized environment to avoid excessive licensing costs.
  • Investigate which architectures require specific RAID controllers and/or CPUs.
  • Be aware of how many Virtual Machines you create. While too many physical machines can create inefficiencies, the same’s true with too many virtual machines.

How do I proceed with virtualization?

Clearly, virtualization requires a substantial amount of consideration and a well-thought-out plan. But, once implemented, your business can benefit in numerous ways over the long-term.

When presenting your plan for approval, figure out how much time and money you spend on software and hardware, desk side support, maintenance, energy, etc. Using average savings from across the industry you can show how much you expect to save. Once the plan is approved and you’ve completed the project, track your actual spending to highlight your ROI.

Luckily, much of the leg work has been done for you. Help is available to evaluate whether or not virtualization is right for your business. CDW offers several resources to help you get started. So does Info-Tech Research Group. Start by performing an in-depth assessment of your current environment. It’s likely you’ll save your company time and money, either way.

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