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Three Tips for Virtualization Newbies

Three Tips for Virtualization Newbies

July 3
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You’ve no doubt heard the term “virtualization” even if you aren’t using it in your business. And you may have read that virtualization offers even the smallest business a plethora of cost advantages, as well as flexibility ones.

But if you’re running a small business, you may feel overwhelmed at where to begin. As recently as a couple of years ago, clear-cut best practices let you know where you should start and what things you should avoid when virtualizing.  In fact, my fellow StorageCraft blogger Contel Bradford discussed it last year in his post Virtualization No-No’s: Five Things You Shouldn’t Virtualize.

We’ve been blessed with an astonishingly capable tool, but that doesn’t mean we should go virtualizing everything in our IT infrastructure. There are some things that are better left untouched.

Contel’s point is well taken, but increasingly those no-no’s are up for grabs. Around the same time Contel’s post went live, IT consultant and TechRepublic writer Scott Matteson wrote a similar post titled 10 things you shouldn’t virtualize, and commenters disagreed with almost every single one.

David Marshall who runs the longstanding VMblog.com told me in an email that the rules have changed just in the last couple of years:

Almost everything is up for grabs these days.  Folks are virtualizing most things, I believe.  And even if performance suffers slightly, they do so for the other benefits that come with, and the negligible performance hits may be worth it… Other initiatives like Windows XP EOL, BYOD, security or compliance changes, etc. are moving people to virtualize more as well.

Given these changes, how do you, the virtualization newbie, decide what to virtualize? I suggest using thin provisioning and, rather than committing yourself to multiple projects and expensive infrastructure purchases, look into virtualizing one or two things in your IT environment and see how that goes.

Not sure how to approach this? Here are a few big picture tips to keep in mind.

1. Pinpoint a few things in your IT environment that could benefit from virtualization.

Do you have a physical server that’s running at only 30% capacity? You might consider provisioning a portion of the remaining 70% to running a virtual machine (VM) that handles your archived data.

Or maybe you have 25 solid PCs running Windows XP, and you aren’t enthused about buying 25 new PCs just to run Windows 8.  Implementing a VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) may be a more cost-effective solution than junking your perfectly good workhorses for new PCs.

2. Get an overview of the risks and challenges of virtualizing a given thing.

If you decide to, say, virtualize your desktops, you want to make sure you check the licensing restrictions on the various software you plan to run. In his post, Contel mentions how licensing and compliance mistakes ended up costing a large global enterprise $52 million, although they did save $4 million on hardware. We can agree that isn’t a good ratio.

Contel’s post gives a few other examples of potential challenges you could face. Take a look at those, and talk to your software vendors and do the needed research so that you avoid unnecessary grief.

3. Test your virtualized instance before deploying it.

This should be self-explanatory, but I’m mentioning it just in case. You never know what could potentially cause a glitch until you run it. You want to make sure your virtual instance runs smoothly—and the physical hardware supporting it can manage the load.

Do you have other suggestions for virtualization newbies? Please tell us in the comments!

Have you got your virtual machines up and running? Well, now you’ve got to back them up, right? Learn how ShadowProtect Virtual makes VM backup simple.

Photo credit: Idaho National Lab via Flickr