Virtualization for SMBs, Top to Bottom

Recently, Russ Stockdale wrote a blog post (part 2 of a 4-part series) on a VMware blog. He states that he is continuously looking for opportunities to increase revenue, control costs, and expand services to customers. These are the exact issues that I assist clients with all across the SMB range—from companies with one physical server running everything to customers with multiple sites and 100s of users. Since I get to talk to customers, many of which are SMBs (the same space Mozy serves) and architect solutions to their problems, whatever they may be, I figured I would write a blog along the same lines. The one key technology that we use and recommend is virtualization. Below are some suggestions for products/solutions GreenPages often provides SMBs.

Our smaller clients (less than 5 servers) have the same uptime and business continuity demands that larger companies do, but usually with a single person as their IT department. Virtualization makes their lives easier and provides much more flexibility than physical servers. The VMware VSA (vSphere Storage Appliance) allows the use of local storage to provide the benefit of a SAN including vMotion and High Availability at a much lower cost. Reducing a server to a giant file also allows for easier backup and recovery with snapshots, with both VMware and 3rd party backup software.

For medium sized companies, (less than 20 servers) virtualization fills some key technology gaps.  Specifically, the ability to spin up new servers quickly to meet users’ needs is key to a fast paced environment.  These size companies also get the same benefits as I mentioned above with business continuity, flexibility, and much less downtime with vMotion and High Availability. Backups are also easier in a virtual environment and many of our clients are getting rid of tape and putting these backups into the Cloud or another offsite location. That is much easier than rotating backups and taking tapes or a NAS drive offsite on a regular basis.

Our larger SMB customers (more than 20 servers) are usually heavy users of virtualization already.  We help them take the next steps in managing their environment and their risks by helping them implement three key VMware technologies. First, most of these clients already have more than one location. We help them get automated failover and disaster recovery by implementing Site Recovery Manager (SRM).  This is a fantastic way of getting multisite failover, migration, and recovery by leveraging their existing virtual environment and hardware. SRM also provides proof to auditors and management that they have a disaster plan in place that is tested on a regular basis.

The second way we help these customers is by using vCenter Operations Suite to help them manage the hardware and resources they have better. VMware vCenter Operations Enterprise (vCOPs) will point out trouble spots in their environment and assist them in identifying any issues and resolutions. Additionally the software will show them where they have over- or under-allocated resources to specific virtual machines or datastores so they can use those resources elsewhere and put off additional hardware purchases. vCOPs also has some forecasting capabilities so you can plan your next hardware purchases and not have to acquire new hardware unexpectedly.

An additional step that a few of our clients are taking is setting up self-provisioning capabilities with vCloud Director.  This allows them to spin up virtual machines for test or development or for other reasons without any interaction from the IT staff.  This makes it much quicker and easier to create virtual machines.  It also makes for a much cleaner environment since there are limits on who can create VMs and what virtual machines are created. vCloud Director will also clean up the old or expired VMs so you do not end up with VMware sprawl.

All companies no matter how large or small are better off leveraging virtualization to provide more flexibility, easier management, and better uptime and business continuity.  VMware has industry leading technology and features that every SMB can and should take advantage of. If you’re looking for more information on virtualization and SMB IT Solutions check out some other blogs I have written on JourneyToTheCloud.