Times have changed and so have technology and the cost of virtual servers. So, if you think virtual servers are just for the big players with dozens of physical servers out there, think again. Even small and mid-sized businesses can benefit a lot from a little virtualisation today and this means your business can too. But first, what exactly is server virtualisation?

Server virtualisation is just as it sounds. Consisting of software called a hypervisor running on a physical server, a virtual server allows you to partition that one server into many virtual machines and manage them all through a single interface. This means the ability to run many applications on fewer physical servers without having to worry about application incompatibilities and support issues, improved asset use and potentially lower IT operation costs.

Server virtualisation also makes disaster recovery — or any kind of application backup and recovery – much easier. Since virtualised data is independent from whatever hardware it’s running on, it’s portable making it excellent for disaster recovery. As Mike Egmont – a partner at Flagship Networks, a company that helps small and mid-sized businesses go virtual – puts it, virtual servers are similar to DVDs. “With a virtualised server, everything [i.e., all that data you stored on that virtual server] essentially fits into one big file, which you can copy onto another virtualised server,” Egmont explained. It’s similar to how “you can take one DVD out of a DVD player and put it into another DVD player without losing any data,” he explained.

But does your business really need to go virtual?  It does if you have more than one server. You should also consider virtualisation if you are replacing or upgrading your existing servers. Trust us; with virtualisation, you’ll have better control of IT costs and free up IT staff for other tasks. And think of all the space you’ll free up! A single virtual server can replace several physical servers.

If you’re worried about damaging your data by migrating to a virtual server, don’t be! While there have been some issues with data migration in the past, experts say that migrating from a physical server to a virtual server today is easy with no damage done to your data. You cannot not trust the experts, can you? And what’s more? With most new physical servers from the leading vendors (e.g., Microsoft, Dell and IBM) coming virtualised these days and plenty of tools available, you can quickly and easily migrate data from a physical server to a virtual one.

Not every application will run or run optimally on a virtualised server, though. Proprietary and/or specialized applications that are tied to a piece of hardware – software for scanners and fax boards, such as – are not good for virtualisation. So decide which applications can be successfully virtualised before you go virtual. Check with the vendor if you have no idea about this. Also consider working with a virtualisation specialist to help you get up and running even if you have a small IT staff.

Now that you’ve come to know the benefits of server virtualisation (and that migration is not going to harm your data), it’s time you chose a virtual server. VMware vSphere (with VMware ESX) for small businesses, Microsoft Hyper-V and Citrix XenServer are the best options for smaller businesses.

With more than 10 years of experience in virtualisation and the biggest market share, VMware vSphere Essentials software promises easy implementation and management and support for most operating systems.

While not the best virtual server out there, Microsoft Hyper-V (which Microsoft offers as a free download!) is popular, especially among businesses that already use or are planning to buy Microsoft Windows Server 2008 and Microsoft applications.

Citrix XenServer, however, is an open source solution and is available as a free download. Like VMware’s ESX, it supports a number of operating systems, including Windows, Linux and Solaris, and has a good track record.  But according to Egmont, it is better suited to “larger, more skilled players.”

So, take your pick and go virtual!  Your team of Sydney Server Virtualisation specialists are here to support you and your business IT needs.  Contact us today.