Virtualization

Virtualization, is simply creating a virtual version of  something, including but not limited to a virtual hardware platform, storage  device, operating system or network resources. It’s often regarded as a very complex and expensive task that’s absolutely beyond the reach of small business owners which is not true.

There are several benefits small businesses can get from virtualization which includes cost reductions and effective IT systems. There are several options available on the market like the VMware Workstation and Oracle’s VirtualBox – these companies have successfully placed virtualization technologies within the financial capacity of many small business owners.

Here are six smart ways you can easily leverage on the power of virtualization in your small business.

Smart Way #1: Provide Internal Services

If you would like to setup a Wiki you can use in-house or test out a Jabber IM deployment within your company intranet, then virtualization comes in handy.

Virtualization will help you setup the right environment without mandating you to buy new hardware or cluttering up the existing machines. Once the initial trial or deployment has proven to be successful, you can easily move the VM to a dedicated virtual server machine or quickly expand them further by adjusting the VM parameters like the CPU allocation or RAM.

Smart Way #2: Replace Any Old or Unsupported Machines

This always happens within the IT industry – that specialized software you have been using suddenly becomes obsolete because the developer of that software is no longer in business as a result of bankruptcy and you no longer get the support you need to use them effectively.

Sometimes, you might have even misplaced the original installation files of these software you use and might not be sure of the configurations or settings any more.

Now instead of spending your money trying to replace a perfectly working app, or waiting and hoping that the machine running it would last for many more years, you can easily convert the entire PC to a Virtual Machine using free software like the VMware vCenter Converter.

When you do this, it will give you the opportunity to continue using that unsupported software a little longer on any laptop or desktop as long as it has a decent processor and sufficient RAM, however within a virtualized environment.

In terms of security for your IT systems, running unsupported software on your PCs is not a great idea which is why it’s necessary that you only run them behind firewalls on a virtual machine (VM).

Smart Way #3:Create Backup Systems

You can use the virtualization method discussed above to make snapshots of any server and place them within a VM as backup systems. This type of Virtual Machine backup can easily help in putting your business back on track in record time whenever you experience any form of hardware failure.

Although a VM backup or snapshot of your files is not the best substitute to the more reliable and valid forms of daily backups because you’ll need the   data backups to restore your servers, a recent snapshot comes in handy as it helps in reducing your downtime and also buys you the much needed time you’ll definitely need to configure a new physical hardware.

Smart Way #4: Distribute Apps Without Installing Them

You can easily package and distribute apps inside a VM image. It’s one of the best methods of transporting your favorite applications on any hard drive between your home and workplace. It also helps in preventing the failures of such demos as a result of code libraries and missing drivers.

You can also use this method to run several applications like Skype and Yahoo Messenger on multiple browsers even with different accounts.

Smart Way #5: Support Mobility

Modern technology has evolved with the invention of several mobile gadgets and devices that have made it much easier for people to work from virtually anywhere as long they can stay connected to the internet or previously configured wireless networks.

Many business owners have created systems where their employees can access official data or apps in their offices without using a PC. In such cases,  other Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP)-clients for Androids, Windows RT and iOS  often enable such users to connect with their official workstations from  anywhere around the world.

You can easily set up a Virtual Machine (VM) to serve as the RDP host instead of allowing your employees to connect directly with their workstations. This ensures that the system is properly configured to service their needs and also helps in protecting your entire systems when you separate the work machines.

Smart Way #6: Improve Security

These days cyber attacks is on the increase and the fact that most of these attacks are actually targeted at Web browsers often increases the risk small businesses face with their data.

You can easily fight this without breaking the bank by limiting Web browsing activities to a virtual environment without any access to sensitive files.  That way, if a hacker succeeds in breaking through a Web browser, you can’t be affected because a quick restart will easily erase any modified system files or malwares that has been installed. This is based on an assumption that the VM was started in a read-only mode.

You can learn more about virtualization at: http://www.vmware.com/virtualization/

Here is a great Video Intro to Virtualization

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