Mounting IT costs has always been one of the biggest problems facing Australian businesses. As a result, they’re forced to purchase cheap, subpar servers and desktops that don’t meet their computing requirements. Fortunately, there is a solution that allows you to benefit from hi-tech hardware without the costs.

With virtualisation, even small companies can afford enterprise-level computers. Even if you’re not looking for cost-cutting strategies, virtualisation provides numerous other benefits.

It’s been around for a long time, but it’s a complex technology that’s extremely difficult to understand. That said, it’s important to understand the basics of virtualisation and what it can do for your company.

What is virtualisation?

Normally, operating systems are installed on hardware that users have physical access to. Without the right software, this means that one computer can have only one operating system; which is a problem when you need servers with a few different operating systems. What’s worse is some servers, like your email server, will use only a fraction of their hardware capacity; which translates to wasted resources.

Virtualisation allows a server to act and perform like many computers. With virtualisation, something called a hypervisor enables you to install as many OS ‘instances’ as you want on one server, provided you have enough storage space and processing power.

Instead of buying several low-cost, low-quality servers to run different operating systems, you can purchase one high-powered server that provides all the compute power your business needs. This not only frees up space in your server room, but it also dramatically cuts the time and money spent maintaining and managing your IT infrastructure.

There are a number of ways virtualisation can improve resource utilisation, but four strategies are especially useful for Australian small businesses.

Desktop virtualisation

This form of virtualisation separates operating systems, applications, and data from the physical device and stores it on a remote server. With this setup, administrators can create on-demand desktops that users can log into using an internet connection.

Typically, desktop virtualisation involves the use of “virtual machines” (VM) — software computers that, much like a physical computer, contain operating systems, computing resources, and apps. Administrators carve out a portion of a server’s resources and allocate it to VMs that employees log into remotely. Employees can then run these VMs on any company-registered device by simply connecting to the internet.

Because the computing resources responsible for VMs come from a powerful server, the desktops employees use to connect to them can be as cheap as they come. In fact, with desktop virtualisation, even the most barebones PCs can easily run the most demanding apps — and the best part is they’re cheaper, easier to maintain, and more energy efficient than traditional desktops.

Your entire fleet of VMs can be managed from the server, eliminating the need to install and update apps, back up files, and configure security settings on individual workstations. And if one VM got infected with malware, the damage would be contained to just that VM, making it easy to remove the threat and provision a clean one.

Application virtualisation

Virtualising applications isolates the software from the operating system so it can run on its own virtual environment. This means virtualised apps aren’t installed on the computer they are viewed on; instead they are “streamed” to users on-demand and all the resources required to run them are coming from a remote server.

One big benefit of app virtualisation is you can deploy new apps to users quickly because they can connect to the network with any internet-enabled device and run the app. And if an application needs updating, only the remote server needs to be updated.

App virtualisation also allows apps that would normally conflict with one another to reside on the same machine. For example, if accounting software keeps crashing due to another program using the same resources; app virtualisation separates both apps so they don’t have to fight for resources. You can even run apps not normally compatible with specific devices and operating systems. So a program designed for Windows 10 would be able to run on a Mac.

Storage virtualisation

Another type of virtualisation that is great for small business; allows multiple hard drives to be combined into a single superdrive. That storage space can be provisioned to servers, applications, and users from a single administrative console.

When all available storage capacity is consolidated, you can better utilise the storage space because you don’t have to manage capacity or search multiple drives to find where something is stored. A central console also gives complete visibility of utilisation trends and growth patterns; enabling you to make better capacity planning decisions.

Another major benefit of storage virtualisation is that it makes data migration between systems and/or geographic locations effortless. Backing up your virtual storage is as simple as copying one folder and moving it to a secondary server.

Network virtualisation

Though not as well-known as desktop or application virtualisation; network virtualisation is rapidly gaining ground in the wake of devastating security breaches. Network virtualisation creates software-defined networks; that don’t require networking hardware to set up ultra-secure quarantines and high-end infrastructures.

By doing this, you can connect all your devices to a single network; and use software to organise everything however you’d like. Most of the time; this strategy is used in the name of security because it allows you to prevent malware infections. Network virtualisation restricts the movement of files across your office with virtual barriers.

For instance, if you design your network so your HR department has a subnetwork that is quarantined from other computers in your organisation; sensitive files can’t leave that subnetwork and unauthorised users can’t enter it. Segmenting networks also allows you to better track each group’s data usage and redistribute resources accordingly.

Virtualisation is far from being a plug and play solution. Implementing any of the solutions above requires thorough planning, the right software, years of IT experience; and a team of virtualisation technicians. Luckily, Empower IT can provide them all. We offer a robust selection of virtualisation solutions; from server to network, and everything in between; and help with installations and maintenance. Contact us today to get started!

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