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When Virtualization Makes Sense For SMBs
Virutal environments make sense for even the smallest companies when they are provided from the cloud

By: John Shepler

Virtualization has been a hot topic within enterprise data centers for years. It’s a matter of getting more out of what you already have. Virtualization can turn a lightly loaded server into many smaller servers that you’d otherwise have to buy. It can ease the burden of a heavily loaded server across many hardware platforms, avoiding the expense of one monstrous hardware platform. That’s great for large corporations, but what about small and medium size businesses. Is there any way they can gain the efficiencies of virtualization?

Just look to the cloud
Virtualization is the magic behind the curtain that makes the cloud a practical reality. Clouds are nothing more than extremely large data centers set up to serve many tenants. The principle is that any customer will perceive having access toinfinite resources and a sense of being the only user if the data center is engineered correctly. The practical way to do that is with virtualization.

Every aspect of the cloud is virtualized
It starts with the servers used as computing resources. The racks and racks full of physical servers are virtualized into hundreds or thousands of virtual servers. What happens on one virtual server stays on one virtual server. As long as there are enough physical resources to support the demand for as many virtual servers as customers activate, users have no idea how many other customers are sharing the same physical assets or what the maximum number of virtual servers can be.

Storage and bandwidth virtualization
The same is true for storage, also virtualized, and bandwidth, which has always worked well as a virtualized resource. Even software can be virtualized when running on the cloud. This has led to the Software as a Service or SaaS model. Customers perceive having their own installation of a software package, although in practice they are one out of many.

Why SMBs?
So, what does this have to do with the Small and Medium Business (SMB)? Once you are relieved from the burden of ownership, the barriers to entry for fairly sophisticated computing services shrink considerably. Few companies have the multi-million dollar capital resources to go out and build secure, environmentally controlled data centers with layers of redundant power, and then populate these spaces with rack after rack of the latest hardware. They also need to budget to hire the staff that makes all of these resources work together reliably and keep on top of patches, upgrades and troubleshooting.

Specialized service providers offer clost savings
The cloud moves all of that cost and effort from your hands to those of a dedicated service provider who is in business to manage the cloud and nothing else. They’re not trying to run a manufacturing, marketing or healthcare company. They’re in business to run a cloud and run it for excellent performance. By purchasing your IT services from a cloud provider instead of replicating a data center on-premises, the smaller a company you can be and still afford the service. It’s now possible for even “mom & pop” operations to use cloud services from the day the business opens and grow their IT right along with their business.

Don't forget your phone system
Here’s something else that SMB operations are finding is better off in the cloud than on-site. That’s PBX telephone systems. How many companies have the expertise to run their own phone systems? Many contract with VARs (Value Added Resellers) and consultants to buy, install and maintain an in-house telephone system. Send all that to the cloud and all you need onsite is the phones and perhaps a provider installed managed gateway. They even take care of the trunk lines that connect to the public telephone system.

What’s all this cost?
Cloud services are sold on a pay-as-you-go basis. Many are prices by the month for each user or “seat,” as they are called. Computing is sold by the number of virtual servers and quantity of storage per month or even per hour. Unlike normally contracted services, cloud resources are easily increased or decreased. Often you can do this through a Web-based control panel for your account. Your bill is automatically adjusted as you add and subtract resources.

Are you finding it too hard to acquire the computing and communication resources you reallyneed to be competitive? Consider getting those resources as services from the cloud and pay only for what you use now with option of rapidly scaling up when business conditions dictate. Compare prices and options from multiple cloud service providers now and compare with the expense of trying to do it all yourself.

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