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May 29, 2015

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Avoiding the Pitfalls Server Virtualization in SMB Environments

In Part 1 of our post on virtualization at small-to-midsize businesses (SMBs), we discussed how virtualization is helping SMBs do more with less while streamlining operations and enhancing productivity. We also looked at how SMBs are seeing a real impact on their bottom lines rather quickly. Not surprisingly, this is leading more and more SMBs to explore server virtualization in their IT environments.

 

According to research from Techaisle, 60 percent of servers in SMB organizations have been virtualized, and those organizations expect 70 percent of their servers to be virtualized this year. That’s the good news. The bad news is that SMBs continue to struggle with virtualization adoption due to the complexity involved.

 

What are the most common pitfalls that prevent virtualization deployment success? Techaisle identified these as the top five:

 

  • Cost of licenses for the virtualization solution
  • Failure to achieve projected cost savings
  • Challenges associated with managing virtual servers
  • Cost of software licenses for applications in the virtual environment
  • Budget overruns for the project as a whole

 

Just as the benefits of virtualization are magnified for SMBs, so are the long-term costs and impact of a poorly conceived and managed virtualization deployment. As with any corporate initiative, SMBs should focus on the following factors when embarking on server virtualization:

 

Be sure of your budget. Most of the reasons for virtualization deployment failure have to do with cost overruns. SMBs need to have a clear picture of the capital and operational costs involved and enter the project with a concrete budget.

 

Do your homework. What do you expect to achieve from your virtualization deployment? You can’t implement an effective solution until you’ve clearly defined areas for improvement and what a virtualization solution should allow you to accomplish.

 

Is the virtualization platform you’ve chosen scalable and aligned with your business processes? Does it follow an industry-standard approach that will simplify management, maintenance, licensing and support? How will it be managed and monitored? How can you leverage your existing infrastructure? Have you checked to make sure that you won’t run into compatibility issues with legacy applications? What type of training is involved for administrators? How can you ensure optimal performance and security?

 

These are just a handful of the questions that need firm answers before you begin your virtualization deployment. Doing this homework in advance will save you money and make for a much smoother deployment.

 

Make sure you understand virtualization. You don’t need to understand all technical aspects of virtualization backward and forward. However, your technology solution provider should be able to answer all of your questions and make sure you have the foundational knowledge necessary to evaluate your options and make sound decisions.

 

You certainly don’t want to miss out on the benefits of virtualization because you feel overwhelmed, but you also shouldn’t rush into any decisions that could cost you money because you don’t understand what you’re buying.

 

Don’t focus solely on cost. You will inevitably encounter a solution provider that tries to win your business based on price. Cheap hardware and software tends to be difficult to manage and scale, making it more expensive in the long run. Make sure your hardware and software investments will deliver the performance and capacity you need now and five years into the future.

 

ICG can help you decide if virtualization is right for your business. If virtualization does make good business sense, we can design and deploy a solution that helps your organization become more efficient and productive while reducing operational costs.

May 20, 2015

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Why SMBs Are Jumping on the Virtualization Bandwagon

Research firm Techaisle just released the results of its 2015 study of server virtualization adoption among small to midsize business (SMBs). The study shows that 54 percent of SMBs have adopted server virtualization, up from 41 percent two years ago. The adoption rate is higher among midmarket businesses — server virtualization in that segment has reached 88 percent and is expected to grow to 95 percent within one year.

 

Virtualization enables one physical server to be divided into multiple virtual servers. Hypervisor software allows virtual servers to remain isolated and unaware of each other, and allocates the resources of the physical server to the virtual servers.

 

Each of these virtual servers operates as a unique device capable of running different operating systems and handling different workloads and applications. This enables organizations to consolidate servers and fully leverage existing hardware and software.

 

Server virtualization was once thought of as an expensive, complicated endeavor that was reserved for the largest corporations. This may have been the case at one time, but not anymore. The latest technologies make server virtualization cost-effective and relatively straightforward to implement, enabling SMBs to take advantage of a host of business benefits:

 

Reduced capital expenses. A simplified physical IT infrastructure means less new hardware needs to be purchased, installed and maintained, while server consolidation drastically reduces the cost of adding new applications and services. The upfront savings often equal the cost of virtualization implementation.

 

Reduced complexity and operational costs. A simplified physical architecture is easier and less expensive to manage, maintain and secure when the right tools are deployed. You can focus less on hardware and more on the services and applications that improve business operations.

 

Centralized management. Both physical and virtual servers can be centrally managed, monitored and controlled from a single console. Existing virtual machines (VMs) can be moved from server to server, allowing for resource sharing and workload balancing.

 

Improved disaster recovery and business continuity. Copies of virtual servers can be saved and archived as files or snapshots at a remote site for disaster recovery. This creates redundancy without additional hardware. Live migration preserves business continuity by transferring live VMs between physical servers without downtime.

 

Availability of legacy apps. Instead of maintaining outdated server hardware to run legacy apps, a virtual version of existing hardware can be created on modern servers. The legacy apps perform the same way on the new server, giving you time to update the apps if necessary.

 

Simple testing of software updates and security patches. Virtualization enables an organization to test software and security solutions on a virtual copy of their IT infrastructure. This allows you to work out as many bugs as possible for deploying new software on your live system.

 

Support for internal services. If you want to setup a platform, such as a company intranet, for internal use, virtualization allows you to do so on a VM instead of purchasing new hardware.

 

Virtualization can provide significant cost savings and operational benefits to small business, allowing you to take full advantage of a streamlined IT infrastructure. Contact ICG to learn more about how virtualization can be a game changer for your business.

October 16, 2014

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Is It Time for a Network Refresh?

On average, bandwidth consumption and data volumes in the data center double every 18 months. The number of devices accessing the network doubles every 30 months. Is your network infrastructure built to support such explosive growth?

 

Many networks are not. The refresh cycle for enterprise networking equipment keeps getting longer and has now reached a six-year high, according to Dimension Data’s Network Barometer Report 2014. In fact, half of network switches, routers and wireless devices are either aging or obsolete. Devices that are past end of sale are considered “aging,” while those past end of support are considered “obsolete.”

 

Many organizations have delayed upgrades in an attempt to squeeze every last drop of juice from their legacy network equipment. However, even though certain components of your network infrastructure may still be working, older technology could be preventing your network from properly supporting the latest technologies and growing numbers of users and devices.

 

High-performance Wi-Fi is essential for most enterprises, yet a rapid increase in mobile device density is making it difficult to keep up with heavy bandwidth demands. The wired network plays a key role in wireless LAN performance, particularly with the new 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard. Organizations will likely need to not only rethink wireless network design but to upgrade their wired network, which will in turn make the wireless network function better.

 

Meanwhile, bandwidth-heavy technologies such as virtualization, cloud computing, mobility, video and big data are contributing to an immense increase in network traffic. Aging networks simply lack the capacity, flexibility and performance these technologies demand.

 

In addition to better supporting the wireless, VoIP and virtualized environments, an up-to-date network infrastructure delivers several key business benefits:

 

  • Productivity will be enhanced when employees have access to more reliable connections, inside and outside of the office.
  • Your network will be able to support innovative services and new product features and functionality.
  • Your network will be more efficient, more cost-effective and easier to manage.

 

Fortunately, lower prices for Ethernet technology are making a network refresh more economically feasible. In addition, cloud-based configuration and administration tools are making it easier to manage the network infrastructure. Network switches that provide Power over Ethernet capabilities support wireless access points and VoIP equipment without having to run AC power to each of those devices.

 

The ICG Network Infrastructure team has proven expertise in the design, configuration, installation and support of best-in-class network solutions. Let us assess your network infrastructure to determine if it’s capable of supporting wireless, VoIP and virtualization and other state-of-the-art technologies. A network refresh may be necessary to take your organization to the next level.

September 4, 2014

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How to Access Your Desktop from Anywhere

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In a traditional office environment, each employee has their own computer with its own operating system and applications. Any type of desktop maintenance, from software updates to technical support issues, would require a visit from the IT department that forced the employee to stop working until the issue was resolved.

 

In today’s fast-paced, technology-driven business world, this approach doesn’t work. It’s expensive, slow, complex and labor-intensive. Also, with the emergence of mobility and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies, employees can’t be tied to their desks. They need to be able to access their desktop and all of its functionality from anywhere at any time.

March 7, 2014

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The Business Case for Virtualization for SMBs

 

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A new nationwide survey of IT managers, directors and CIOs in small-to-midsize businesses (SMBs) revealed that 77 percent of organizations with 500 or fewer employees are using virtualization. Unfortunately, 40 percent of respondents had never even heard of virtualization.

So what exactly is virtualization?

Virtualization typically refers to server virtualization, which utilizes software to allow a single physical server to host a number of virtual servers. Each virtual server is capable of handling different operating systems, workloads and applications. In a traditional IT environment, there would be one server for each application or task, making the infrastructure inefficient, complex and expensive to update, manage and maintain.

Now, back to the survey…

95 percent of SMBs using some form of virtualization claim it immediately led to greater efficiency and cost savings. By consolidating server hardware, capital costs are reduced. From an operational standpoint, power, cooling and physical space requirements are reduced. Because virtualization enables SMBs to better utilize IT resources and simplify the process of adding new applications and services, ongoing management and maintenance are less expensive.

61 percent of respondents pointed to scalability as the most important advantage of virtualization. Server capacity can be added quickly and easily as organizations grow and business needs change. Whether virtual servers are onsite or in the cloud, virtualization enables organizations to upgrade and expand without the expense of hardware refresh cycles, while cloud-based virtualization reduces the need to purchase new equipment.

96 percent of SMBs using some form of virtualization believe it gives them a competitive advantage. Personnel, time and money can be reallocated from the management of a larger, more complex infrastructure to strategic business initiatives. Virtualization also provides the agility and flexibility to automatically shift workloads between servers to optimize performance and user productivity and minimize downtime.

Other major benefits of virtualization for SMBs include:

  • Centralized management of physical and virtual servers through one management console
  • Improved data backup, disaster preparedness and business continuity
  • Improved server availability and uptime

The benefits of virtualization have led many SMBs to extend virtualization beyond the server environment to other parts of their IT infrastructure. Research from SpiceWorks indicates that 80 percent of surveyed SMBs are using virtualizing IT services such as storage and printing, 56 percent are virtualizing business applications, and 49 percent are utilizing virtualization for content publishing.

In order to take full advantage of virtualization, SMBs need to strategically plan virtualization deployments. Organizations can reduce the risk of going over budget and reduce total cost of ownership by figuring out how to leverage existing investments, understanding technological and deployment costs, and making sure the solutions they choose are aligned with business processes and goals. Avoid the temptation to implement a virtualization solution if you don’t have in-house expertise, and be wary of to-good-to-be-true price points.

Let ICG assess your existing IT infrastructure and help you determine how your organization can use virtualization to reduce costs and gain an edge over your competition.