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SoftwareMedia Blog | July 30, 2014

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The Beginner's Guide To Virtualization

The Beginner’s Guide To Virtualization

Although it has existed for several years, not everyone is familiar with virtualization and how it can benefit their business. Here, we provide a detailed, clear-cut guide to virtualization, the benefits and the different types of virtual software currently in usage.

Virtualisation – hardware in virtual form

The term virtualization refers to the application of a virtual version of hardware or any program. It is often regarded as a more eco-friendly and cost-effective method of running a business as opposed to the more traditional mode of running multiple servers via multiple devices.

Cost-friendly

One of the most practical reasons for the use of virtualization software is that it can help you to reduce your administration costs. By operating fewer servers, you don’t have to spend as much time or money on maintenance and installing program on new computers. With storage virtualization, a team has access to data from one storage device, which saves them from having to access resources from different devices. In 2013, it was reported that Cornell University, one of the most reputed higher education institutions in the United States, planned to virtualize 80 percent of its physical server infrastructure to save approximately $2,845 in annual IT costs for each server that becomes virtualized.

Eco-friendly

Because businesses using virtualization technology operate fewer servers, they are also using significantly less energy, which is obviously much better for the environment. While most people consider adopting to greener technologies like hybrid cars as expensive, virtualization is both cost-effective and environmentally friendly for the very same reasons.

Virtualization can be divided into three key areas:

Self-contained environments – this is known as operating system virtualization and enables you to create a representation of an operation system in isolated execution.

Paravirtualization – a layer of software that provides hardware access to various operating systems.

Emulating hardware – Access various operating systems on just one device. 

How is it distinguished from cloud computing?

The fundamental difference between virtualization and cloud computing is that the latter is merely a service, whereas the former relies on a physical device. Although virtualization can initially be more expensive, it can be much cheaper in the long term because there are no additional subscription fees to pay, unlike with cloud computing. Another advantage of virtualization is that it does not require a constant broadband connection.

An increasingly popular trend

Many business owners regarded virtualization technology as an effective way to ‘centralize’ all of their administrative procedures, which therefore gives them greater control over their business functions and more opportunities to boost their efficiencies in the long term.  According to the IDC’s ‘IT Buyer Market Guide: Cloud and Virtualization Software’, just over a quarter of IT customers look for virtualization products in combination with other IT products.

Think of virtualization as ‘cloning your computer’

With virtualization, you can update your server without having to purchase new software, which means you could save you a significant amount of money over time, although bear in mind that you may still be liable for paying for software licenses for any new software. Because a virtualized system is nothing more than a series of files, it is much easier to back up all of your data as opposed to performing this process on multiple devices.

Is virtualization software for you?

If you think you are spending too much time on maintaining your hardware, installing new program and finishing your administrative tasks, virtualization could be your solution, particularly if you are having to use numerous servers. If, however, you are a micro-business operating on no more than two servers, you may have little need for this technology.

Damian Coates is the ICT Business Support Director at Essex-based IT support firm Utilize. He and his team have implemented virtualisation solutions for a large number of SMEs in the local area and across the UK.

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