In a business world that is constantly focused on reducing costs in order to maximise profits, IT departments come under significant pressure, particularly from those with little understanding of the costs involved when implementing a secure and robust company-wide infrastructure.
Reducing ‘server sprawl’ is one effective way to counter a minimum-spend mentality without losing capacity or control and there is very little doubt that virtualisation is the best option to achieve this.
Virtualisation reduces sprawl and richly enhances scalability, continuity, performance and resource effectiveness. Virtualisation is also particularly effective when it comes to disaster recovery as it reduces the time taken to reinstate precious data, therefore reducing the cost involved while minimising any business interruptions. Considering these factors, along with the benefits that virtualisation offers in terms of failover/failback, is leading many organisations to adopt robust virtualisation solutions to achieve the best ROI.
When using traditional methods of backup, it is not uncommon for a complete restoration to take many hours, if not days (this figure is dependent on the size of the system and the amount of data that needs to be restored.) Server virtualisation reduces that time to four hours or less, allowing businesses to be back up to speed in a fraction of the time. This is possible in part because it is not necessary to rebuild servers, applications or operating systems separately as they exist elsewhere (on the virtual server) and can simply be brought back online.
Regular monitoring and testing is critical when aiming to achieve these kinds of recovery speeds, ensuring that virtual servers are in place where necessary and that they are kept up-to-date. It may also be useful to run regular disaster recovery tests or simulations – this can be done using the virtual image of the system, so there is no need to impact the ‘live’ IT infrastructure.
Failback and Failover Benefits
By taking up a virtualised approach to IT management and facilitation, you can failover to an environment that exists in real time and by maintaining images of your previous environments, easily failback to the original mode. Once again this means decreased recovery times and makes it possible to do testing on an actual like-for-like system, without adversely affecting your production environment or operational workflow in any way.
As discussed, virtualisation, as an approach to hardware and software collaboration is highly effective in disaster recovery. Prior planning and strategy is crucial here as the idea behind virtualisation is to save money, reduce space and power requirements. However to do this you must determine how many servers you will need to backup. Understanding the server consolidation ratio is therefore extremely important; this is effectively the number of virtual machines that a server can host, whilst ensuring you don’t reduce the number of servers too far (hence compromise service.) You need to be able to recover and restore critical applications and operating systems, so you must ensure that you have enough hardware assets to do so. It is in this regard that third party hosted virtualisation offers the safest, securest and most performance savvy infrastructure for modern business.
Which Elements of the Business Will Benefit Most?
Trying to virtualise your whole infrastructure is often either unachievable or somewhat unnecessary. It is therefore very important to have a strategic virtualisation plan, especially for the security of your information assets. Any programs or processes critical to your business should be the first on the list to be transferred over. For many, this will include email systems and the most frequently used applications. The next priority focus should be applications which have been built in-house, are difficult to recreate or aren’t widely available. Again, if they are part of your core business, it is important that they remain safe and are brought back online with minimal downtime.
Once virtualisation has become a key business strategy, all new applications should be virtualised as part of the build or installation process, unless there is a very good reason not to do so. In today’s high tech business world, a ‘virtualise first’ approach is not only best practice for your IT department but it will also reduce workload across every silo as a long term enhancement to your productivity. Virtualisation also ensures that should any teething problems occur with new hardware or applications - which in traditional environments lead to downtime and often considerable losses in reputation and revenues - the system can quickly be restored.