Small Businesses Gain Agility, Cut Costs with Server Virtualization

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Server Virtualization

Twenty-five percent of small businesses boost IT ROI with virtualized servers; 73 percent of those without virtualization are investigating or planning to virtualize

CDW LLC, a leading provider of technology products and services to business, government, education and healthcare, today introduced the CDW Small Business Virtualization Roadmap, a technology adoption guide that also reports survey results and data showing that small businesses are moving steadily toward more virtualized computing infrastructures. Server virtualization – running multiple, independent, virtual operating systems on a single server – increases the productivity, agility and scalability of computing resources and the business itself, with an attending boost in a company’s return on its information technology (IT) investments.

The study found that 25 percent of small businesses have virtualized at least some of their servers, attracted by efficiency, cost savings and flexibility to meet changing business demands, and that the average percentage of servers virtualized at those businesses grew steadily from 28 percent to 33 percent between July 1, 2010, and June 30, 2011. Even among small businesses that have not yet implemented server virtualization, 73 percent report they are investigating or planning to deploy the technology, with investments averaging 17 percent of their IT budgets over the next two years.

“Based on our day-to-day conversations with small businesses across the United States, we know that most look for IT to deliver business advantages that level the playing field with their larger competitors. In our survey, two-thirds of small businesses that have virtualized their server environments say doing so has significantly increased the ROI of their IT – but virtualization also requires new skills and knowledge to manage effectively,” said Jill Billhorn, CDW vice president of small business sales. “The CDW Small Business Virtualization Roadmap is a resource to help small business IT managers start their journey to a more virtual environment.”

The roadmap is organized according to five key steps in deployment of server virtualization: system assessment, staff assessment, management assessment, execution and measuring success. In addition to research findings and advice from CDW virtualization solutions experts, the roadmap includes advice and comments that were crowdsourced from small business IT professionals across the United States. The advice and tips address such commonly shared issues as how to know whether virtualization is right for a small business, where to obtain knowledge and skills to implement and manage a virtual IT environment and how to secure support for a virtualization initiative from a business’s ownership or management.

On gaining management support, one member of Spiceworks, a social network for IT professionals, said, “We packaged our [proposal] with a virtual private network rollout and an updated disaster recovery plan. This gave management things they wanted for our organization and gave us the up-to-date tools we needed to do our job.”

Of lessons learned during execution of server virtualization, a member of CDW’s online Corporate Advisory Board said, “I wish I had been more informed as to the variety of options out there. There are numerous options (including open source) that we were just not aware of.”

Via survey responses, small businesses that have virtualized say that the top drivers for their decision to do so were replacement of aging hardware (43 percent), server consolidation (36 percent), improved backup and disaster recovery (35 percent), greater efficiency of IT infrastructure (27 percent) and reduced IT operating costs (23 percent). Aside from funding the investment, they also report that top execution challenges were issues of software/hardware compatibility (41 percent), the time required (37 percent), technical support requirements (31 percent) and training required (30 percent).

“For most small businesses, the road to virtualized IT requires careful planning. Our virtualization solution architects believe that a thorough system assessment at the outset is the most important step. Among many benefits, it is designed to identify compatibility issues so the organization can address them in its plan,” added Jill Billhorn. “There are resources available to provide low-cost or no-cost training for IT staff, and to address concerns with technical knowledge and support requirements. Virtualization is an ongoing process and a first step toward full integration of cloud services into a business’s IT architecture. Planned and executed well, it can create great opportunities for small businesses.”

CDW’s Small Business Virtualization Roadmap is based in part on an online survey of 298 small business IT professionals, all members of the Spiceworks social network for IT. Crowdsourced content came from discussion threads on the Spiceworks site and CDW’s online Corporate Advisory Board. Complete methodology details are available in the report.