Business Continuity: Virtualization

Business Continuity PlanWhat a Business Continuity Plan Means for your Business

If a disaster struck your business tomorrow, would you be ready?

That’s a question that, unfortunately for some businesses, is only answered in the throes of disaster… making it a disaster recovery issue. Preparation for disaster, however, is a basic tenet of business continuity planning, and allows you to more confidently answer yes to the question.

One element of a business continuity strategy is that of virtualization. This concept makes it possible for your business systems to recover more easily from disaster or disruption by reducing your reliance on hardware that can fail or become outdated.

What is virtualization?

Consider what an office looked like in the 1980s and 90s – the dreaded cube farm. In each cube sat a computer, and each computer was something of a world unto itself, with its own operating system and software. On the whole, this office design was a highly inefficient use of technology, particularly when it came to energy consumption and budgeting for hardware. And if something disrupted business, such as a power outage, fire, or storm, some or all of those computers would be rendered unusable.

Fortunately, technology is consistently moving forward and improving, and in the subsequent years the IT industry has found ways to make office systems more efficient from nearly every angle. One of the ways we’ve done this is to create virtual machines, consolidating the resources of multiple machines by separating the software and operating systems from the physical hardware.

With virtualization, software simulates the existence of hardware in order to create a virtual computer system. A single server can run more than one virtual system, along with multiple operating systems and applications, allowing for a more efficient use of space and energy, as well as providing scalability.

Benefits of virtualization

Imagine refocusing the portion of your IT budget earmarked for hardware purchases. Virtualization allows the small-to-medium business to get more performance and flexibility out of their existing infrastructure, and can provide a significant savings on hardware costs.

  • Server Infrastructure – Moving to a virtualized environment allows for more efficient use of server resources, where the capacity of existing servers can be better utilized.
  • Energy Conservation – Fewer servers allocated for business processes, as well as off-premise data centers, means less operational budget dedicated to energy costs.
  • Ease of Management – Upgrades to hardware can be done from a single point instead of repeating the upgrade process machine by machine.
  • Reduced Backup and Recovery Time – Backups and restores of virtual machines is less time-consuming than the recovery of individual machines, particularly in the case of hardware failures.
  • Legacy Applications – Older applications requiring old versions of operating systems or incompatibility between these applications and newer software can be handled by dedicating a virtual machine to just those tasks.

Virtualization isn’t a cure-all

There are some instances in which a virtualized environment is not practical or desirable. These include:

  • Applications that require physical hardware to function
  • Systems that require dedicated and consistent performance
  • Applications or operating systems that do not permit virtualization in their licensing or support agreements
  • Systems or services that have not been tested in a virtual environment
  • Systems on which your physical environment depends, such as premises security
  • Systems that control your virtual environment
  • Secure or sensitive data
  • Systems that are dependent upon the correct time at all times, such as time syncs

How does virtualization figure into business continuity?

Hopefully, I’ve managed to give you a good overview of virtualization above. But how does it fit into the sphere of business continuity planning?

A business continuity plan can help your business to minimize a disruption in service, allowing your business and employees to continue to serve your customers with very little, if any, downtime.  Virtualization allows your business to speed recovery time in the event of a disaster, and also allows you to test multiple disaster scenarios without affecting your daily operational processes, so that you can be ready at a moment’s notice.

Planning for disaster doesn’t make it any more or less likely to happen, but that plan does make it possible for your business to recover quickly. That’s the purpose of business continuity planning – allow you to respond to a disruption of business, rather than react.