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Small businesses—more than larger corporations—have long recognized the importance of doing more with less in order to maximize profitability in highly competitive markets. Improving operational efficiencies goes far beyond eliminating wasteful or unnecessary practices. It also includes gaining the right knowledge to adopt products, solutions and strategies that deliver the greatest business benefits.
This isn’t always easy. To make the best choices, owners and administrators must navigate through a dizzying array of impressive technologies that may contribute little to no value to the bottom line. But this process is highly worthwhile. The SMB Group’s Top 10 SMB Technology Trends for 2014 report notes that “progressive” businesses that invest in and view technology as a business enabler are more likely to achieve revenue growth than their more conservative peers .
Again, this doesn’t mean investing aimlessly just because it’s the “thing to do.” Technology investments must yield a measurable short- or longer-term ROI; and some investments simply don’t fit into most business models. Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) and Big Data, for example, are prohibitively costly for most and, in many cases, are simply overkill for smaller businesses. Mobile computing, BYOD and social media, on the other hand, deliver clear-cut across-the-board business benefits to this sector.
The virtualization realization
Server virtualization fits the bill by optimizing many businesses’ limited facility space while cutting power and cooling costs. A recent technology survey found that 74 percent of businesses either currently use server virtualization or plan to implement it by mid-year, with respondents citing related benefits including a significant reduction in the time needed to deploy new apps, system downtime and overall IT spending .
IT departments are not only challenged to do more, but also to store more with flat budgets. Virtualization software residing between server hardware and software allows more applications to run on the server, while related hypervisor software enables the OS and application to move between servers, thereby allocating more resources where needed during periods of high demand. These server virtualization features also provide important redundancy capabilities and may be deployed as part of a comprehensive IT resiliency strategy.
Getting the most out of it
To leverage virtualization to its fullest, businesses should first evaluate current non-virtualized environments, balancing present and expected computing and power requirements as well as the number of existing and future users. Explosive growth in the number of applications running on varying operating systems, combined with the snowballing use of mobile, BYOD and other technologies can overwhelm physical servers.
Rather than jamming up physical servers and slowing system response times with such non time-sensitive applications as payroll and employee expense reimbursements, businesses can store these and other “less essential” data on virtual servers, leaving frequently accessed apps on physical equipment. In fact, even more mission-critical applications, including CRM and ERP, can be stored virtually, preserving physical server capacity. It’s simply a matter of optimizing how resources are utilized and lowering costs.
Business growth only increases the number of users, devices, applications and data. Scalable virtualization solutions significantly reduce the amount of time needed to deploy new applications, while at the same time reducing server downtime. HP ProLiant servers are designed to accommodate growth while monitoring system health and facilitating remote administration via HP Integrated Lights-Out (iLO) 4 firmware and the HP Insight Online offering. When utilizing these and other solutions, businesses must ask themselves some pertinent questions:
- How many and what types of functions need to be performed now, and moving forward in anticipation of future growth and changing market dynamics?
- How might additional users and applications impact storage requirements, dictating when best to incorporate or fully implement server virtualization?
- How can you better or more efficiently utilize existing infrastructure?
As now fairly standard technologies and operations strategies in support of BYOD and mobile computing cement a vice-like foothold in daily business environments, server virtualization stands available to optimize infrastructure performance and reliability, improve overall network efficiencies and reduce power and cooling costs to enable businesses to do more with less.
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 SMB Group, SMB Group Top 10 SMB Technology Trends For 2014!, December 3, 2013
 Tech Republic, Research: SMBs discuss current status and future adoption plans of new technologies, July 2013