The introduction of the personal computer revolutionized the modern office, and changed the way companies do business around the world. The PC brought increased efficiency, fresh business opportunities and laid the groundwork for businesses of all sizes to expand into the global marketplace. The latest revolution to take the office workplace by storm is virtualization. With the constant growth of cloud based technologies and applications, virtualization is fast becoming a go-to solution for many businesses looking to streamline and modernize their computer networks.
What is Virtualization?
Virtualization refers to the shared storage of data and applications across a large number of disparate servers and networks. This is the heart of cloud computing technology, and offers many benefits to small and mid-sized businesses. Before the advent of virtualization, it was necessary for a business or office to maintain its own dedicated server to support its computer network. All of the office’s applications, software patches and data would be stored and accessed through the companies dedicated server. While it is a sound computing model, it is expensive to maintain, putting it out of reach of most small to moderate sized businesses. Virtualization allows companies to store their data, software applications and web pages on a ‘virtual server’. This ‘virtual server’ is in effect a network of servers, the ‘cloud’, which allows for information to be retrieved at any time, and from any location.
The use of virtual servers for larger IT based companies offers a number of definite advantages. Chief among these are cost and reliability. Having your company’s virtual server spread across multiple data centers, negates the necessity for building and maintaining your own server location. This offers an immediate reduction in hardware, maintenance and man hour costs. Secondly, the use of a virtual server allows for faster and more accurate recovery from server disaster. If a remote server or data center goes dark, the data and applications stored on your ‘virtual server’ can be recovered through the ‘cloud’, or remaining network of undamaged servers. This greatly reduces recovery time as well as loss of date, and ensures that your web sites remain online and operational, and that your data and software applications remain accessible and ready for retrieval.
Until recently, virtualization has been largely restricted to use in the area of servers, data centers and disaster recovery. But with the growth of cloud computing applications, virtualization is beginning to make a large impact on small businesses. In addition to the elimination of expensive on-site hardware, virtualization offers a revitalization of the desktop work environment.
Desktop virtualization is the one component that makes the virtual workplace possible. Employees can work from any location with an available internet connection. With desktop virtualization, a business’ staff can fully access their office network, including data files and software applications, from home or a hotel room; from the airport lounge or a restaurant. Desktop virtualization also makes software and security updates easier, and more efficient. Using cloud technology, an IT department can stream a live desktop image to all of the company’s terminals and laptops, making it unnecessary to upload software and security protocols to each individual computer. This not only saves time and money, it ensures that all employees are operating at peak efficiency, and with the latest updates.
Desktop virtualization also helps to reduce a company’s hardware costs by limiting the need for fully loaded desktop computers. Individual employees would only need low-cost laptops or dumb terminals. Office staff would still have access to all of the data and functions of a traditional PC, but through a virtual desktop that is streamed to each integrated terminal. These low-cost machines also tend to have a longer life span than their fully loaded counterparts, allowing companies to save even more money on constant repair and replacement of standard PC terminals.
Virtualization is altering the way companies, both large and small, are doing business. Large businesses and institutions are finding that virtual servers make data center disaster recovery faster and more efficient. Smaller businesses are discovering that desktop virtualization can make their employees more productive, and can bolster their bottom line. Virtualization, in both large and small scale application, is once again changing the face of the modern workplace.