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Pros and cons of physical servers

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Have you virtualized yet? Is your business soaring on cloud nine or do you buy a whole new server every time you run out of disk space?

Installing a blade server

Installing a blade server

Source: Thinkstock / kjekol

Either way, keeping things physical has its benefits and while clunky, is no reason to fix something that doesn’t need to be fixed. But moving into the high-tech jet stream of virtual servers could see your business maximising profits and becoming more responsive in a volatile business climate.

Here are some pros and cons to consider before taking the plunge.

Reasons To move

  1. Cost savings   
    Since you’re in business to make money, spending it unnecessarily is heading in the wrong direction. A virtualized computing environment allows multiple physical servers to be configured so as to increase or decrease the number of logical servers. This means you’re able to be flexible to the needs of your business without spending on any additional physical servers.
  2. Time saving   
    Speaking of server provisioning, bootable images and virtual server templates can be kept on-hand for when they’re needed. This saves you from those ever-so-enjoyable tasks of installing and re-installing Windows, configuring firewall settings, restoring backups, and what have you.
  3. Easier testing
    To add to the whole flexibility theme, how often have you wanted to test a new configuration or to try out a new sales application, only to discover that you didn’t have the necessary hardware? Testing new hardware and software is crucial to the continuity of any business making use of IT.
    For more elaborate set-ups or labs, a dedicated virtual server environment allows testers to configure and reconfigure various scenarios at the drop of a hat. This saves them time and lots of frustration.
  4. Quick recovery
    Just like testers would boot up a server that they’ve configured for a specific purpose – with relevant applications installed and network settings already done – so your live systems can be made redundant with an equivalent or similar server environment running alongside it. This server environment doesn’t have to be active – depending on your business of course – but will provide the necessary backup systems in case of an outage.

Reasons not to move

  1. Redundancy required 
    A problem with virtual servers is that they’re still dependent on the underlying physical machine/machines. If a physical server suffers a mechanical fault, and there’s no redundancy in place, multiple virtual servers will be affected. This can spell serious financial consequences if there’s prolonged downtime
  2. Performance degradation
    Separate applications might be installed on separate virtual servers, but these programs are still inextricably linked – they share the resources of their supporting physical server. As more demand from more virtual servers is placed on the physical servers/servers, a serious degradation in performance could be experienced across the board, and could negatively affect service-oriented or real-time business operations.
  3. Licensing limitations
    Some applications are not supported on shared environments and could even be in breach of the licensing agreement. Furthermore, depending on which operating system you choose to go with, make sure it’s properly licensed for your environment – there could be a significant cost impact depending on whether it’s installed on a physical or number of virtual servers.

Conclusion

Feeling left behind? Invest in some server blades

As you can see, there are reasons both for and against virtualizing. But, if by now you’ve started to get that feeling that you’re being left behind, it could be worth investing in some server blades for a little data centre of your own, or at least having a conversation with a local data centre service provider.

Chris Sigley is general manager of Redstor

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