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Reducing IT Investment Using Virtualization

Companies need to balance a need to save money on IT investment with a need for reliable applications and hardware.

Two truths in the IT world are:

  • hardware eventually fails
  • support for older software eventually ends

To small businesses and large corporations alike this means:

  • Business owners and IT managers have to plan for updates and upgrades to IT hardware and software infrastructure
  • Failing to do so can put the company in a position where recovering from an IT disaster can be difficult, if not impossible.

The attitude of most small business towards IT investment seems to be:

  • IT investment is a necessary evil
  • Saving the company money in the short term is better than avoiding problems in the long term

As an outsourced IT company, my job is to:

  • Understand the attitude of owners that “IT investment is a necessary evil”
  • Balance this with my understanding that saving the company money in the short term is NOT better than avoiding problems in the long term

The rest of this article is about saving the customer money, by using “hardware virtualization” in order to avoid the cost of upgrading both hardware and software across their organization.

I recently met with a customer that is using an accounting application that runs on his Windows NT Server (Windows NT is one of Microsoft’s first Windows Server environments and support for this product ended in 2003). His server is at least 14 years old and it continues to chug away, but for how much longer? He is in a difficult position; he needs a new server, but he doesn’t want to pay for a new version of his accounting application, if he purchases a new version of his accounting system, then he will need to upgrade all of the company’s workstations to Windows 7. If he upgrades the workstations to Windows 7 he will also need to purchase new versions of Office, etc.

There is no doubt that this customer does need to update his systems, his server will die sooner than later, and a minimum of interruption to his business is also a priority. Fortunately there are solutions available that can meet the demands of owners to save money, and keep unnecessary change to a minimum, while allowing for changes in technology that make programs like Windows NT obsolete.

By using “hardware virtualization” (“What is Hardware Virtualization – Described in Plain English”) it is possible for this business owner to continue to run an older operating system on new hardware without any major interruption in business activity. Literally, his existing server configuration can be copied into a virtual environment where it can remain stable and functional for years to come.

Additionally, instead of running accounting clients on each desktop, every desktop could be used as a thin client and log into a virtual instance of Windows XP where the users can access email, run office and also run the accounting software, instead of running all of these applications on their old computer. Benefits of this approach would be:

  • If their desktop hardware fails, they can access their environment from another windows or mac desktop, or even from a tablet
  • If their desktop is too slow to run the software installed on it, running the software in a virtual environment will be faster because the hardware hosting those virtual environments will be much more powerful than the user’s old machine.
  • Costs will be kept to a minimum because users will not be required to upgrade to new hardware at their desks.

This scenario will allow this small business owner to continue to run his business indefinitely without any worry that “the next operating system” will render his business applications obsolete. The only problem is that his business applications may become so obsolete that if there is an issue with the application itself, nobody will be qualified to support his problem.

Having said that, hardware virtualization will still facilitate a lower cost migration to new systems without having to invest in new client hardware, so when this customer does decide to upgrade to the new version of his accounting system, he won’t need to invest in purchasing new desktops as well.

If you are curious about migrating your old server to a new virtual platform or if you don’t want to invest in new client PCs but need everyone to run the latest operating systems and applications, give Foundation BTS a call.

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