The current economic environment is challenging for any company – managing cash flow, profitability and customer requirements in a sea of change can test even the most experienced corporate manager.

The same conditions are amplified for small and medium businesses that are expected to compete with large enterprises for the same pool of customers using a fraction of the resources.

SMBs are faced with a classic dilemma: while IT is critical to meeting customer and business requirements as well as accommodating business growth, budget restraints mean SMBs have fewer resources to invest in IT.  The answer?  Virtualisation.

Virtualisation as an answer

One of the most exciting new technologies to emerge in recent years is virtualisation.  It’s the ultimate “do more with less” answer for business.  Put simply, the technology increases the percentage of work each server is doing so that companies need less hardware to do more work – transforming the work of one server into that of many.

The savings benefits:

  • Buying fewer servers helps manage the IT budget;
  • Deploying fewer servers means more space is freed up in facilities;
  • Lowered electricity and cooling costs (key parts of maintaining hardware).

In short, virtualisation allows a company to cut its IT budget but do more with existing resources, an excellent solution to the ultimate SMB IT dilemma.

Although virtualisation is still relatively new, its benefits have been proven time and time again. In fact, Gartner reports that by 2012 most midsize businesses are considering taking 100 percent of their servers virtual, primarily driven by savings from server consolidation.

The real proof-of-savings helps to boost the case for virtualisation as even my company has reaped the benefits of virtualisation, implementing virtualisation strategies in its own facilities with dramatic cost savings.  Like most companies, we rely on using the latest IT resources to meet customer demands better and more efficiently than the competition, making managing IT costs a critical part of meeting customer demand.

We have used virtualisation to consolidate thousands of servers to date.  The effort has led to cost savings of more than £18 million when the impact of reduced hardware purchase, reduced space requirements and reduced use of power are all counted.  In fact, analysis shows that for every non-production virtual machine the company deploys, they save about £4,000 compared to deploying and running a physical server.

Real world impact

What does this mean for the average SMB?  When first introduced, virtualisation was only practical for the largest of enterprises and cost millions to implement.  New technologies have helped make virtualisation more accessible to companies of all sizes.

Implemented at the SMB stage, virtualisation can enable the average company to consolidate eight servers to two – already a dramatic savings.  The technology allows work load to be re-distributed to different applications, making the switch of applications between virtual machines flawless.  Company employees will have all of the tools they need to meet customer needs, but that same underlying IT network will be dramatically more efficient and less costly.

Virtualisation is one key technology strategy that can help any SMB transform IT into a competitive advantage. Once out of reach of SMBs because of cost and complexity, today businesses of any size can take advantage of this proven technology. It’s an exciting development, enabling SMBs to compete with the largest of enterprises as the playing field gets more level with each passing day.