For businesses of all sizes, virtualization has become a requirement. Virtualization lets companies get more out of their hardware from testing sandboxes to manufacturing facilities, and do more for their companies than they ever could before. This technology is very new to many businesses. It’s pretty outdated, for some.
Virtualization is a vast technology, with many moving pieces, no matter where you fall. The primary objective for you and your IT team should be to have the expertise to get the job done to better serve your needs. With that in mind, here are 10 tips that should not be ignored by any administrator contemplating virtualization (or deep into this tech’s trenches already).
1. Plan for capacity
When you’re in the early stages of designing your virtual world, don’t make the mistake of buying hardware that can’t accommodate the virtualization pressure that is going to put on it. You have to think bigger than usual. Note, this server will well host multiple virtual machines so it will need the raw horsepower and growth space.
The last thing you need for virtual machines is to make your host server choke and run out of space. Don’t believe that a virtual machine will take up little space on the server. And don’t think that you’ll only have to host one virtual machine.
2. Monitor the lifecycle of each virtual machine
I’ve heard of administrators launching a virtual machine and letting it do its thing with little to no supervision. You need to keep track of any virtual machine you have from birth to death. You should always know how big these VMs have become. The status of their snapshots, how much traffic they get and just about every other piece of information that you can get your hands on. It is really tempting to “place and forget” virtual machines, but that’s a grievous mistake and could land you in a lot of trouble.
3. Don’t virtualize everything
Not everything should be virtualized. That FTP server that only gets internal traffic from maybe a half dozen users? Surely not. Server Printers? Surely not. You have to make a clear strategy and have sound reasoning for all that is virtualized.
The first question you can ask yourself is, “Why do we need Server X virtualization?”
If you are able to address this question with a reasonable degree of confidence, extend the same logic to any server you believe might benefit from virtualization.
4. Monitor virtual traffic
Be sure you track the virtual traffic as well as the non-existent traffic you do.
Monitoring goes far beyond security. You need to keep the virtual machines apprised of both internal and external traffic.
For a certain amount of time, you will know if more resources are required for certain machines, and whether other virtual machines will be better used as stand-alone machines.
5. Don’t give virtual resources away for free.
Don’t even migrate a server from stand-alone to virtualization for free. The client needs to realize the value they are getting from virtualizing their server. And there’s a price along with all that comes with virtualization.
Furthermore, the technology needed for virtualization has a cost associated with this, and sometimes the cost is high.
6. Use virtual machines for disposable systems
Some may find this a little odd but there are occasions when you temporarily need a device or service. There is no better way of providing a temporary service than virtual machines.
Need an FTP server for temporary use? Virtual machine.
Require a Web Server or a temporary print server? Virtual machine.
The good thing about virtual machines is they don’t cost you resources that the hardware does, so it’s pretty easy to bring a machine to life.
7. Build templates on a virtual machine for fast deployment
If you know you ‘re going to want to deploy multiple virtual machines based on unique requirements or needs, create a collection of templates so that these devices are deployed as effectively as possible.
This can also save you time and money if you offer a particular service. You don’t need to constantly reinvent the wheel. Create and use a template as much as possible.
For both you and the customer, the time saved is money in the bank.
8. Install guest add-ons and virtualization tools
This should be a no-brainer. Most virtual machine tools provide add-ons for guests and other virtualization applications that have been designed to enhance experience and efficiency and make contact between guest and host more seamless.
Many administrators ignore these services, presuming they are unnecessary. Make sure you don’t make the same mistake.
You can add mouse integration, monitor drivers, guest-to-host time sync and more to help make the virtual life more efficient. They do a great job of improving the front-end usability, although they aren’t needed.
9. Make sure your host system is fully patched at all times
Most believe that the entire weight is on the Guest OS. While that’s true for the virtual world, in this process, the host plays a huge part.
The last thing you need to be running your VMs on a weak computer. Of course, if that server does not host a litany of virtual machines, the only thing that is at risk is the data value of a single server.
Because that server is hosting any number of VMs (some of which may be for clients), the risk of loss is considerably greater. Because of this, you’ll want to ensure the host machine is still patched and safe.
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