If you’re getting ready to embark on a journey of server
virtualization, you should first do your homework. It’s not just about knowing
what you want the servers to do, but also about what you must have in place
before you even begin. It’s about performing due diligence on your hardware and
network capability, as well as on yours and your staff’s abilities.

I have created a list of preflight checks you should go
through to make sure you are honestly ready for virtualization (and that you
really need it). Going through these points will help you make sure that the
virtual technology is a good fit. If, in the end, you have solid answers to
these questions – then virtualization might just be for you and your company.

1. Do you have the staff?

Just having the need (or want) doesn’t mean you have the
capability of unleashing virtualization on your company. This is a very
specific technology that requires specific knowledge. If you don’t already have
capable staff on hand, get them trained before you go any further. You do not
want to virtualize your servers only then to have to learn how to successfully
administer those environments. That is a recipe for disaster.

2. Do you have the hardware?

Yes, you can throw a number of virtual machines at a single
server. But does that server have the resources to successfully run those guest
platforms? Not only do you need to make sure you have plenty of RAM, storage,
and CPU power; but make sure you’re working with a Gigabit network card. You
can beef up that server all you want, but if you slap a slow network card on
the machine, you’re going to seriously bottleneck the services.

3. Do you really need virtualization?

If you’re looking at virtualizing a server that only serves up
an internal CMS, you might want to re-consider. Make sure the purpose justifies
the time and expense that will go into getting those servers virtualized.
Otherwise, it’s a waste of valuable resources. Don’t jump on the virtualization
bandwagon just to say you did.

4. Do you fully understand virtualization?

If you aren’t really sure what virtualization is and what it can
offer you and your company, make sure you do the research. Virtualization can
really push your company forward, if used properly. If there’s a lot of muddy
water between you and this technology, you are simply not ready for it. To get
the most out of your VMs, a comprehensive understanding of how they work and
what they can do must be under your belt. Take a class, attend a
seminar/webinar, read a book – whatever it takes to get you up to speed on what
this has to offer.

5. Do you have the capacity to get back up quickly from
disaster?

Sure you know how to get a virtual machine up and running. But
do you understand what it takes to get one spun back up in case of emergency?
Do you know what snapshots are and how they are best used? Before you implement
your virtual technology, make sure you have a plan in place that will ensure
your servers are back up as quickly as possible.

6. Do you know which technology best fits your needs?

There are a few technologies available for virtualization. Do
you need the flexibility and support of VMWare? Would you rather go with the
open source VirtualBox and be on your own for support? Can you afford
everything necessary to get VMWare up and running or is budget really an issue?
Have far do you need to stretch your virtual technology? Before you dive into
these waters, make sure you fully understand what all the different options can
offer. You need to decide which flavor of virtualization you will be using
before you start the process.

7. Do you need virtual appliances or installations?

Virtual appliances allow you to get a server up and running
quickly. You don’t have to do a full installation, just create the machine,
attach the appliance, spin it up, and do whatever configurations you need.
Virtual appliances also come with everything pre-built, so they should “just
work” out of the box. Building a virtual machine from scratch means installing
the operating system and then all of the software to run the services you need.
One saves you a lot of time and the other allows you to better customize the
platform as a whole.

8. Do you know your endgame with virtualization?

What is the final plan with virtualization? Is it to save
money by using less hardware? Is it to be better equipped to get restored after
disaster strikes? Is it to be more flexible or offer more services to
customers/clients? Make sure you know the answers to these questions as those
answers will dictate a good deal of your strategy in the beginning.

9. Do you have strong enough security to host multiple virtual
machines on a single server?

This is a tough one. Most would like to answer that if they
have enough security for a server farm, they have enough for a single host
server. Not necessarily so. Remember, all of those precious VMs will be hosted
under one place – if someone manages to break into that server, they have the
keys to your kingdom. Make sure that host server is well protected before you
go live. Do not rely on the Windows Server firewall. You’ll want a
physical device (Cisco or Shortel for example) protecting that server from the
outside world. Overprotect that server as if your company’s livelihood depended
upon it – because it probably does.

10. What is your backup plan?

Will you be backing up the individual virtual machines with a
tool like Acronis, or will you be backing
up the entire virtual server? Will VEEAM
come into play? Just because you can spin up a snapshot of your virtual
machines doesn’t mean those machines are properly backed up. Make sure you
implement a well designed backup plan for your guests and host. Be redundant,
be safe…and you won’t be sorry.

Virtualization doesn’t have to be a nightmare – nor does it
have to be for everyone. Make sure you’ve given this technology plenty of
thought before you dive in. A quick “pre-flight” check could save you thousands
of dollars and precious time.