The Benefits of “Almost" Being There

Cloud is the latest buzzword in the world of Information Technology, Computing and Data Warehousing. While companies as varied as IBM and Amazon have their own versions of the Cloud (and their own definitions), it appears to be a concept that's going to stick. But before we jump feet first onto a cumulonimbus, let's take a step back and dig a little deeper into this concept of Virtualization.

Virtual Servers are the foundation of the Cloud. Before Virtual servers we needed a box with memory and hard drives for each function we wanted to support—picture a giant CPU. We needed at least a file server, an email server and a web server. The problem was three boxes are three times more expensive than one box and even the most organized and efficient IT departments could only utilize about 10% of the capacity for each of those servers.

Also, three boxes means three times the space to store them. In addition to size, servers take a lot of energy to run and a lot of A/C to keep cool. If you were in business in the '80s and '90s you no doubt suffered from one or more server outages due to overheating.

Additionally, while servers can be backed up, a server crash was not a little thing. Often, in order to restore the data, the entire operating system would have to be rebuilt, all of the software reinstalled and then the data reinstated on the new box. This process could take up to three days, meaning your productivity just bottomed out while your IT guys sweated it out in a server room that's about 95 degrees with the air conditioning on.

Enter the virtual server, a far more elegant solution and precursor to the Cloud. By using virtual servers technology, we at DROSTE were able to reduce the number of our physical servers from fourteen to three. Not only did this reduce our carbon footprint but it lowered our overhead costs as we didn't have to maintain over a dozen machines. Additionally, in our case, a virtual server using de-duplication, can backup the 14 virtual servers in the space required by three physical servers. As the amount of data organizations and the world at large need to store grows, this type of storage efficiency will be key.

More importantly, virtual servers offer some practical solutions to common problems. For one, they allow for easier and quicker disaster recovery, often taking no more than half a day to restore from back-ups. For our company, the virtual server has served as a terrific test environment for our team and our clients as we can deploy software without affecting the client's other third party programs or systems. And a test environment can be cloned from an existing environment quickly, allowing for faster testing and troubleshooting to identify and rectify problems.

In the coming weeks, I'm going to talk more about the Cloud and how it differs from its precursor, the virtual server. For businesses of all sizes these virtual solutions cut costs in a variety of areas, including hardware and IT. As the amount of data grows and the demand for secure storage solutions rises, the Cloud will become the Virtual Server of the 21st Century.

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