Q: My MSP is growing fast, and we’re constantly adding new clients to our managed services. We have a lot invested in maintaining customers’ infrastructures, but we’re looking for additional ways to support our customers so we can continue to expand our practice. One thing we want to do is focus more on virtual environments. What are some pros and cons of virtualization?
Virtual environments can help growing SMBs by providing flexibility. Instead of having to replace backup appliances as they grow, a virtual environment can give them quick and easy scalability. Before you deploy them for customers, though, there are a few things to keep in mind.
To help you weigh out all of the pros and cons of having virtualized environments for your customers, we spoke to the Intronis Product Management team. They outlined the benefits and challenges associated with virtual environments and what steps you need to take in the planning process.
Considerations to make before implementing a virtual environment
A virtual environment can offer multiple benefits for your business, including cost and time savings, says Chris Crellin senior director of product management at Intronis MSP Solutions. Not only will you reduce costs because you’ll have less infrastructure to purchase and manage, but you’ll also save on electricity and cooling costs. Plus, quick setup and installation will help reduce your time commitment, too.
When you’re looking to use a virtualized environment, consider which hypervisor you want to go with—Microsoft Hyper-V, VMware vSphere, Citrix XenServer, or KVM. Each one has its own benefits, so you need to decide which one fits your business best, Chris explains. Like your physical environment, consider your how you’ll secure your virtual environment and what tools you’ll need to do so. This can pose a challenge because the virtual environment is another layer you need to maintain and you need enough resources to manage it.
Planning for virtual environments
A successful virtual environment starts with planning. Many businesses don’t plan for business continuity, so often this is a first-time conversation with new customers, says Perry Dickau of the Intronis Product Management team. As with any BCDR plan, you first want to identify applications and processes you want to protect. What data is business-critical? Talk to your customer and understand what their RPO and RTO need to look like. How much data can they lose without impacting their business? Make a comprehensive BCDR plan like you would for a physical environment, but this will be specifically for your virtual environment.
Virtualized environments are different, but that’s not a bad thing. Having the basic fundamentals in place helps you fully support these customers. For example, the best thing you can do is integrate your virtual environment with a hybrid backup approach. While your virtualized environment could be one method of backup, there should also be an additional layer, explains Perry. “Make sure your virtual machine is backed up to restore easily. This means there should be both a local copy for a quick restore and an offsite copy in case there’s a true site wide disaster,” says Chris.
While virtual environments can pose a few challenges, it can help your customers’ scale their business by offering them more flexibility and room to grow. It takes careful planning before you implement a virtual environment, but it can save you time and money in the long run.
Ask an MSP Expert is a weekly advice column answering common questions from MSPs and IT service providers. It covers topics ranging from pricing and selling to marketing and communications—and everything in between.