Three ways to use virtual machines in a small business

The other day we were looking at Probrand’s virtual machine service. While doing so we started to think about whether virtualization is worthwhile for small business owners. The benefits for larger firms that require a lot of computing power and employ a big workforce are fairly obvious.

For a small business whether they should invest in virtual machines is not as clear-cut. However, as you will see, they can be very beneficial, even for them.

Easily replicate the set-up of any PC

Virtualization enables you to make a complete copy of any machine. This is great if you want to employ someone new and set them up with a laptop that exactly replicates that of their existing colleagues.

Keep backups of old software configurations

When you are a small business it is hard to find the money to invest in the very latest software. If the tools that you use are working for you changing them is the last thing you want to do. Not only does it cost money, training everyone up on the new system is a lot of hassle. Plus, initially, at least, it usually has a negative impact on productivity.

The problem is that when your hardware eventually fails, you inevitably end up losing some programmes because they are so old that you can no longer download them. Your copy works fine, but you can no longer replace it. When that happens, you have no choice but to buy some similar software and go through all of the hassle and expense of changing over to it.

If you have access to a virtual machine you have no need to go through that. Instead, you just take your copy of the virtual machine and load it up onto your new x86 compatible hardware. This means no downtime, no hassle or expense.

Ease the process of updating your systems

However, if you do need to buy and use new software you will be particularly glad of virtual machines. They make the whole process much easier and safer. The main reason for this is that you can run two different setups using your existing PCs, IT equipment or server.

So, if for example, you want to introduce new accounts software. One member of your team can continue to work with the old setup to keep the business ticking over.

At the same time, another member of your team can be working on setting up, testing and familiarising themselves with the new software. They can put together tailored training for everyone else and move most of your historical data across to the new system. Another VM could be set up to allow the rest of the team to train on the new software.

Once you are sure everyone is ready you just need to take the final copy of your new setup and replicate it across your entire business. That way from the moment everyone switches on their machines they are all working with exactly the same setup.

Should you experience any difficulties you will be able to switch back to your old working environment instantly. Provided, of course, you have made a virtual machine copy of it.

The above are just a few examples of how a small business can benefit from running virtual machines. If you want more you can find them here.