Virtual Infrastructure: Promise and Complexity
Most companies in the SMB segment have been aware of the benefits of a virtualization for years. Unfortunately, in some cases the promise of high availability, better performance, and better utilization of hardware comes up short. This is rarely a problem of technology, but rather one of configuration. Properly configured, a virtual infrastructure can provide notable improvements in backup, disaster recovery, uptime, and performance. Improperly configured, virtual environments can cause a great deal of headache – particularly in terms of intermittent issues, and difficult to pinpoint performance problems. These problems add up to wasted helpdesk time, and lost revenue due to poor productivity.
Establishing a Baseline
Troubleshooting IT problems often involves getting complex systems into a known state. If your virtual infrastructure is not documented and configured to best-practice, tracking intermittent problems can be nearly impossible. In that regard, SMBs often realize the need for an independent analysis of their network, servers, and storage. As a result of this analysis, the value of an independent partner to maintain the infrastructure is often clear. If one has already been retained, periodic internal or external audits are equally important.
Areas of Evaluation
There are several key areas to focus on when evaluating your internal infrastructure:
- High availability – how does it fit within your organization’s business practices and existing software packages?
- Performance – are your hosts correctly provisioned? Do they have sufficient connectivity?
- Storage – do you have enough space? Do you have enough IOPS to handle backups and peak load?
- Storage connectivity – is your multipath IO bullet proof? Have you tested it?
- Monitoring – how do you know if there is a problem? If your storage array were to lose a disk, how would you know?
Are the Backups Working?
In many SMBs, internal IT staff and outsourced “helpdesk” staff are often too busy serving user requests to give these details the attention they merit. Additionally, SMBs often fall victim to the “it’s working” mentality, at least until it doesn’t. Within that framework, the cost of additional oversight and a dedicated set of infrastructure expertise is often very inexpensive insurance against just such an eventuality.