Going Virtual, Part 2: Physical Vs Virtual Servers (P2V)

The change from a physical to a virtual server (P2V) is not one to take lightly. There are a lot of pros and cons to the transition, and whether it will be worth it for your business. A lot of people oversell the boons a virtual server will bring, while not properly considering the underlying costs.

For those considering the change, know there are two sides to the coin. In our second article we’ll highlight the pros and cons of a P2V transition, and you can decide whether or not it’s right for your business.

Going Virtual (P2V) Series

  1. What Is a Virtual Server?
  2. Physical VS Virtual Servers
  3. What Hardware Do I Need for P2V?
  4. Performing a P2V Server Migration

The Pros of Virtualization

The benefits of virtualization are very appealing, so much so that the vast majority of enterprise businesses now use some form of it. Even in small to medium businesses (SMBs), it can be a major boon.

Lower Infrastructure Costs

For any business, what’s not attractive about paying less for more? Virtualization means you don’t have to purchase a new server for every single application you want to run in your organization. By having one physical machine running multiple virtual servers, you’re dramatically reducing your cost overhead.

Lower Operational Costs

Once servers are virtualized, IT staff can automate a number of significant routine IT tasks, such as applying Windows OS patches.  This reduces the need for hands-on management and reduces your business’s operational costs. That means IT staff are free to provide high-quality service instead of spending time keeping systems up-to-date.

Let’s face it; this is a big motivator for any business.

Greater Redundancy

This one’s a biggie. Virtualization allows greater safety and security by having all your servers separated so when one crashes, it doesn’t take down everything. Plus, if you’ve got BackupAssist installed, you can instantly recover a VM guest that goes down, along with your precious servers. With a physical server, you’d be out for the count while you wait for your bare-metal recovery to finish.

Energy Cost Savings

As you lower the size of your hardware and server equipment, you lower your energy consumption, cooling power and data-center square footage. Again, more money saved.

Faster Server Deployment

Deploying a virtual server is overwhelmingly simpler than deploying a physical machine, not to mention provisioning them. This is particularly useful if you’re deploying a virtual server from a backup onto the same or different hardware.

Maximizing Resource Use

When you’re hosting servers on individual physical machines, chances are you’re only using up to 10% of each device’s capacity. With a virtual host, however, you’re able to consolidate multiple servers within a single machine. That means your business is getting the most out of your hardware and resource investments.

When you’re paying for each and every machine, you want to make sure you’re getting 100% out of them.

Providing for Business Growth

As your business grows, it’s easy to create new virtual servers as needed with a few mouse clicks. However, it’s not so easy to set up physical servers, and they’re not easily disposed of either. Virtualization is perfect if you want to excel in efficient resource management while still providing room for business growth.

More Flexibility

As if all those ‘pros’ weren’t enough, a virtual server offers the ability for different domain names, file directories, e-mail administration, IP addresses, logs and analytics. Again, you’d need a whole new physical machine for these things.

The Cons

Some businesses get tunnel vision the second they see ‘lower costs’. That’s a mistake, since for SMBs there are things you need to be aware of before making the leap. Here’s what you should prepare for if you’re deciding to perform a P2V transition.

High Upfront Expenditure

Sure, you save money in the long run, but the upfront costs of a virtualization strategy from the ground up can be daunting. You’ve got to fork out for the proper hardware to support it, and while it’ll pay off eventually, some SMBs don’t have this sort of upfront collateral.

Sometimes you’ve got to spend money to save money.

Lack of Universal Support

For all the businesses jumping on the P2V train, there are still applications that don’t fully support virtualized environments. You should make sure that all the business-critical applications you use are fully supported should you go virtual or else you could be in for quite a nasty shock. Select high VM supporting software (E.g. BackupAssist for backups), so you know that the vendors specifically support virtual machines.

Resource Hogging

Making the most of your resources is great, but sometimes you can make too much of them. If you’ve got too many virtual servers running off a single physical machine, things are going to slow down even if your VMs are technically independent of each other.

Cost of VM Licensing

You’re going to save money on hardware and operation costs, that’s for sure. But you’re going to need to pay for virtualization software and licensing. It’s true that there are free starter versions available, but they usually don’t come with the important management packages you need or lack in functionality (such as how many server cores you can use at once). In short, you’ll save money in hardware costs but have to pay more in software costs.

Specialized VMWare or Hyper-V Knowledge Needed

The administration of virtual servers requires specialized knowledge. Even more daunting, virtualization packages such as VMWare and Hyper-V server come with their own set of rules and a 600 page manual. It’s not something that’s typically covered in a college degree in network administration, so the learning curve is steep. In particular, learning to match backup and recovery software to the needs of your virtual servers can be tough, unless you’re using an intuitive software program that can detect when it’s on a VM and offer up an easy-to-use interface.

It won’t be rocket science, just computer science. Keep that manual handy.

Possible Data Sprawl

Servers are really, really easy to deploy in virtualized environments. That means you might go overboard and add virtual servers even when they’re not needed. Instead of having your necessary 10 to 20, you might have 30 to 40, wasting your available resources in the process.


If you’re a SMB looking to perform a P2V transition for your servers, there’s no reason you shouldn’t so long as you’re aware of how to implement virtual environments and the potential downsides.

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