Virtual Infrastructure Management Guide – What it is and How to Use it

Long gone are those days when companies depended on massive physical infrastructure hardware like memory, network cards, chips, and processing and storage resources. Virtual infrastructure helps companies of all scale leverage these tools with fewer costs and many other significant advantages.

This article shall look into virtualization and how managing it correctly will help companies scale up significantly.

Virtualization

In the physical infrastructure, we dedicate every server to a specific purpose. But the server may not be used to its full capacity. With virtualization, we can add more functionality to a single server and use it more efficiently. This migration reduces the maintenance and electricity costs of the additional server. With virtualization, we can run multiple virtual machines on a single hardware operating system.

Now how can we run multiple virtual machines on single hardware? The answer is Hypervisor. A software that can run virtual machines on top of hardware or as a hosted software. Let’s find out more!

Hypervisor

When it comes to hypervisors, the are two different types we have to look at: 

  1. Bare-metal Hypervisor. It runs directly on the hardware. These hypervisors have their operating system, and they are known for their stability and performance.
  2. Hosted Hypervisor. It runs inside the operating system. So these have an extra layer of software beneath them when compared to bare-metal Hypervisors. These perform well in restricted and small environments.

Hypervisors are present on top of a computer (operating system) or installed directly onto the server. Hypervisors allocate the physical resources to the virtual machines as they need so that they can work efficiently. Whenever a user or program requests additional resources, the Hypervisor will send a request to the physical hardware. And the changes will save locally.

A virtual machine can be treated as a data file. This data file can be moved from one computer to another and simultaneously work on both.

Types of virtualization:

  • Data Virtualization. It provides us with data from various resources devoid of its format and source for users and applications to use.
  • Desktop Virtualization. It’s sometimes called Virtual Desktop Infrastructure. With VDI, users can access all their files and applications on any computer.
  • Server Virtualization. With server virtualization, the physical hardware servers are divided into virtual servers. These virtual servers can operate multiple Operating Systems (OS).
  • Operating System Virtualization. We can run multiple OS such as Windows and Linux on multiple virtual machines.
  • Network Virtualization. With network virtualization, we can combine multiple hardware networks into a single network called a software-based network and the reverse is also possible.

Physical vs. Virtual Infrastructure

We can have multiple Virtual Machines running on a single physical device using the virtual infrastructure. Instead of allocating a single task to a machine, we can allocate multiple. 

As with the OS, we can install different types of OS in virtual machines. We can install a hosted hypervisor and run Linux OS on the virtual machine.

A virtual infrastructure can mean you have numerous servers and physical resources in a server room to store your business data in an enterprise setting.

Benefits of Virtual Infrastructures

  • Efficiency. Virtual infrastructures make the most efficient use of the physical hardware. Because the virtual machine uses the resources whenever it needs. So some machines are active at times, and others are not. This efficiency will directly result in less wastage.
  • Development and Testing. With the ease of use the virtual machines provide to us with operating systems and application installing, we can easily leverage this on improving both development and testing.
  • Scalable. Virtual servers adapt according to the company’s needs. They got built on the concept of what you use is what you pay.
  • Flexible. It allows for multiple server and networking configurations compared to a hardwired physical infrastructure, which requires more capital and effort to change. Virtual machines are easily portable so that you can move them between servers without problems.
  • Secure. Virtual infrastructure provides us with double security. All the traffic has to go through physical infrastructure first, and then there is additional security between the virtual machines. The security barrier that comes with the separation of virtual machines keeps the system devoid of bugs and viruses. 
  • Load balancing. The soft-ware based server balances the load given to the devices. The load gets distributed equally so that no machine gets more load than the other. 
  • Backup and recovery. If there is a physical infrastructure failure, we have to wait until the system is revived and running again. Virtual machine backups assure us of quick and efficient recovery.

More About Virtual Infrastructure Management

As we have seen, there are many benefits from virtual infrastructure when compared to physical infrastructure – many companies are migrating to the virtual infrastructure. Now, we shall see how we can manage this infrastructure to get the maximum out of it. 

Planning and Design

Many companies make the mistake of not planning well enough before migrating to virtualization. Every area of the company will somehow or the other be affected by the virtual infrastructure migration. Only the administrators and architects are held responsible for planning and design. This approach can lead to further roadblocks in the functioning of the company.

Critical members from every team must be involved in the design process, and everyone should see how the migration affects their team and suggest insights. This design will help smooth functioning even after the migration to the virtual infrastructure.

Efficient planning about the implementation of the infrastructure is also equally important. It may seem tempting to implement everything at once since virtual infrastructure provides us with the new OS, virtual machines, e.t.c. The idea doesn’t work out. A step-by-step plan can help us with implementing the infrastructure efficiently and correctly.

Performance and Capacity

We no longer need to check the performance of the infrastructure manually. Automated tools can help us in performance management, application management, and predictive recommendations. So, with the insights we get from the tools we can make decisions.

There are also many server management tools to monitor, track, and model and predict CPU, memory, network, and storage needs for your virtual environments. We can decide on hardware resources based on this analysis.

Storage

Virtual infrastructure greatly reduces the cost of storage. But the opposite is also true if it is not managed correctly. The virtual infrastructure uses shared networked storage. The migrated data centers always present on the shared networking storage—thousands of copies of data sitting idle on the repository.

The capacity needs should be planned correctly to avoid the wastage of the storage resources. The deduplication of data will help us greatly in reducing storage wastage.

Infrastructure Management 

Virtual sprawl is another major problem in virtual infrastructure management. The speed at which the servers are created is significantly reduced. This speed will lead to creating more and more virtual machines, and some are left in idle state and left unattended. This will directly place the server’s burden in the form of permissions, backups, upgrades, patches, and monitoring. If not monitored correctly, this will lead to a stall.

The solution to this problem is to have a request and approve the process. The management lifecycle should be monitored at all times. The idle virtual machines must be decommissioned immediately, and the storage must be allocated efficiently to the correct virtual machine so that the load is balanced.

Backup and Disaster Recovery

In virtual machines, we cannot load backup into everything. The backup gets loaded on to the shared physical resource. This resource backs up data of all the virtual machines that are running on its hardware. If there are more machines on a single machine, then the load is drastically increased on the hardware. This may lead to malfunction or even failure in the application. This can be taken care of by carefully keeping up with the management lifecycle. The load must be carefully observed so that the backup doesn’t get choked. Otherwise, we could lose so much data in a matter of minutes.

… So, as we’ve seen in this article, virtualization has a lot of advantages that can be leveraged if managed correctly. And we’ve also talked step by step about what is virtualization, types, virtual vs physical infrastructure, benefits of virtual infrastructure, and how we can manage virtual infrastructure for maximum benefits.

Fancy giving virtual infrastructure management a try? You can find more information about our virtualization solutions here (Plesk VPS) and here (SolusIO). Drop us a line in the comment section below if you like to share your experience with virtualization with us. Until next time!

Virtual Private Servers – What the Beginner Needs to Know

Virtual Private Servers

Computing seems to be full of jargon, initials, and acronyms, so let’s demystify VPS or virtual private servers. What they are, and what you might need them for. If your shiny new beginner website is ready to be deployed, then dollars to donuts you’ve been diligently doing your research into the murky depths of web hosting. ‘Murky’ seems appropriate because all of that confusing language means that you can’t see very far; like is a kernel a new type of rank in the Armed Forces? And is VPS hosting something like AirBnB? No, not in the slightest, so we’d better get busy with explaining to you exactly what virtual private servers are and how they can help your website.

What Are Virtual Private Servers?

A virtual private server or VPS is a virtual machine sold as a service, but it’s one that packs in a lot of processing power and holds all of the files and information that go together to make up your website. If somebody taps your domain name into a web browser then virtual private servers can assemble all of those different parts into your website so they can see it on their screen.

But what about the ‘virtual’ bit? The answer is that there’s a technology at work that divides up that computer into more than one server. It’s the same physical box, but thanks to this virtualization technology it works like lots of separate servers.

The ‘private’ part means that you get a chunk of that virtual server space all to yourself for your website, so all of the resources that it uses, like memory, processing power, and hard drive space are yours and yours alone. That’s important because if somebody else’s website is using that same computer and it’s a memory hog, your website won’t slow down as a result. In fact, it won’t even notice.

How Do Virtual Private Servers Work?

Your web host will use virtualization technology to install a virtual layer over the server’s operating system (OS). The server has now been separated into distinct sections divided by virtual walls. The layer now allows every user to work with their own discrete software and operating system.

Since a VPS splits your files off from other users at the OS level, it actually is a private server, and as we mentioned, all of the resources like CPU cores and memory don’t get rationed at all. They’re yours.

How Virtual Private Servers Compare with Shared Hosting and Dedicated Hosting

It’s important to look at how other types of web hosting plan work so that you can see the difference and understand the advantages of virtual private servers.

  1. Shared Hosting

A lot of new website owners do fine with shared hosting which is probably the most commonly used type. When you buy a plan that’s called shared hosting, it’s because all of the resources that we previously mentioned don’t get partitioned. Instead, they are divvied up, so RAM, CPU and disk space all have to be shared with the other website owners using that server.

As a crude analogy, let’s compare it to living in an apartment block where everybody gets their own room to sleep in but if they all start using the shower at the same time then the pressure for that shared water starts to drop and everybody suffers. Of course, people put up with this kind of living arrangement because it’s cheaper than buying your own dedicated space, and it’s the same story with hosting too. Shared hosting is cheaper than dedicated hosting (which is hosting dedicated to you).

So, you can save money on shared hosting, but you have to be prepared to put up with occasional losses of performance for your website. If one of the other websites on the server you’re sharing gets a massive traffic spike, then your site might slow down. Of course, if you just try starting out then that might not be a problem. Plenty of folks put up with this kind of inconvenience when getting the new site off the ground and learning the ropes.

  1. Dedicated Hosting

As mentioned above, dedicated hosting is dedicated to your website and your website alone, so no sharing of resources and consequently no unexpected slowdowns because of somebody else’s website experiencing a traffic spike.

It sounds wonderful, and it is, but you have to be willing to pay for it. The upside is that you get total control over all of your resources, so if your website needs to accommodate large volumes of traffic each day, if you need your own OS or if you need to handle lots of financial transactions and you also need to install custom software, then dedicated hosting might be perfect for you.

  1. VPS Hosting

VPS hosting is a kind of halfway house between the two. With virtual private servers, your website sits in a shared physical server but with its own enclosed space, the only domain there, with all its own resources to utilize and no throttling when other websites experience increased demand.

Virtual private servers give you a lot of the benefits of dedicated servers for a much more affordable price. Overall, it’s going to offer much better value for money for the right kind of user.

Selecting Your VPS Plan

When’s the right time to move to VPS? You can work out when to move to virtual private servers by looking at these eight considerations. They’re a good barometer of when it’s time to up sticks.

  1. You Have Security Concerns

If you need greater security, better monitoring, extra space to back up in, a more reliable website, or you will be accepting online payment, then you may want to consider VPS, which can give you all of the above and consequently a better night’s sleep too!

  1. You’re Experiencing Increased Traffic Volume

Shared hosting is ideal when you’re starting out and your traffic volume is low, but when you start to gain traction and your audience grows then you’ll need more elbow room. If you carry on with a shared package then there’s a chance that the extra traffic will overwhelm the server, either slowing down or crashing your website. There’s a good chance that you will lose visitors if your website isn’t up to the task.

  1. Your Website Runs Slowly All the Time

If your website needs a lot of RAM then shared hosting isn’t for you. As it gets bigger and you start to add more content your page load times will slow down. When this happens and you’re bumping up against your limits then you know that it’s time to upgrade. Moving to virtual private servers will let you scale your website and still keep loading times fast.

  1. You’re Running an Online Store

Even a beginner should consider running an online store on virtual private servers because it’s essential to have a dedicated and secure home for your website. Doing so means you have a better chance of passing a PCI compliance test, which is important because The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard was put in place by leading credit card providers to reduce data theft. Your customers want to know that when they use their credit cards with your store they will be safe. VPS is inherently safer in this situation so it’s the one that you should choose.

  1. You Need to Install Custom Software

Content Management Systems like WordPress are great, but there comes a point when you need to install custom software and use a custom server configuration, and when that day comes you need hosting that gives you more control over what you’re doing. Not to mention the fact that many bookkeeping, tax, and billing programs need server availability and high-speed Internet connectivity 24/7. To keep these programs running properly you’re going to need virtual private servers or dedicated hosting on your side.

If you’re on a shared server, you’ll only encounter difficulties when trying to use advanced actions that are restricted, or apps that are unsupported. To avoid these potential difficulties, move to VPS hosting and you’ll get control of your programming actions once again.

  1. You Encounter Server Errors

“Service Unavailable”, 50X errors, and “Internal Server Error”(s) may be a pain in the neck but they are trying to tell you something. When they start to show up for you, then they’re probably going to be showing up for your website visitors as well, and these days those visitors won’t turn into customers if you keep them waiting for even a few seconds. They’ll just move on to your competitors. You can head off these sorts of problems before they happen by switching to VPS.

  1. You Have Budget Constraints

Although we’ve painted a picture of virtual private servers fixing all kinds of problems for you, you hopefully understand that the benefits do come at a cost. Having said that, we hope you’ll see them as an investment rather than a burden. You get the most bang for your buck with a VPS; much more than you would get from far pricier dedicated hosting.

  1. You’re Someone Who Builds Websites for People

A VPS lets you host more or less infinite domains but lets each one have plenty of RAM so that they always work properly. As a professional that’s one less thing for you to worry about.

Selecting the Best Hosting Plan for Virtual Private Servers

So we’ve established that VPS is great, and at some point, you’re going to want to entrust your website(s) to a host. What sort do you go for?

Self-Managed Versus Managed Services

Yes, there’s another layer of choices here, but bear with us, it’s pain-free! They are called self-managed and managed services. As the name suggests, self-managed means you would need to be happy with handling server administration, troubleshooting, and managing apps and services. If these things are new to you or you don’t have the admin skills then it’s best to go for a hosting company’s managed service.

All of our VPS plans are fully managed, which means you don’t need to worry about all the deeply complicated stuff that goes on inside a server. Instead, you’re free to focus on building a great website. If you do want root access, then consider our cloud hosting option for maximum flexibility.

Linux/Windows

Most customers prefer Linux, so we don’t offer Windows-based hosting. This may sound like a statement that’s been hit with the ‘obvious stick’ but it does bear repeating because it’s always best to check!

Reliability

Virtual private servers give you up-time of 99.5% and higher, which is crucial for any business. Just so that you know, ours are more like 99.98%. We are not bragging of course; we’re just highlighting how incredibly wonderfully fabulous we are.

Hardware

When you sign up for our VPS hosting package, check that your service provider is offering all of the best kit, such as solid-state drives (SSD), which are as fast as you can get—so fast that they make programs run like they’ve been greased up and pushed down a ski slope.

Round-the-Clock Customer Support

When all is said and done, you never know when your website might throw a fatal wobble and stop working. So, get yourself a VPS hosting package from a company that is always going to be there to pull you back from the brink of doom.

Backup Service

Imagine your site breaks and you forgot to back it up. It’s a wake-up screaming type of moment, but all too often it isn’t just a nightmare—it’s a waking nightmare that can cost you time, money and sanity. Make sure your provider makes backups blissfully simple.

Ready for a Virtual Private Server of Your Own?

Glad you made it to the end. Now you know that virtual private servers can offer you a lot of indispensable features that will happily accommodate your growing website—and all for less than the cost of dedicated hosting. They are the perfect compromise and more of an investment than an expense. After all, your website is the face of your business, the one that shows to the world, and who doesn’t want to have a face that is always looking its best?