Small to midsize businesses (SMBs) are relying more heavily than ever on their IT infrastructures, but budgets and resources haven’t always kept pace with those demands. Virtualization can help organizations “do more with less” by consolidating systems, improving resource utilization and streamlining IT operations. Are SMBs taking maximum advantage of this proven technology?

ActualTech Media conducted a study in early 2015 to find out. The State of SMB IT Infrastructure Survey found that one-third of SMBs — the largest portion of the survey group — have virtualized 70 percent or more of their servers. However, 21 percent are less than 10 percent virtualized (the next largest group) and 14 percent are less than 30 percent virtualized. In all, 50 percent of respondents reported that less than half of their environment is virtual.

This represents a significant opportunity for SMBs. Virtualization enables organizations to create multiple virtual servers on a single piece of hardware — as far as the system is concerned, each virtual server is a separate machine. According to VMware, server virtualization delivers 80 percent greater utilization of server resources and up to 50 percent savings in capital and operating costs. Reduced server maintenance burdens allows IT departments to do more with less staff, and better utilize staff skill sets.

Virtualization also enables applications to deployed in minutes rather than days or weeks. IT can move server workloads as needed, improving performance and providing for replication and automatic failover to minimize downtime.

Some organizations have not virtualized mission-critical applications due to concerns about performance and availability since multiple virtual machines share compute, storage and network resources. However, the latest server and storage hardware and virtualization technologies are capable of supporting the most demanding workloads.

That holds true for IP communications. Some years ago, Voice over IP (VoIP) was not a good candidate for virtualization due to the predictable performance needed for real-time communications. Now, however, virtualization has become a mainstream deployment option for IP communications.

ShoreTel has offered a virtualization option since version 14.2 of its Unified Communications (UC) platform. ShoreTel virtual appliances put all the functionality of ShoreTel switches and hardware appliances in software designed to run in VMware environments. It supports all ShoreTel UC components, including call control, SIP trunking and collaboration applications.

ShoreTel allows customers to take advantage of virtual servers they already own and operate, in a fully customizable deployment model that maximizes existing investments. In addition to improving utilization, virtualization enables customers to quickly and easily move ShoreTel UC services to another server in the event of a hardware failure.

In addition, customers have the flexibility to mix and match hardware-based and virtual appliances, all managed using a single web-based interface. Customers can select the UC deployment model that best suits their business and infrastructure needs while reducing complexity and increasing the availability, scalability and reliability of their communications systems.

IPC has proven experience deploying ShoreTel in virtualized environments. Let us help you leverage the cost, flexibility and business continuity advantages of virtualization for your ShoreTel system.