The What, Why and How of Managing your Virtual Servers

By definition, a server can be a computer, a storage device or any program that manages network resources. Whereas a virtual server is a server that divides software and hardware capabilities of a server creating these independent systems. A layer of virtualization separates one physical server and divides into multiple sections creating these independent systems.

In computing, virtualization is known simply as the creation of a virtual (rather than an actual) version of something — this could be with regards to the operating system, server, network or storage space. With virtualization, one physical host can contain multiple virtual servers. However, it does raise a pertinent question: how do you manage these multiple servers?

In this post, we’ll first look at the basics of virtual servers, the challenges they pose and, most importantly, how to create a management plan to optimize their usage.

What is a virtual server?

In a nutshell, a virtual server shares hardware and software resources with other users — as opposed to a dedicated one. Or, to make it clearer, it mimics the functions of a dedicated server. Rather than having one dedicated resource, you have multiple virtual ones that exist on one server. Virtual servers come with many benefits, chief of which is the ability to run multiple applications and operating systems on fewer resources. In this virtual environment, website administrators can have different domain names, email administrations, file logs, IP addresses and analytics.

Additionally, each server can maintain security systems and passwords independently. How is this possible? Through root access. This feature allows you to take control of your server. You can install server-wide applications, configure them and edit any file on the server. Some Virtual Private Server Hosting providers allow you the opportunity to manage and make efficient decisions regarding server resources and give you great control over the server environment.

What are the challenges of virtual servers?

Virtual servers come with a whole host of benefits like — reduction in hardware expenses, faster provisioning and deployment, quick disaster recovery, complete root access, improved performance and power savings. So, what’s the problem?

The abundance of resources and benefits do create challenges.

  1. When a number of virtual machines reach a point when the administrator can no longer control or manage them, it’s known as VM Sprawl. Furthermore, these accumulated VMs can significantly drain resources, leading to additional costs for more physical hardware.

Virtual servers, though effective, can negatively impact the physical resources, which is why server management is key — bringing us to the third part of this article.

What is virtual server management?

Virtual server management pertains to the act of maintaining and managing virtual servers. It also involves monitoring performance over time. This will help you analyze and determine performance-related issues in your servers, optimize resource usage and prevent hardware malfunctions. The next question, is how?

Virtual Server Management Tips

To get the best from virtual servers, you need to combine careful planning with consistent monitoring and continuous optimization of resources.

Daily Capacity Management:

Since you don’t need to spend your money on managing physical servers, virtual servers prove to be quite economical. As a result, the management strategy for virtual servers is more dynamic. The IT team that manages your virtual servers will need to do so proactively — which will allow your servers to handle and adapt to changes and business demands.

This monitoring and optimizing needs to be continuous. Your team needs to make the best use of the resources, by allocating them as needed. This will make your infrastructure scalable and ready for any workload demands as your business continues to grow.

The main goal with this step is to avoid any shortfalls, stemming from stretching your resources too far, or overcommitting them. Daily checks will allow you to avoid the scenario where services are negatively impacted due to a lack of resources. Furthermore, if any resources are being sent to decommissioned virtual machines, daily monitoring will ensure that these resources are routed where they are needed. That way, you reduce wastage and make sure the resources are available to other hosted virtual machines.

Build a strong IT team and invest in tools

Your IT team is the backbone of your business. If they are improperly trained, or unequipped with the tools they need, they won’t be able to address any issues that come up. While there is less to manage in a virtual server, your team still needs to be prepped to handle any disaster or requirement.

Acquaint your team with the infrastructure and make sure they are aware of the best practices. This will ensure that they are able to neutralize any problem before it affects the end user’s experience. Luckily, many virtualization manufacturers include training material, tools, inexpensive apps and services to help manage a virtual server. These tools will give you an insight into all the virtual servers you are managing, allowing you to make decisions to better your service. They will also help spot problem areas, shortening your response time when it comes to addressing these issues.

Migration Tracking

This feature is provided by many virtualization software providers, allowing IT admins and managers the opportunity to migrate these virtual machines. Why is that important? We discussed the consolidation of multiple virtual servers and the consequent drain on resources due to high levels of network traffic clogging. This feature allows to distribute consolidated virtual servers, therefore mitigating the resource strain before it gets serious.

Stay Updated

Hackers are everywhere, looking for chinks in the armour. One chink is your OS — if it isn’t updated. Don’t let that happen. OS updates usually include patches to security flaws that you might not have noticed. Disregarding an update could mean that, that particular flaw will remain in your server. Furthermore, just a simple update won’t help! Make sure to apply all of the security patches suggested by your OS provider to stay fully protected.

Keep your Server Data Backed Up + Server Snapshots

This is a safety measure, undoubtedly, but it helps to minimize risks and is useful for further analysis. Performing a regular backup and server snapshots will ensure that you can reset the system to a time before any attack. It’ll also ensure that you have the data to continue smooth operations, in case the worst does happen. It’s always better to be safe.

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