physical vs virtual servers

Physical vs Virtual Servers: What, Why and How

Physical vs virtual servers

Most small businesses use one or more physical servers.

These hardware devices are essentially big computers with more capacity than desktops.  Like all computers, servers have a motherboard, memory, and disk space. 

Physical servers can be located in your office, in a data center, or in “the cloud” (a data center managed by AWS, Azure, or Google Cloud.)  

Virtual servers reside on physical servers.  

Virtual servers can bring a lot of benefits to an organization. However, many non-technical people don’t know what virtual servers are, so let’s break it down.  

In this article, we’re going to talk about: 

  • What a virtual server is  
  • Why you might want to use virtual servers 
  • How virtual servers are managed 

What is a virtual server?  

A virtual server mimics the functionality of a physical server. However, unlike a physical server, virtual servers: 

  • Don’t consume physical space and energy (other than the server they reside on)  
  • Are less expensive to maintain 
  • Provide IT administrators with greater flexibility  

Why use virtual servers? 

Organizations primarily use virtual servers in order to reduce costs and simplify server administration. Unlike a physical server, which requires extensive setup, a virtual server can be spun up in minutes. Some of the practical use cases for virtual servers include: 

  • Providing isolated environments for business applications  
  • Creating and testing software development processes 
  • Load balancing across multiple physical servers 
  • Enables companies to run legacy applications, while upgrading the rest of the environment 
  • For disaster recovery and business continuity – a virtual server can be copied to a new server and it will continue to work  

How are virtual servers setup? 

Virtual servers are created with software that divides the physical server resources into multiple distinct servers. Each virtual server has its own security permissions and configuration.  

We can help you with the virtual server planning and provisioning processes. The first step is to figure out where to put the virtual servers, either on your own hardware or in a managed cloud.

There are pros and cons to both approaches. If you buy the hardware, you’ll have higher upfront capital costs and a longer setup process, but lower ongoing costs. Using a cloud platform requires no capital investment, but you’ll be paying a higher amount over time.  

An advantage of having cloud-based virtual servers is that you can pay per minute for resource consumption. For example, let’s say you decide to run a SuperBowl ad for your business. A million people all hitting your website at once will crash a small business site – yet you don’t want to pay for the possibility of having millions of visitors all the time when it might only happen for a day. A cloud-native webapp would auto-scale resources based on actual utilization. Companies often spin up virtual servers to analyze data or test software, then delete the entire environment when finished. The process is easy and cost-efficient.  

How are virtual servers managed?

Whether you own or rent the physical server, someone has to manage everything inside of it. A data center or cloud provider only makes sure you can login to the environment. If you outsource server management, you’ll want to outsource virtual server management as well.  

Still not sure if a virtual server is right for your business? 

Give us a call. We can walk you through the entire virtual server planning, provisioning, and maintenance process.

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Frequently asked questions

What is a virtual server?

A virtual server is a more flexible version of a physical server. Limiting costs and space, but giving access to more users.

Are virtual servers slower than physical servers?

Physical servers are more powerful and efficient than virtual servers. Make sure you consider this when deciding what is right for you.

Physical vs virtual servers?

You can run several virtual servers on one physical server. They’re separate from each other and from the physical machine. There are more benefits to virtual servers now that we have become mostly cloud based.

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