Why you should use VMware even with one server

So you’re a small to medium size business, and after carefully consulting with your IT team (or me!) its been decided that you need a server – maybe its your first, maybe a replacement but in any case you only have this 1 single server.  Before you start installing or preparing Windows on this server here are a few reasons why you should consider installing VMware ESXi first.

Most IT departments think of VMware as a solution for having multiple “virtual” machines (or VMs) on a single physical tower or rackmount server but there are many useful features of VMware that will give you more flexability that Windows on a bare metal server.  I did this once for a company who was replacing their Microsoft Dynamics CRM system.  They had an “admin” who thought he was a developer and would constantly break the server, which I then had to rescue.  When we upgraded I put it on the free version of VMware ESXi and took snapshots from time to time and even got the admin to tell me when he was making changes – I was able to revert several, possibly unrecoverable servers within minutes thanks to the items below:

  1. Snapshots – even if you don’t buy into any of the other reasons, snapshots alone should be reason enough.  A snapshot allows you to take a quick, point in time image of your VM (either powered on or off, when possible I turn my server off before taking a snapshot).  Anytime I patch or make a major change to one of my VMs I take a snapshot first, if something goes wrong I can revert back to the snapshot in a matter of minutes – no software to re-install, no files to restore and minimal downtime.

  2. Monitor – VMware has some very acceptable monitoring tools, chances are if you are a small business or have only a single server you probably haven’t invested in monitoring software for that server – the monitoring feature in the free version of VMware (ESXi) is built in, just needs to be configured.

  3. Growth – If you have 1 server, you will probably need two eventually (in fact I would argue that if you have one you should have a second for redundancy for whatever that application is).  Having the free version of VMware ESXi gives you the ability to add a 2nd or 3rd server and only have to buy the necessary Windows/OS license and CALs without having to invest in new, additional hardware.  If your growth continues, you can add external storage, second physical server and full VMware license to gain even more features and functionality.