Should I virtualize a single server?

blue92lx used Ask the Experts™
Good afternoon,

I'm going to be installing SBS 2011 on a new Dell server for a new client.  I've used Hyper-V for servers already and I love it.  I want to know if I should take the SBS 2011 install and virtualize it using Hyper-V since it comes with a physical and virtual license.  

The pros that I see are that I can change the hardware layout on the physical server, such as number of hard drives (I could change the RAID from 1 to 5 and reinstall the OS.  All I'd have to do is start up the VHD and nothing will be different), size of partitions, etc.  
I can easily change the Hyper-V hardware layout for CPU's, Memory, Hard Drive space, etc.
I can add a second server if I like, for remote access in the future.
I can backup and restore easily with daily VHD backups.

Since it's one server what do you all think?  
Also is there a way to backup the virtual machine during the day that will not be intrusive?  Should I do regular Windows backup and restore backups for the daily data and then do a nightly Disk2VHD backup?  Will using snapshots of the VHD during the day work?

Thanks in advance,
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Top Expert 2012
I would install a virtual machine since this allows for growth. Even through currently the customer only needs to have one server in the future business needs could change and a terminal server could be required with a hyper-v server you can setup a new VM without having to purchase new hardware. Planning for the future is the way to go.

Plus if you want to migrate to new hardware when new hardware is required you could then move the VM over to a new Hyper-v server without having to do much work.

A lot more flexibility.
Tony JohncockLead Technical Architect

My answer to this is always the same: why not?

Ok - the "cons" as they are: It adds in complexity for possible client administrators, but these days I cannot believe anyone is not aware of virtualisation;

It _can_ add costs on, as even early on it's better to spec the hardware to support more than a single VM (even taking into account the hypervisor requires _some_ system resources).

Umm...that's about it, actually.

Now for the "pro's"

You already hit one on the head - mobility. If the physical host dies, as long as you can install the same hypervisor (or a compatible one) then downtime is minimised

Backups become simpler on the whole - you can back up flat files.

Expansion becomes easier - pay for a license for the additional hypervisor features (where necessary) and add to the resources and management features easily.

DR is simplified - lost the site? Pop a new server in, install the hypervisor and drop those flat files back in.

Here's a doozy: If you choose a hypervisor on the Microsoft Supported Virtualisation Platform and that hypervisor is ONLY a hypervisor, then licensing becomes beneficial:

Buy a standard license for 2008 and install one guest OS, also 2008 standard;
Buy an Enterprise license for 2008 and install four guest copies, any mix of 2008 standard and enterpise
Buy a Datacentre license and install any combination - no limit.

Of course, in this context, you're interested in SBS - it does run absolutely fine virtualised.


Awesome, Thanks for the reaffirmation of what I was already leaning towards.

So my last part to the question is what's the best way to perform backups during the day?  Like I said I will do the Disk2VHD backups everynight but if there is a way to do backups so they don't lose a days worth of work in a bad situation that would be even better.
Lead Technical Architect
You might want to investigate Acronis' online backup - they can actually do a full, bare metal [backup and] restore for a few hundred dollars a year. AND they support virtualised environments.

Otherwise, you could schedule snapshots or look at third party backup tools for virtualised environments that can do snapshots.

Or use an OS-based backup utility and backup at an OS level.

You could mitigate against day-to-day problems by things like volume shadow copy - so users can access previous versions of files they accidentally delete/change and of course, hardware RAID on the disks also help in this way.

Generally, for the kind of size of site that uses SBS, a daily backup and the use of VSS are often enough.


Thanks guys!  I gave you both points on this one, a few more to Tony for the backup solution follow up

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