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virtualizing small business servers

Posted on 2012-04-11
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Last Modified: 2012-06-27
Hello
I'm thinking about virtualizing a small office server I administer. Here are the reasons I want to do it

1. The OS is in terrible condition and needs to be completely rebuilt (not my fault). I'd like to make the OS (SBS 2008) as a VM during the week than spend a weekend sitting alone at their office redoing the server. Then I can load it on their server after work on Friday.
2. I like the idea of being able to save a state before patching or tweaking settings.
3. It will make hardware upgrades simpler in the future
4. Should hardware fail I can load a backed up image on another server while I fix their server

So that's my reasoning for virtualizing a small office server. Does that make sense?

I've been looking into it for awhile now, but am confused about a few issues. I understand that virtualization is typically used for bigger and more awesome things than what I'm going to do with it, however I still think it makes sense in my situation. I'm confused about licensing pricing for virtualization. They say ESXi is free, but when I load it up it says that it will expire in 60 days. I just need to get the free license right?

Also, vphere isn't free. How am I supposed to manage the vm like taking snapshots without vsphere? Is there a free alternative I'm supposed to use?

Would a different virtualization platform like Xenserver fit my needs better?

Another business in my area uses vmware for this purpose and it seems to serve them well. Can anyone help clarify my befuddlement?
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Question by:drewmun
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by:Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE)
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE) earned 250 total points
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All those reasons are good reasons to virtualise, DR, Backup, but also if you think you are going to expand and use more virtual servers, otherwise you could stay physical.

VMware vSphere Hypervisor (ESXi) is free, you can use ALL the FULL features for 60 days for free in evaluation mode, at the end of 60 days, apply the Free License displayed at registration, and your done.

You maybe getting a little confused with vSphere vCenter Server, which is the management server, also available for evaluation for 60 days, like ALL VMware products, but is not available for free. This is used to manage more than one ESXi server.

Snapshots are still supported in the free version, it's just templates, clone functions that are not available in Free. Still can be managed for free using the FREE vSphere Client, which is downloaded from the ESXi server after installation.

I think you will find VMware vSphere Hypervisor (ESXi) easier than Xenserver.

Just make sure you have a supported server on the HCL here

Check the VMware HCL (Hardware Compatability Lists) here

http://www.vmware.com/go/hcl
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by:drewmun
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I just realized I forgot a question. I'm making the image as we speak on a spare desktop machine running ESXi, will I be able to transfer the image to the server with Vsphere?
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Cliff Galiher earned 250 total points
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Do not take snapshots of SBS (or any domain controller.) Bad things happen. This is weill documented. As far as your other reasons, they are sound. I virtualize all of my installs now. I, however, use Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 (also free) and you can export the VM using the free Hyper-V Manager snap-in from your build machine and import to your final machine. All works as advertised.

-Cliff
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by:Lee W, MVP
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Slightly disagree with Cliff.  

Snapshots of DCs can DESTROY Active Directory if restored -- in a domain with more than one DC.  That said, I would be cautious with taking snapshots of a mail server since any restoration would lose e-mail previously received.  So bottom line - in production - I still wouldn't use snapshots on SBS.

(Cliff - I'd be most appreciative if you could cite other potential issues if I'm misunderstanding something).
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by:drewmun
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Leew, that's kinda one thing I read. The time desyncs when other domain controllers are active. Anyway, it's too bad that snapshotting isn't recommended on SBS servers, it's one reason I was looking into it. That's fine though, I can still see the advantages of virtualizing. I think I have a good backup method, so should something happen I can load that backup quickly.
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