Small Business Adoption of Virtualization on the Rise

The report found nearly 70 percent of SMBs that reported having virtualization technologies were using them to move servers from hardware to software.

Small to medium-size businesses (SMBs) are increasingly aware of the benefits that virtualization technology can provide, and a majority are already using some form of it, according to a survey prepared by a group of Cisco partner firms and conducted by The Blackstone Group.

While larger companies were more likely to be using most of the mainstream applications such as disaster recovery, mobile device management (MDM) and remote desktop access, server virtualization was particularly popular among small (50-100 employee) companies.

The report found nearly 70 percent of small firms that reported having virtualization technologies were using them to move servers from hardware to software, likely to help cut down server sprawl and maintenance costs.

Efficiency was more important to the organizations with IT budgets under $100,000 as they try to squeeze the most out of their expenditures. Fifty-eight percent of those companies listed IT productivity improvement as a major benefit.

For the firms with budgets over $100,000, reduced energy costs were important. Thirty-nine percent listed it as a key benefit while only 19 percent of companies with budgets under $100,000 thought it was of top importance.

Virtual desktop infrastructure, or VDI, appeared to be the biggest luxury application as 60 percent of medium-sized companies employed VDIs compared to just 42 percent of small companies. Those with IT budgets over $100,000 also utilized VDI 62 percent of the time, well below the 35 percent using them with budgets under $100,000.

Storage virtualization, another application that helps condense necessary infrastructure, was another popular application among small business with 53 percent implementing it as compared to just 42 percent of larger companies.

About 65 percent of small businesses (50-100 employees) were currently utilizing virtualization technologies but that number jumped to 79 percent with medium-sized businesses (100-500 employees). The same correlation held true with IT budgets as 64.5 percent of businesses with an IT budget of $100,000 or less have implemented virtualization while 80 percent of businesses with IT budgets greater than $100,000 already have virtualization technologies in place.

Meanwhile, upper management respondents also placed a high priority on cost-savings. Fifty-five percent of high-level management (VP or above) respondents listed lower IT unit costs as a major benefit as compared to 47 percent of middle managers.

The survey indicated most IT professionals needed only a relatively small push to begin the virtualization process as 87 percent of survey respondents felt forecasted cost savings of 10 to 30 percent was enough to justify the purchase.

Larger companies on average needed less cost savings to make a compelling case for migrating to server or storage virtualization. The report noted this is likely due to the fact that companies with more than 100 employees were more familiar with virtualization and its benefits in general.

According to the survey, 92 percent of respondents working for those companies were very familiar with virtualization while just 62 percent of small business leadership felt comfortable with it.

"This unfamiliarity may be a key reason why more small businesses have not yet adopted today’s virtualization technology," the report noted. "It’s likely as they start understanding the ins and outs of virtualization, more small business will become adopters over the next few years."