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What is Virtualization?

Virtualization, in it’s simplest form, is the process of creating a software-based (or virtual) representation of something physical.

In terms of business technology, virtualization is often used to refer to the process of creating a software-based version (virtualizing) physical business applications, servers, storage, and networks.

For example, if your organization needed a file server, email server, and CRM server, you would traditionally have to set up and maintain three different servers. If you were to virtualize the file, email, and CRM servers, you could run all three of them on one physical server.

The same process can apply to business phone systems. Because of their hardware-heavy nature, virtualization is especially useful when it comes to phone systems, particularly if a virtualized environment already exists for other applications.

Who is Virtualization for?

Large organizations have used virtualized environments for some time. As technology has evolved, virtualization software from Microsoft(r), VMware(r), and others, has become more economical, less technically challenging, and more fully-featured. As a result, virtualization is now possible for businesses of all sizes.

In fact, one report states that more than 76% of organizations are taking advantage of virtualization.

Between advances in communication technologies and the emerging market of virtualization, phone systems are steadily moving away from the hardware-centric designs of the past. Modern, feature-rich phone systems, referred to as Unified Communications (UC) solutions, are now, more than ever, excellent candidates to run in a virtualized environment.

When servers and business applications are virtualized, organizations save money, space, and IT resources – all while maximizing ROI from IT investments.

How Does Virtualization Work?

For decades, IT infrastructures were made up of individual servers that powered one application per server. This used to be the only option, but it’s no longer sufficient. Technical requirements for modern businesses – even in the SMB space – require tremendous amounts of resources, not only in terms of equipment but also IT personnel.

For example, many businesses today commonly require individual servers for:

  • Security
  • Customer relationship management (CRM)
  • Files and Documents
  • Phone system
  • Accounting
  • Network communications
  • And potentially many more

Without the option to virtualize, this could present a significant burden on businesses. The applications, and the servers to run them, could easily take up an entire office or require a dedicated data closet. It would also require having an in-house IT staff to maintain the servers. No longer is this the only option.

Virtualization solves this problem by eliminating the need for multiple servers. What used to take four or more physical servers can now be done successfully on one virtualized server. The burden is further lessened by reducing the amount of IT resources and expenses required.

Benefits of Virtualizing Your Business Phone System

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Cost Savings

As mentioned with traditional IT infrastructures, a conventional phone system, or a legacy PBX, typically included expensive, proprietary hardware for each ‘application’ of the business phone system.

With virtualization, it’s possible to either re-use existing virtualization hardware or to purchase a single (non-proprietary) new server. That server runs the virtualization platform and virtual instances of each application (call control, voicemail, auto-attendants, etc.). By establishing a virtualized environment, your organization now only needs a single server, saving significant costs on hardware alone.

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With a virtualized PBX, the solution scales with the organization. If additional resources are needed, it’s as simple as updating a configuration. Virtualization gives organizations the ability to grow or shrink their business applications, as needed.

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Flexibility and Simplicity

By consolidating the amount of server hardware required and limiting vendor-specific hardware, virtualization enables businesses to focus on managing one underlying solution (the virtualization platform) instead of multiple. 

This tremendously reduces the amount of specialized certifications required of IT staff, as well as the amount of in-house resources. It also minimizes other complexities that often occur when inter-connecting multiple solutions together.

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Power Savings

With less hardware to manage and maintain, overall energy consumption decreases dramatically. 

Virtualization allows organizations to decrease the number of devices they are powering, allowing the virtualized setup to run more efficiently while reducing space, heating, and cooling requirements.

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Improved Uptime and Disaster Recovery

Traditional phone systems often needed expensive add-on cards, multiple locations worth of backup equipment, and a healthy dose of stored hardware in order to be prepared for an outage or disaster recovery scenario.

Virtualization solves many of those hardware issues simply by removing the need for vendor-specific hardware. Additional virtualization features, such as high-availability, live-migration, storage-migration, and advanced levels for backup, all combine to make a virtualized phone system more reliable than ever before.

The Difference Between Virtual PBX and Virtualized PBX

There’s no shortage of buzzwords in the technology sector, and many times, those terms are very similar but have slightly different meanings. This is the case with ‘virtual PBX’ and a ‘virtualized PBX’. 

A virtual PBX is generally considered the same as a cloud-based phone system, which is a system maintained by a third-party vendor. With most of these virtual or cloud-based solutions, the only hardware at a company’s location will be handsets (also referred to as end-points or IP phones). It is called a “virtual” phone system mainly because there is nothing physical to maintain other than phones.

Many times, with a hosted or virtual PBX, even more complex tasks, such as setting up an auto-attendant or a call queue, are handled by the third-party, as well.

A virtualized PBX is a phone system solution that resides in a virtualized environment, sharing space on a server along with other business-critical applications. Typically, a company’s in-house IT department manages and maintains the virtualized phone system.

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