I’ve been writing quite a bit about examples of schools virtualising their servers, especially as it is one way to significantly reduce your school budgets (Wootton Basset School, West Hatch School, Neville Lovett School and Lodge Park Technology College are all saving a minimum of £10,000 a year through virtualisation). And a recent snapshot survey on EduGeek showed that an ‘average’ secondary school has over a dozen servers. So there’s plenty of reason to consider virtualisation.

But knowing it’s a good thing to do is one thing. Knowing how to do it is completely different. So here’s a little help

Of course, one starting point should be the Microsoft website’s Hyper-V section.

Education Technology Now

And for education specific information, there’s an added gem available. Alan Richards, who’s the IT Manager at West Hatch School, has written about various aspects of virtualisation on his Education Technology Now blog. At every step of his virtualisation journey he wrote about what he was doing, and the decision he was taking, and it provides a detailed case study on how to virtualise school servers.

imageThe series of blog posts he’s written take a step-by-step journey:

The Design Phase

The second part of the Design Phase

The Physical Phase

iSCSI Setup – Video

Windows Server Failover Clustering Setup – Video

Windows Server Failover Clustering Setup – Corrections

Clustered Shared Volumes – Video

Installing Hyper- V – Video

Live Server Migration

And Alan’s now writing more specific posts about specific parts of your school network infrastructure, such as Upgrading, Migrating & Virtualising SharePoint 2010.

11 Golden Rules for Virtualisation

I’d also highly recommend Steve Cassidy’s excellent article on PC Pro - 11 golden rules for virtualisation - which provides a straightforward set of rules to consider and decisions to make. For example, he starts by advising that you measure the potential savings (and demonstrate them to the head & school business manager):

Virtualisation projects pay back by reducing power bills and server purchase budgets. The latter is easy to demonstrate; the former requires some distinctly non-computing work.

To really see the benefit, you have to be able to compare hosting rack-space invoices, or monthly electricity bills, or stand in the blast of the cooling fans – it’s very difficult to translate the massive efficiency improvements into something tangible. The most basic fat-plug current meter can form the basis of a good solid demo for that disbelieving finance director, standing in the server room watching you start up the old boat-anchors and chalking up their power draw on the wall.


Find a Microsoft virtualisation partner

And finally, you might also want to find a Microsoft partner for some advice. The easiest way to do that is to use Microsoft Pinpoint, which allows you to find partners with specific competencies – this link gives you all UK partners who are listed as working in Education, and offering virtualisation solutions. You can easily refine it further by adding your location, and finding the local ones.

(Looking at the list that Pinpoint shows, it appears that many of our partners haven’t updated their specialisms in the database. So if you’re a Microsoft partner, and you’re reading this, you might want to go to the Microsoft Partner Network, or talk to your account manager, to do this)