Data Virtualization for the Small Business

Just because you run a small business doesn’t mean you don’t have a large cache of data. All this information can be a huge asset if you know how to access, analyze and leverage it. However, too many small business owners don’t know how to go about doing this. Instead, their data is little more than a sap on their resources. If this describes your situation, it’s time you learn about the difference data virtualization can make.

What Is Data Virtualization?

The simplest way to describe data virtualization is a method of extracting information from multiple virtual sources through one interface. By some estimates, as much as 70% of business critical information is stores on mainframe systems. That might not be a problem for your company at the moment, but it will if that system ever becomes obsolete. For many, this is already an issue. Their relational database management systems (RBMS) can’t access the non-relational structure that has the data. The challenge, then, is unlocking mainframe data and streamlining integration.

Generally, virtualization is essential for everything from business intelligence to mobile initiatives to analytics. Without it, what you can do with any of these areas will be greatly handicapped.

Alternatives to Virtualization

While it’s true that there are a number of alternatives to virtualization, it would be a mistake to think that any of them are equally effective. Traditionally, these methods included things like data replication or movement. Some business owners have used intermediary connectors and servers for the sake of point-to-point integration.

Again, though, none of these tactics can compare to virtualization. For one thing, they’re fairly expensive to implement. If you’re running a small business, the last thing you need is yet another expense. Another challenge these methods can’t overcome is simply how much data there is out there. In the digital age, there’s more than ever and it’s increasing at an exponential rate. Simply put, you can’t hope that something like data replication is going to outperform virtualization when you have such a large amount of info available.

Also, the nature of data is changing. It’s extremely diverse, making it nearly impossible to transition it all to a virtual warehouse.

On top of all that, it’s important to remember that a lot of times, the information you’re harvesting isn’t necessarily for you. Instead, you may be looking to share it with business partners, customers or some other third-party. In that case, the demand for real-time information makes virtualization essential and everything else a subpar option.

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A User-Friendly Approach

The great thing about data virtualization is how it simplifies the process of harvesting information from multiple platforms with ease. Like most small business owners, you probably have at least a few data sources containing the information you want to gather and compile. Without virtualization, this would be a laborious chore, if not impossible.

With virtualization, physically transferring the data is no longer necessary. That’s because it only needs the metadata in order to make a virtual view of the information sources. This provides a more agile and quicker way to access data from multiple sources like the cloud, mainframe, etc.

In the end, this makes finding the data you need about as simple as using a search engine.

Don’t Limit Your Resources

If you don’t have a virtualization platform, you may have been limiting the resources you use in your small business, simply because you don’t want to go through such a difficult harvesting process every time you need specific data. Hopefully, you can now see this is no longer necessary. With the right platform, there’s no reason to worry about where your information is. Just bring up one simple interface and go find what you need in a matter of seconds.

It’s also important to think about the implications this has on scalability. You don’t have to limit yourself in terms of the resources you decide to take on. One of the greatest advantages small businesses have these days is that there are so many digital assets out there to help them compete with larger companies. Thanks to virtualization, you can take advantage of as many as you like without worrying how it will impede your data collection practices.

Real-Time Access

Thanks to virtualization, the information you want is always at your fingertips. As a small business owner, you need to be able to act quickly on the most current data available. Alternative extraction practices are far too clumsy to provide you with the results you need when you need them. You could miss all kinds of valuable opportunities simply because it took too long to get your analytics together.

With virtualization, multiple, disconnected data sources can be tapped all at the same time. Better still, the information you collect can immediately be organized too, which is especially important if you plan on sharing it with a third-party who may not be familiar with your normal interface. Choose a format that makes the most sense and get the data where it needs to go in the blink of an eye.

Save Money

One thing that’s a priority for just about every small business owner out there is saving money. You just can’t afford to get sloppy with your budget. This is yet another benefit of virtualization. Despite all of the above advantages, you don’t have to worry that exorbitant costs will hurt your business’ potential. Unlike ETL technologies, for example, the price for leveraging virtualization is extremely reasonable and there is no end to the ways you can benefit from this resource.

Without a doubt, after you begin using virtualization software, you’ll notice a dramatic reduction in your mainframe TCO. There’s also the savings you’ll benefit from by not having to support a virtual warehouse.

Being a small business owner, you’re no doubt on the receiving end of a barrage of opportunities every day as far as virtual assets are concerned. While many are most likely not worth your time, data virtualization software is definitely an exception. It allows you to collect unlimited amounts of information across sources, yet tap into it at a moment’s notice.

About the Author: Mike Miranda

Mike Miranda writes about enterprise software and covers products offered by software companies like Rocket Software.