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Virtual Computers

Virtual Computers

  Technology with Integrity

By Tim Torian, Torian Group, Inc.


Want to try Windows Vista without risking your current computer setup? Do you have a program which has to be set up just right, or which conflicts with another program? Want to surf the net without the risk of viruses?  Virtual machines may be the answer. Virtual Machines are computer programs that emulate computer hardware. They provide a separate environment which works and acts like a computer, but don’t require separate hardware.

To use a virtual machine you simply download and install the VM software. You then configure the virtual computer environment by deciding how much Memory and Disk space to reserve for it, and assign CD-ROM and network resources from your real hardware. Like any other program, you start it up from within windows. It looks just like you are turning on your computer, but runs in a window. You then install the operating system and software using your “virtual” CD drive, just like you would when setting up any computer.

The VM is stored on your real computer as a configuration file and a “disk” file, which emulates the VM hard drive. This makes it easy to create new virtual machines by simply copying the files. If you damage one, simply make another copy. Many preconfigured VM files are available for download for specific purposes, such as surfing the net, testing a vendor’s product, or training.

There are 2 main vendors for virtual workstation programs. VMWare, the market leader offers a free “virtual server” program, which supports Windows and Linux server software. They also have a “virtual workstation” 30 day trial. Find out more at www.vmware.com .

Microsoft also has a server and workstation product. Both are free downloads, and both will run Window XP or Vista. Only the server product will run Windows Server.
PC: www.microsoft.com/windows/products/winfamily/virtualpc/default.mspx
Server: www.microsoft.com/windowsserversystem/virtualserver/default.mspx
In addition, Xen offers a free product based on Linux, which is more complex to set up. http://sourceforge.net/projects/xen.

Many companies are using virtual server software to consolidate their server hardware. They can buy less hardware, manage the servers more easily, and have a backup plan that allows restoring a server simply by copying the VM files over to another computer.

It is also an ideal environment for testing new configurations.

If you are inclined to try new things on your computer, consider running a virtual machine. You will find it to be a great tool, and a way to protect your computer from the risks of installing unknown or untested software.

Tim Torian has taught computer networking at the College of Sequoias and Cal Poly Extension. He has a BS in Computer Science, and has been consulting on computer networking for the past 30 Years. His industry certifications include: Cisco CCNA and CCNI, Microsoft MCSE. He was recognized as Entrepreneur of the year for 2008 by the Tulare County EDC. He is president of Torian Group, Inc. which provides a full range of Technology Consulting services to local business, including computer services, networking, web and custom software development. www.toriangroup.com


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