How Virtualization Benefits Home Users

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How can virtualization help home users? 

Virtualization, in computing, is the creation of a virtual (rather than actual) version of something, such as a hardware platform, operating system, a storage device or network resources

Have you ever wanted to have one computer for your business, accounting and official uses, and another computer to let your kids destroy on their own, or to use for browsing the web and doing the Internet without fear of exposing your business assets to viruses and malicious software (malware)?  Virtualization lets you have all that (and more) but without having to spend a penny on new equipment (not to mention the issue of space and where to put things).

What is virtualization?

Virtualization is technology designed for enterprise computing, but which has some very creative uses for home computer users, too!  Once installed, you can use this program (called a "hypervisor") to run a whole nother computer (ie, a "virtual computer") within your main, physical computer.  In other words, a [virtual] computer within a [physical] computer.  It's almost mind-bending to see another computer running as a program on your desktop instead of an electricity-sapping, space-eating second computer pidgeonholed into another nook of your house or office, but that's exactly what it is!

How does it work?

With virtualization, the home user can create a virtual user environment within their computer.  When you use your "computer-within-a-computer," your biggest advantage lies with the fact that your main, physical computer is invisible to running programs in the virtual computer.  That means if you're browsing the web and you pick up a virus from a bad website or email attachment, your virtual computer takes the hit - not your real one.  There's also some technical benefits, such as the fact that your virtual computer can be run on a Windows machine and then moved to a Mac and then back to a Windows computer at will.  The hardware and software used to host a virtual computer is irrelevant.  Virtual computers can run on just about any kind of computer and moved around easily!

Why would a virtual computer be better than my real, physical computer?

Let's look at a few of the main benefits of virtualizing in the home environment:

  1. Easy, fast backups.  Virtual machines are encapsulated into a single file on your main (physical) computer, so you can back up an entire computer system by simply copying a file.
  2. Safety.  If you pick up a virus on the Internet, you can simply blow away the virtual machine and either go back to a backed-up copy of it, or just roll back the machine to a previous state (called a "snapshot").
  3. Expandability.  If you need another computer for something, you can create one just as easily as making a new Word document.  You don't have to buy another physical computer or find space in your home or office for it! 
  4. Security.  If your kids want to play a game from a website, give them their own virtual computer to use!  If it gets destroyed, the damage will be isolated and your main physical computer (and your other virtual computers, if any) will be untouched.
  5. Experimentation and development.  For those who like to download and try out new operating systems or software programs, virtualization is a must-have capability because sometimes this kind of thing can really cause havoc to a computer system.  Might as well guinea pig a virtual computer before using new things for real.  Then you'll know it works BEFORE you try to use it!

How many virtual computers can you run at once?

Your computer's capacity (namely memory and hard drive space) limits the number of virtual computers you can run in your computer, but most modern machines can handle at least a couple of virtual computers up and running at the same time.  You can even switch between them by simply opening their windows on screen!

What does it cost?

Since there are industrial-strength virtualization software packages available for free, there's no expense there.  (You don't want to know what the enterprise versions of these applications and their support contracts cost.  Just know that for home use and without commercial support packages, it's free.)  Naturally, there's some cost involved with setting up a virtualized environment with the help of an outside consulting company like East City Consulting Technical Services, LLC, but the tech savvy can in fact achieve results without spending a penny.

In the end, the decision to virtualize in the home computing environment should be driven by "need" with due consideration for the cost-benefit ratio.  Setting up your own virtualized environment requires quite some technical know-how, but to use one is as easy as using any other computer.  If you would like to explore the possibility of utilizing this amazing technology in your home or office environment, contact East City Consulting Technical Services, LLC for an appointment.  Low-end virtualization is both inexpensive and effective, and can be a suitable replacement for the use of cloud technology by home and business users.