When deciding to switch from a traditional physical hardware system to using cloud solutions, like a Windows virtual machine, which is included with the Microsoft Azure cloud infrastructure, there is a lot to consider. You really need a basic understanding of the differences between the systems, the benefits and potential uses of a virtual machine environment, the limitations of your current system, as well as determining how (or if) using virtual machines and virtual machine software will impact the workflow, cost, and security of your organization.
What is a Virtual Machine?
Computers are built with physical components also called hardware. Alone, the hardware is useless. Computers need software to tell the hardware exactly what to do. This software is called the operating system (OS). Windows, Linux, Mac OSX, iOS, and Android are each types of operating systems. There are many fundamental differences between each of the operating systems that often make compatibility and interoperability with various other software, apps, hardware, and devices impossible.
A virtual machine manager, also called a hypervisor allows us to run more operating systems within the existing operating system framework. For example, if your computer --let's say a Mac, runs OS X, by creating a virtual machine environment you would be able to set up another independent operating system of your choice such as Windows. This is just one of the many exciting features of virtual machines.
A virtual machine that is located in the cloud is like your desktop computer's "home away from home." It contains both complete and separate operating systems as well as all of your software and applications. A secure data center stores all of these programs, as well as your important business data. When you access the virtual machine, it as exactly as if you are using your desktop computer. Your system is available to you anywhere, 24/7 and with full access and control over all of your files.
Benefits of a Virtual Machine
As mentioned, the most distinct benefit of running a virtual machine is the ability to operate multiple OS environments simultaneously. This is possible because, within the newly created virtual environment, your computer has a complete infrastructure and instruction set that is different from the base operating system. Instead of replacing it, the two (or more) operating systems run independently of each other. It truly is a “best of both worlds” scenario. Since the virtual machine environment is cloud-based there are many other benefits including;
- Centralization of network management.
- Opportunity for remote IT management.
- Simplified data backup and recovery.
- Reduction of hardware and software dependency issues.
- Increased availability and more efficient utilization of your computer's resources.
- Improved recovery times, in the event of system failure.
- Continuity of user experience, since you are able to use the same applications as you do on your existing physical hardware system.
- Familiar Windows interface and functionality regardless of your device's OS because the virtual environment is running Microsoft Windows OS.
- Security of data. Since information is stored at a cloud-based data center the virtual machine is more secure because nothing has to be attached to or stored on the device.
Downsides of Using a Physical Machine
While there are many similarities between the VM and your computer, there are downsides to your current system you may or may not be aware of. These factors are important to consider as you make your decision.
Bottom line --a PC is a physical hardware device, generally only available at a single location. If you are using a desktop at the office, that is pretty much the only place the data it contains is available to you. It is often necessary that the networked machine remains powered on at all times because you are, in effect, treating it as a server for storing and allowing access to your valuable workplace data. Unfortunately, most PCs are not meant to be used this way and do not have adequate protection from intrusion and breaches. Although it is possible for networked systems to be accessed remotely, to do so requires the use of special software and creates a variety of technological hurdles and security concerns.
While most newer PC's have plenty of CPU "horse power" to run efficiently in this manner, older systems may struggle. When a PC becomes over-taxed the result is instability, increased downtime due to its unreliability. Also concerning is the potential vulnerability of the devices allowed to access your networked PCs. This includes all of your remote devices including smartphones, laptops, home computer systems, and tablets --plus all of your employees' remote devices.Conclusion:
With standard computer networking each and every device must be compatible and constantly updated to ensure application of the most recent security patches. This can be both costly and time intensive. Using a virtual machine simplifies this process, strengthening your security, user accessibility, and overall stability of your network.
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Related Article: Ditch Physical Hardware Systems With Windows Virtual Machine (Part 2).