As virtualization transformed the computing arena in the past two decades, virtual machines became more mainstream. A highly versatile tool, virtual machines (VMs) have a wide range of applications. From helping you run old software to testing a newly-built website, virtual machines can do it all.
In order to make you understand virtual machines better, let us have a look at the major uses of these tools.
What is a Virtual Machine?
A virtual machine (VM) can be described as software that mimics the functionality of a physical hardware or computer system. A VM runs on the top of software called hypervisor that emulates a computer’s hardware resources and forms a pool of resources that can be distributed among the individual virtual machines depending on their requirements.
An online virtual machine offers an isolated environment for running its operating systems (OS) and applications, independent of the underlying host or other machines on the same host. So, multiple VMs can be carved out of a single computer system, all of which can run without affecting each other.
Interestingly, it’s the virtual machines that make cloud hosting India possible as the entire concept of the cloud is based on the instant provisioning of machines.
Now that you have a fair idea of what virtual machines are, let us discuss a few of their practical uses.
1) Try New Operating Systems
If you are a Windows user, you may feel the urge to try a new operating system (say Linux). Virtualization is a great way of trying a new OS with little risk.
All you need to do is to install a hypervisor and spin up an online virtual machine. And then take any Linux installation (e.g. Ubuntu) and install it as a VM. This way, you can run Linux (or the guest OS) within your Windows system (the host OS) similar to how you run any other program.
At this point, you may be thinking-what if something goes wrong with the guest OS? Don’t fret. Even if anything goes wrong with your guest OS (e.g. malware), your host OS will not be affected. If the virtual machine does not boot, you can recreate it and reinstall the operating system.
2) Run Old Software
Let’s consider another scenario-you have a piece of software that runs only on an older version of Windows and you have Windows 10 installed on your system. Online virtual machines come to your rescue again.
If you have software that’s not compatible with your current system, you can install and run it on a virtual OS. Running outdated software this way is quite safe as it remains sandboxed inside the virtual machine.
3) Test Apps and Websites on Different Platforms
Another major use of a virtual machine is the testing of apps and websites across various platforms.
For instance, you are developing a gaming application that’s meant to work on both desktop and mobile. So, instead of moving the application between your phone and other computer systems, you can simply test the different versions on just one PC by applying emulation.
4) Manage Potential Security Risks
As already discussed, an online virtual machine remains completely isolated from your main computer system. This offers the opportunity to take risks that you would avoid under normal circumstances.
Now say you want to download a tool, but aren’t sure if it is coming from a legitimate source. Or, you have an antivirus tool that you want to test without the threat of an infection affecting your system. Virtual machines will help you out.
5) Learn more about your OS
For those of you who are technology-savvy, virtual machines provide the opportunity of experimenting with an OS without the fear of things going wrong. This means you can look into the unexplored features of your OS.
For instance, you can create a guest Windows 10 OS within your existing OS and dabble with its features.
6) Create System-level Snapshots
Virtual machines have an excellent feature-you can use them to create system-level snapshots that can be restored instantly if required.
Consider a scenario where you want to install a new application that may be unstable. Or, you want to tinker with certain configurations on your PC. In either case, you are likely to pay a hefty price if anything goes wrong.
Thanks to online virtual machines, you can create snapshots that are essentially an entire copy of the VM at any point in time. So, if things don’t go as planned, you can simply restore the snapshot and proceed as if nothing happened.
And the best part is that these snapshots can be saved like a single file; you can keep them anywhere on your host machine. So, in essence, you can use VM snapshots to try risky stuff on your virtual machine and, accordingly, make changes to your main system.
7) Clone an Entire System
As the contents of a VM are stored on just a few files, they can be transferred to another computer with the utmost ease. The only prerequisite is that you should be using the same hypervisor. The host operating system does not matter in this case.
The Final Word
So, these were some exciting uses of virtual machines. Now that you are familiar with the applications of VMs, it’s probably time to try one of these on your own system. Just make sure you use a fairly powerful computer for a hassle-free experience.
Thanks for reading.