Feature:

Expand your computing capacity virtually anytime

By Jason Tee

TheServerSide.com

Virtual computing lies at the foundation of cloud services. But what exactly does this term mean? What is it and what does it do? Most important, how might it enhance the performance of your business? Let’s take a look at the answers to each of these questions.

Virtual computing basics

Some people confuse virtual computing with cloud computing or distributed servers. In fact, the cloud and .net servers can be and often are used for virtual computing. However, the actual term simply refers to divvying up any computer or similar hardware infrastructure to act as if it is many computers. In other words, a desktop PC could seem like a single machine on the outside. But it can be linked to a network that allows many users to access storage space, apps, computing capability, and even different operating systems using the computer’s internal resources. 

Business environment applications

With today’s wireless networks, authorized users don’t have to be located in the same office space to use virtual computing. They might be mobile employees who need to tap into greater computing capacity, remotely stored data, or specialized software while they are out of the office. Rather than having everything downloaded onto their laptop, they could leverage virtual computing to get what they need in the field. This means handheld devices like smartphones could replace bulkier computing devices in many circumstances.

Accessing privileged business data does carry its own risks, such as issues with ensuring secure transmission. However, there’s less risk of losing physical components like flash drives that might contain privileged information. Data stays safe on the company’s servers (or their provisioned cloud space) rather than being copied to and stored on many individual devices. As long as workers are smart about keeping their passwords memorized and difficult to guess, even a stolen laptop wouldn’t present as much of a security breach as before.

Perks exist for on-site use as well

In the office where each worker has an individual desktop PC, having the ability to transfer data from the computers to a central, virtual storage location is also beneficial. It frees up resources on each computer and also helps enforce rules. For example, you might have a policy that users should store all forms and documents in their assigned folder on a network drive rather than on their computer’s C drive. This has several benefits. First, if the computer gets fried, that employee’s files are not lost. Second, if the computer is assigned to a different worker, IT won’t have to go in and clean out all the old data. Third, when data is stored in the virtual space, the employer can more easily set permissions for who can open, modify, or delete files. You can also more readily audit every user’s actions to trigger red flags for suspicious activity. This cuts down on the risk of an employee sabotaging or stealing files if they get fired or passed over for promotion. 

IT can streamline processes

The more processes IT can assign to the virtual computing realm, the more quickly and efficiently individual PCs can run. This can cut down not just on redundant use of resources but also on the number of complaints IT has to field from employees. Virtualization also permits IT to run more than one operating system if needed. Divvying up a computer into more than one virtual machine can allow MAC and Windows lovers to use the same unit. On the larger scale, IT can run various proprietary and open-source operating system components within their virtual server environment. That can be especially useful when they need to test out a new OS before making a permanent transition.

VM products on the market

As the cloud becomes more and more popular, options for related concepts like virtual computing are exponentially expanding as well. All the big players (including IBM, HP, and MS) offer some form of virtual computing program. There are also many providers like VMWare who focus mainly on this niche. These companies provide software that can function with many different operating systems. They generally push clients to move toward a public cloud environment where the savings are highest. However, they can typically work within a private cloud as well for the more security sensitive business customer. Total reduction in cost for managing resources is another oft-touted benefit of virtual computing. Of course, the actual savings vary depending on your company’s specific requirements. So, know what you’re spending and where so you can identify areas where virtualization will make a real difference dollarwise.

08 Aug 2012

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