How to set up a Virtual Server: The Basics

Thinking of switching to a Virtual Server but not quite sure how? Worry not! This quick 'how to' guide has everything you need to know.

Mike Mead

26/03/2019

If you’ve ever needed to run a crucial application at work, but you can only access that service through a specific operating system, then you may have considered the benefits of using virtual servers.

Virtual machines or virtual servers are unique tools that allow companies to go beyond their standard hardware setup and access new capabilities. Within a virtual server, you can run an app or operating system on your desktop that acts like a separate computer. With the help of a team like Nice Network, you can even transform your entire work environment.

So, how exactly do virtual machines work, and how do you use them?

What is a Virtual Machine?

A virtual machine is an application that creates a “virtualised” environment on your computer. There are both free and “premium” virtual machine applications available today. No matter which one you choose, you can expect your solution to give you more functionality from your standard technology setup.

Your VM will run as a separate process within a window in your existing operating system (Mac, Linux, or Windows). You’ll be able to boot operating system installer discs within that machine, to essentially install the capabilities of a separate operating system on your computer, without harming your existing technology stack.

In the world of virtual servers, the core operating system is called the “host,” while the additional systems running inside of your VMs are known as “guests.”

What Can You Do with Virtual Machines?

Virtual machines have a wide range of great uses, but they’re particularly important in the software development environment. Virtual servers ensure that businesses can test out different kinds of software in unique hardware and OS environments. This means that you can monitor how different systems react to specific pieces of code, without accidentally damaging your computer or causing downtime.

Virtual servers aren’t just good for experimentation; they’re also ideal backup options when you’re searching for peace of mind in your business. Certain programs will even allow you to clone your machines and boot servers on other computers.

Sometimes, virtual machines are also helpful for companies that want to run an alternative OS on hardware that wouldn’t be able to load that data naturally. For instance, if you wanted to run a Mac OS on a PC, you’d use your virtual server to replicate the conditions and hardware setup of an Apple computer.

Even if you’re just looking for ways to save money and office space, you can use virtual servers to design personalised desktops for individual users in your team on the same computer. This means that you can fine-tune each virtual machine for a specific member of staff and give them access to the solutions they need on any available computer in your network.

How to Create a Virtual Server

Various free and paid virtual machine applications make it easier to set up your virtual server. However, the best option will always be to seek the assistance of an expert. Teams like the crew here at Nice Network will be able to show you how to set up a virtual machine that suits your specific needs.

If you choose to go the DIY route, as soon as you download your virtual server application, you’ll be guided through the installation process by a wizard that allows you to choose which OS you’re going to install. Type the name of your preferred OS in the box, and the app will send you to the next stage of the installation.

Based on the OS you’re going to install, most wizards will give you some pre-selected default settings. You can change these settings if you prefer, but you should have a good understanding of the OS you’re working with before you do this. To stick with what you have for now, just click “Next.” You can always adjust your settings again later.

Your wizard will also create a hard disk file for your virtual server to use. You’ll then be asked whether you want to create a fixed or dynamically-allocated size disk. Dynamically allocated disks allow you to set a maximum disk size, but your file will grow specifically to the size it needs up to that point. Fixed disk sizes mean that data will be created at a specific format from day one. Fixed-size disks often perform better and make your virtual server more responsive. Once you’re ready, you can click “Create.”

Using your Virtual Server

Once you’ve created your virtual machine, you’ll be delivered back to the main application window for the VM, where your creation should appear. Make sure that the installation media required is available to the machine at this time.

If you need any help setting up your virtual servers or improving your technology stack, reach out to Nice Networks. We’re always here to help.