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10 cool things virtualization lets you do

Keir Thomas | Feb. 25, 2011
Virtualization isn't just for geeks or those who run enormously powerful servers. It offers something for everybody, and if you haven't yet dipped your toe into the virtualization ocean, then you're at serious risk of being left behind.

Bear in mind that creating a copy of a VM creates legal issues. Backing up should be fine, but if you create a copy of a VM installation to give to a friend, for example, then you'll be contravening copyright laws (assuming they apply, as with Microsoft (MSFT), but not always with Linux).

7. Create a Personal Cloud Computer

If you're out of the office, there's no need to take your laptop with you. Just leave it running (with power saving turned off!), take your mobile phone or tablet computer instead, and access the laptop via a Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) connection over the Internet. This will let you access the same desktop environment you're used to, although there'll be no fancy graphics.

If you're running Windows 7 Professional, Ultimate, or Enterprise, then you can configure the computer to accept RDP connections by right-clicking Computer on the Start menu, selecting Properties, and clicking the Remote Settings link in the window that appears. The same instructions work for Windows Vista, although you'll need the Professional, Business, or Ultimate editions. Other versions of Windows don't support setting up an RDP server without a little bit of hacking (Google (GOOG) it).

You'll need to take a note of the public IP address of your router in order to connect remotely, and configure the router to port forward incoming RDP connections to your notebook PC. How this is done varies from computer to computer, but often you can select predefined rules.

Then download an RDP client for your mobile device and connect. For the Apple iPad and iPhone, you can try iTap but there are RDP clients for most platforms.

8. Run Headless For Web Development

Most virtualization software allows the virtual machine to run headless, which is to say, without displaying a desktop (or other user-interface). Essentially, the virtual PC runs in the background although accepts all other kinds of connections, such as networking. For people creating websites, this offers the possibility of running their very own private web server for testing purposes.

9. Make a Backup of Your Server For Emergencies

Amazon's Elastic Cloud Computing (EC2) service allows you to copy across any existing virtualized Windows 2008 Server installation for use on EC2 (eventually all kinds of server installs will be supported, such as Linux).

Creating periodic backups of existing server installs in this way could provide vital redundancy if a catastrophe happens to your existing server. After the hurricane hits, leaving your physical servers in a whirl of dust, all you'd have to do is boot up the EC2 image, reconfigure things slightly to take into account the different IP addresses, and then continue as usual.


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