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What is a Remote Virtual Machine?

By T.S. Adams
Updated May 17, 2024
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A virtual machine is a computer that only exists as an entity within another computer, which is called the host computer. While operating, virtual machines utilize the hardware of their host machines. A remote virtual machine is a virtual computer that exists and is stored on a network separate from the computer being used. Connectivity with a remote virtual machine requires a working network adapter and a network configuration allowing for access to the remote host computer in which the virtual machine is stored.

Communication with a remote virtual machine can take place in one of two ways. In the first, a local area connection (LAN) is created to establish a physical connection between the user's computer and the host computer where the remote virtual machine is stored. This typically is done by using a router and Ethernet cables, but a crossover cable can be used if the LAN connection is meant only to connect a maximum of two computers — the host computer where the virtual machine is stored and another standalone computer. Creation of a wireless LAN network is also possible, using a wireless router where both the host computer and the other network computers possess wireless capability.

The second method for communicating with a remote virtual machine is across a wide area network (WAN), such as the Internet. In this instance, both the host computer where the remote virtual machine is stored and the computer being used to communicate with the host computer must have working Internet connections. Communicating with a remote virtual machine over a WAN typically is less secure. The communicated information is traveling over public networks, so there is a greater risk of interception.

One of the primary uses for a remote virtual machine is creating an alternative operating system environment that differs from the host computer. This alternative environment can be used for testing new configuration methods and software before installing or changing the settings of the host machine, allowing the computer user to see whether the changes will work as intended before risking them on the main system. Any changes that prove problematic will not cause harm to the host system, because the remote virtual machine is like an isolated bubble within the ocean of the host computer, making it safe to tinker with configuration settings and computer setups in a worry-free environment. Even if the remote virtual machine becomes unworkable following a drastic change to the system, it can be deleted, and another virtual machine can be easily created to take its place without affecting the stability of the host computer.

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