A virtual machine (VM) is an emulation of a computer system through the use of specialised software on a host computing system. Virtual Machines (VM’s) are used throughout the internet for hosting systems, websites and other resources for an array of purposes including the means to scale a solution from using limited hardware resources as a small site or solution; through to managing the hardware requirements for that solution as it grows. Other uses of VM’s include developers who want to test and/or develop websites, technology professionals who need to test particular forms of software, figure out or manage security risks such as malware; and an array of other purposes that make the use of VMs very, very popular.
On a less sophisticated basis; VM’s offer the means to run any type of operating system, as an application on most computers or laptops, so it doesn’t matter if you have a mac or a pc; you can run whatever operating system you want in a VM and it will load on your machine when you want to use it, and can be turned-of whenever you want to turn it off – without leaving problems on your host-machine. Because the Virtual Machine is an independent environment, from the operating system right through to any and all applications that run within it, whatever you do in that environment is stored within the virtual machine rather than in your normal computing environment. It’s also possible to put a VM on a USB key and load it on other machines, or share the work you’ve done in the VM by simply copying the VM on a USB Key and giving it to someone (with the relevant details) for them to review of store safely for you.
A commonly used application for creating Virtual Machines is VirtualBox.
Virtual Machines can be used to create a cleaner computing environment that can be used for some sort of specific purpose that you don’t want to be stored on your every day computing environment. In this way, virtual machines are an effective means to deal with other web-persistence issues, ideally also alongside the use of a VPN.