By Nerino Petro at 13 April, 2009, 10:42 am
When it comes to technology, lawyers are often the last to take notice of changes that may be able to help them in their practices. This isn't due to any deficiency on their part, but rather to a lack of knowledge of what's happening in technology around them as a result of their profession. Virtual machines is one such technology that law firms can be exploring to look at different operating systems such as Linux to see if there are ways to cuts costs and improve operational efficiencies.
According to Wikipedia a virtual machine is : "A system virtual machine provides a complete system platform which supports the execution of a complete operating system (OS)." In other words, you are able to run an entirley different operating system on your computer without the need for reformatting hard ddrives and losing your existing OS and programs. This is a great way for trying out desktop Linux and Linux programs to see if they ahave a place in your law office. ANother use is using your existing OS, but segragating it from your live system to ry out a softwaare package or program that you're not sure about – running in a virutal enviroment means you don't actually make any changes to your computer that can't be reaily undone.
Usually, when you talk about virtual machines or virtualization, eyes start to glass over and your audience gets a lot smaller. However, Lifehacker has a great post The Beginner's Guide to Creating Virtual Machines with VirtualBox that I think does a great job on explaining virutal machines and how to get started with them.
Virtual environments are also a great place to try programs, especially ones from sites that you are not 100% sure are virus or malware free. Rahter than creating an entire virtual environment, these programs create what are know as "sandboxes" in whcih the downloaded program is segregated and can run without impact on your computer.If there is a problem, the sandbox is closed and nothing remains on your computer. One such sandbox program is Sandboxie created bu Ronen Tzure. A similar program (although it creates an entire copy of your cmputer) is Returnil. Of course ,one of the best knon uses for virtualization are programs for OS X that allows a Mac user to run Windows on their Mac system such as Parrallels or Apple's own Bootcamp.
Spend a few minutes to read the Lifehacker post and think about how virtualization may be able to help you.