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Why virtualization is not just for the big guys


If you ever hear the word virtualization mentioned in a conversation I will bet that you will immediately think of big companies with hundreds , if not thousands of computers, and big data centers.  What if I told you your small business (with maybe only 1-10 employees) could also benefit from virtualization and that in fact it could make you run more efficient and not cost you any extra money.  I shall now explain how.

The basis of virtualization is very simple.  It is the ability to run multiple operating systems on the same physical hardware at the same time.  So for example you could run Windows XP and Windows 7 on the same computer or even Windows 7 running on a Linux system.  Now I  hear you cry “Why would I ever want to do such a thing?” Let me give you some examples.

Imagine a business owner who purchases a Mac for his business.  He intends to use it everyday but then releases that he still needs Windows to run some software.  Now by installing a piece of virtualization software from the likes of VMWare, Parallels or Oracle Virtualbox he will be able to run both Max OS X and Windows 7 at the same time on his system and switching between the two when he needs too.  He now has the best of both worlds.

Now take another business that runs a mission critical piece of software on Windows XP. They decide to upgrade all their machines in the office to Windows 7 and then realise that the business critical software only runs on XP.  What happens now? They can install a piece of software from VMWare called VMWare converter and convert their physical system into a virtual one!! Install VMWare onto their new Windows 7 system and then upload the ‘old’ XP system as a virtual machine.

So what are the benefits of virtualization then?

1. You can run any software you want on any system you like.

2. You are able to run multiple operating systems on the same hardware which in turn cuts down on hardware costs and also electricity costs too.

3. Very easy to backup your systems.  If the virtual machine becomes corrupt you just delete it and reload a backup copy.  Very fast and simple to recover your systems.

4. The software is free.  You can use VMWare Player, Oracle Virtualbox, Microsoft Hyper-V, Citrix Xen Server or KVM.  The choice is yours!!

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows, Mac and Linux based IT Support to small businesses in Stirling, Alloa and Falkirk.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

How to start a Virtualbox VM at startup in Windows


Usually I use Virtualbox as my main virtualization solution of choice on Linux and not Windows but this week that was not the case.  I had a requirement to install Windows XP inside a virtual machine on Windows 7 which was to run a business critical piece of software. This meant it had to start when the Windows 7 machine starts and this is how I did it.

First thing we need to do is create a batch file so open up Notepad.  Name the file anything you like but make sure it ends in .bat so for example mine was virtualxp.bat.  I then inserted the following text into the file:

cd “c:\Program Files\Oracle\Virtualbox”

vboxmanage startvm “ENTER YOUR MACHINE NAME”

The above code assumes that you have installed Virtualbox in the default location, if not alter the text appropriately.  Enter your machine name should be self explanatory!!

Save the file and place it in the Startup folder which is located at C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Startup.

That is it.  The virtual machine should now start when the host starts.

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows, Mac and Linux based IT Support to small businesses in Stirling, Alloa and Falkirk.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

 

Running a Hardware Firewall inside a virtual machine

Running a firewall is paramount so that ‘bad people’ don’t get access to your system or network but the question is always which should you choose, hardware or a software firewall?  Going from past experiences I have found hardware firewalls to be more powerful and less resource intensive than their software counterparts however not everyone has a spare system lying around to install one on.  Here is an idea – why not install your hardware firewall inside a virtual machine on the system you already have?


This is the approach I have taken for my own network.  I have a Ubuntu 12.04 server with Virtualbox installed.  I have multiple virtual machines running at the same time and wanted a firewall to cover them all. So I run a hardware firewall (in my case Smoothwall Express 3.0 – I was originally running Untangle Gateway) inside a virtual machine which is configured to start at boot should the server have to be restarted.  The are multiple reasons for doing this:

1. I don’t have a spare system lying around to use as the hardware firewall.

2. Electric bill is reduced as there is only one system running instead of two.

3. The virtual machine is protecting my entire network not just the system it is installed on.

4. Any attacker would have to compromise the hardware firewall first before moving onto the main system.

5. Disaster recovery is simpler and quicker with virtual machines than traditional systems.

6. Software firewalls consume resources (ie CPU, RAM etc) on whichever system they are installed on so system performance can be affected, whereas hardware firewalls are separate systems.

This approach would benefit any network (big and small) and is starting to be implemented in enterprise networks using virtual switches as well as the ‘traditional’ hardware firewalls. As for which one to use my favourite at the moment is Smoothwall Express 3.0 which can basically be installed on anything.  It is not resource intensive and the web GUI is excellent. Until recently I used Untangle Gateway but Smoothwall is faster to boot up and Untangle requires 512 Mb of RAM.  The interface is fantastic though.

Anything which makes it harder for someone to access your systems is good in my book.  Do you agree?

About the Author

Hi I am Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows and Linux based IT Support, laptop repairs and computer repairs to both business and personal clients in and around Stirling.

For a list of what I can offer you why not visit my website www.comtech247.net where you will find a list of my services, testimonials, blog and much more.

 

 

How to access Virtualbox shared folders in Linux


Today I will show you how to access your Virtualbox shared folders in Linux.  In Windows you would just mount a network drive but in Linux it takes a bit more work (but not much).

First thing to do is to make a mount point for the shared folder so open up a terminal and type:

sudo mkdir /media/share

Change share to any name you choose.  Now we need to mount the Virtualbox shared folder so type:

sudo mount -t vboxsf sdc /media/share

changing sdc to the name of your Virtualbox shared folder.  To make the mount permanent enter the above mount command (leave out the sudo) into the /etc/rc.local file.

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows, Mac and Linux based IT Support to small businesses in Stirling, Alloa and Falkirk.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

How to check the status of your hard drive using SeaTools


Today I will show you how to check the status of your hard drive.  There are tools built into Windows which will accomplish such tasks (eg chkdsk) however they are useless if you can’t boot into the system to use them.  For situations like this you need SeaTools.

Seatools is a diagnostic program that can be run from a CD and allows you to perform preconfigured tests on your hard drive.  For the purpose of this tutorial I will use SeaTools on a Windows 7 system which is hosted as a virtual machine within Virtualbox.

Ok first thing to do is download a copy of Seatools and burn it to a disk.  Now we shall boot the system with the disk to get the screenshot below.

Accept the license agreement to start the program.  Once started you should get the screenshot below.

Now highlight your hard drive and click on Basic Tests – Short Test.  The short test is usually sufficient to tell if your hard drive is experiencing issues.

Once the test has been carried out Seatools will show the test results on the right hand side under Test Results.

If the Test Result is Passed then you have no issues.  If however the result is Failed then you have a problem.  You can go back and try the Long Test which can sort out any bad sectors etc but in my experience if a hard drive fails the Short Test it needs replacing.

About the Author

Hi I am Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows and Linux based IT Support, laptop repairs and computer repairs to both business and personal clients in and around Stirling.

For a list of what I can offer you why not visit my website www.comtech247.net where you will find a list of my services, testimonials, blog and much more.

Disaster Recovery in Virtualbox – How to import a virtual machine


It has happened.  Your virtual machine has a problem which is preventing it from booting up.  Assuming you have a Windows installation you would try all the usual first – Safe mode, Last Known Configuration, Repair Installation etc.  But what happens when none of these work?  Restore to factory settings and then from backups? Assuming you have exported the virtual machine as part of your backup strategy there is an easier (and quicker way).  Import the backed up virtual machine!!

For the purpose of this tutorial I will be using Virtualbox 4.1.18 hosted on a Ubuntu 12.04 system.  I will show you how to import an Exchange Server 2010 virtual machine which has already been exported.

Open up Virtualbox and go to File – Import Appliance to start the wizard.

Click on Choose and select the location of the virtual machine to be imported.  Click Next.

On the screen that follows check the import settings and when you are happy click Import.  And that is it!! Depending on the size of the file being imported it may take some time.

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows, Mac and Linux based IT Support to small businesses in Stirling, Alloa and Falkirk.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

How to clone a virtual machine in Virtualbox

Today I will show you how to clone a virtual machine in Virtualbox.  I can hear the voices now “Why would you want to?” To answer this I will give you a couple of examples.


1. You already run Windows 7 Professional as a virtual machine and you want to test the deployment of some new updates.  You clone the existing Windows 7 virtual machine and deploy the updates on the clone machine.  This way it does not effect the original system.

2. You want to test some new software you have developed for Ubuntu Server 12.04 which runs as a virtual machine.  Instead of deploying it on your working system and seeing what happens you clone the Ubuntu system and use that instead.  The cloned system has the exact same configuration so you get workable results.

Ok so that is WHY.  Now onto HOW.

Open up Virtualbox and go to Machine – Clone.

When the wizard appears (below) choose a name for your new cloned system and click Next.

On the following screen you will be asked to choose between a Full Clone (clones everything including virtual disks) or Linked Clone (clones everything except the original disks which it links back to).  For the purpose of this tutorial we will choose a Full Clone.

And that is it!! Your existing virtual machine will now be cloned.

About the Author

Hi I am Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows and Linux based IT Support, laptop repairs and computer repairs to both business and personal clients in and around Stirling.

For a list of what I can offer you why not visit my website www.comtech247.net where you will find a list of my services, testimonials, blog and much more.

Virtualbox error NS_ERROR_FAILURE (0x80004005)


Virtualbox error NS_ERROR_FAILURE (0x80004005). I came across this error code yesterday when I was trying to import a virtual machine from VMWare into Oracle Virtualbox.

I had successfully converted my Acer Aspire One running Windows 7 Home Premium from a physical machine into a virtual one but I could not import it into Virtualbox because I kept on getting this error message.

It turns out that Virtualbox needed to be run as root for the operation to be successful.  After this the world was once again a nice place to be!!

I hope this helps out someone else.

About the Author

Hi I am Chris the owner of ComTech. I provide IT Support, Laptop repairs and Computer repairs to both personal and business clients in and around Stirling. For a list of what I can offer you why not visit my website www.comtech247.net where you will find my blog, testimonials, services and much more.  Start supporting a local business today so I can start supporting you.

If you found this blog useful then why not sign up to my RSS Feed for news, tutorials, views and general techie stuff!!

 

How to add a second hard disk to a virtual machine in Virtualbox


Today I will show you how to add a second hard drive to your virtual machine using Virtualbox.  If your first hard drive is slowly filling up this is a very easy way to expand your storage.

Time to fire up Virtualbox.

For the purpose of this tutorial I will use the Windows 7 virtual machine (make sure it is powered off first!!) and add a second sata hard drive of 20Gb.

Time to change those settings so click on Settings.

We now need to click on Storage, locate the Sata controller (as shown above) and click on the Add hard disk icon (shown above).  You will then get the message below.

If you already have a disk set up click Choose Existing Disk but for the purpose of this tutorial click Create new disk.

This will now start the Virtual Disk Creation Wizard.  On the first page make sure you choose the VDI format for your hard drive and click next.

The next page of the wizard is Virtual Disk Storage Details.  You can either choose a dynamic disk or a fixed size disk.  Dynamic disks slowly grow over time to the maximum value you set whereas fixed is just that – a fixed size.  Fixed are faster to use but take longer to create.  Let’s create a fixed size of 20 Gb.

Next we have to decide where to store this new virtual disk.  Personally I don’t store any virtual disks on the same hard drive as the host operating system.  This means that in the event of the host disk dying my virtual machines are kept separate.  I can then quickly retrieve them and get them back up with little time lost.

The final page is the Summary page.  Review your configuration options and when you are happy click create.  Your second hard drive will now be created and attached to your virtual machine.

All that is left to do is fire up your virtual machine and check if you have a second hard drive of 20 Gb available.  On a Windows machine you will need to go to:

Start – Control panel – Administrative Tools – Disk Management

and format the drive with a filesystem and drive letter.  Only then will Windows recognise it as another hard drive.

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows, Mac and Linux based IT Support to small businesses in Stirling, Alloa and Falkirk.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

 

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