Virtual networking is a technology that facilitates the control of one or more remotely located computers or servers over the Internet. Data can be stored and retrieved, software can be run and peripherals can be operated through a Web browser as if the distant hardware were onsite.
Virtual networking facilitates consolidation of diverse services and devices on a single hardware platform called a virtual services switch. The centralization of control reduces the cost and complexity of operating and maintaining hardware and software compared with administering numerous separate devices in widely separated geographical locations. Maintenance personnel and administrators can install device drivers, perform tests and resolve problems on the remote machines from a single location.
It may be necessary to install virtual networking software on the remote computers or servers to take advantage of this technology. Several vendors, including Microsoft and VMWare, offer virtual networking software. Some vendors offer comprehensive virtual networking services, allowing business network administrators to outsource labor and resources to the vendor. Virtual networking capability is a standard feature of Windows XP and Vista.
The chief limitation of virtual networking is the fact that certain problems can be resolved only by direct physical contact with the hardware involved. Examples include broken wires, frozen drives and defective chips. In some cases, virtual networking may make it possible to circumvent a damaged component by taking advantage of alternative resources until a technician can perform onsite repair or replacement.