In computing, virtual is a digitally replicated version of something real. The replication, which is created with software, may not be an exact copy of the actual item, but it is similar enough in essence to be described as a digital rendition.

An important goal of virtualization in information technology (IT) is to use real resources more efficiently and reduce costs. Applications of the word virtual include:

virtual agent - a chatbot that serves as an online customer service representative for an organization.

virtual assistant - an application program that can understand natural language and complete electronic tasks for the end user.

virtual classroom - an online learning environment. Just like in a real-world classroom, a student in a virtual classroom participates in synchronous instruction, which means that the teacher and students are logged into the virtual learning environment at the same time.

virtual machine - an operating system or application environment that imitates dedicated hardware.

virtual reality - an artificial environment that is created with software and presented to the user in such a way that the user suspends belief and accepts it as a real environment.

virtual storage - the pooling of physical storage from multiple network storage devices into what appears to be a single storage device.

virtual switch - a software program that allows one virtual machine to communicate with another.

virtual tape - an archival storage technology that makes it possible to save data as if it were being stored on tape, although it may actually be stored on hard disk or on another storage medium.

virtual trade show - an online version of an event at which goods and services for a specific industry are exhibited and demonstrated.

This was last updated in March 2017

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