Receiving a new computer is great. Your new computer can do things easier than your old one (hopefully), it has more features, it is more dependable, it will last longer, and it's fun. It also generally means installing your programs, setting up printers, reconfiguring settings, and many other laborious tasks that let your new computer do what your old computer already did. The same is true if your computer has been subjected to malware or extensive hardware failure; the software must be reinstalled, settings have to be reset, and after a long time you hope you are mostly back to where you were before you had to reinstall everything. This is all part of IT redundancy (ITR) and most of us simply accept this as a normal part of our technological lives; sometimes things simply have to be redone. Excitingly, in 2010, a newly popular technology is changing this with the goal of removing a large portion of ITR.
ITR is a major issue and consumes more than half of many company's and individual's IT budgets. If even one program with an exploitable security issue, for example, has not been updated properly and thoroughly, your entire computer system or network could be compromised, requiring full software reinstallation, possibly lost sales, staff downtime, and more. Even after everything has been resolved, considerable time and money has been spent simply returning the environment to the condition it was in prior to the issue; nothing has been improved. If one has a computer and would like a supplemental computer such as a netbook, tablet, or lighter laptop, that new computer must be configured which means that obtaining a new computer is more complex than simply obtaining hardware.
The solution to this is a new computer configuration. One of the exciting things about this is that this is a configuration and, in many instances, does not require new hardware; if your computer is less than five years old, it is very likely you can take advantage of this new configuration with your existing computer. If you happen to have an older computer then, most likely, your next computer will automatically support this new advancement. The first thing to understand is the reason a computer's configuration simply can't be copied to another computer. A computer contains certain programs and settings that you have customized over the years to your liking; your computer has become your computer. Those programs and settings are tightly tied into the operating system (OS) which is the background software that allows you to run your programs and use your computer for various activities. The OS, in turn, is configured specifically for the brand and model of computer on which it's installed, as it is also responsible for controlling the hardware of that computer. Simply copying your environment (OS, programs, and settings) isn't an option as it can't be practically configured for another brand and model without reinstalling and reconfiguring everything.
As many have learned, combination devices are generally not that great: if one component fails, the whole unit may be unusable. Thus it can be best to have separate devices responsible for their own tasks; most of us do have separate washers and dyers, for example. This is the general principle of a new process called "virtualization". The technical reasons it's called virtualization is beyond the scope of this article and, instead, the main thing to understand is that the operating system is no longer responsible for working with the hardware of your computer. The OS is now only responsible for running your programs and helping you with activities.
With virtualization, there is a "host" environment that works with the hardware in the background. It's transparent when one is simply using their computer. The "user" environment contains your operating system, all of your programs, and all of your personal settings. The user environment is not specific to any model or brand of computer and can be easily copied. If you have a stationary computer and want to get a laptop, there is no setup or configuration; simply copy your user environment and within minutes your laptop is an exact copy of your desktop: just the way you like it. Backing up a user environment is as easy as copying a file. If something happens that causes your computer to fail, simply have it repaired and then your user environment backup can be copied back to your repaired computer within minutes. In addition, you are not restricted to just one user environment; you may have as many as you would like. This allows for "hot" backups. If everything is setup as you like and everything is working, just make a quick backup. Now you have two user environments. If your computer obtains malware or a new program conflicts so severely that you can't use your system, it's no problem. Simply switch to your backup environment and, within seconds, you're operational. Now you can work while you're waiting for someone to fix your primary environment.