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Here’s why VirtualBox is a fantastic virtualization management tool

If you’re in charge of or part of a team that manages aspects of virtualization in your organization’s IT department, brace for a journey of striving to know more than what meets the eye. VirtualBox is among the more renowned and wonderful virtualization management software going around. However, it’s almost odd how some of its most advanced benefits are often not talked about or lauded enough.

This post is to give you a closer look at the terrific features that are on VirtualBox’s menu, and how you can translate them into technical and functional benefits. Plus, we’ll cover some lesser known VirtualBox best practices that maximize its utility and effectiveness.

Enable 3D graphics support

It’s not entirely rare for server and system administrators to rush through VirtualBox installations. Maybe they want to run over to Taco Bell and eat a chalupa. Or perhaps Best Buy is handing out free DVDs of “Chappie” or “Sicario.” Probably not, but you may have thought so the way some system administrators rush through installations.

If you were in a hurry while installing VirtualBox and didn’t invest much thought or effort into checking if you left any useful drivers uninstalled, chances are you’d have missed the 3D graphics support drivers -- these aren’t automatically installed.

With the basic 3D support, you can enjoy the graphical flavor of components such as Windows Aero desktop. Plus, these drivers enable you to play basic 3D games. Note that the latest 3D games might not run well. Not entirely a game changer, but this feature is an exhibition of VirtualBox’s versatility. It is sort of like Russell Westbrook, and we all know how versatile he is!

Leverage virtual appliances

Organizations that have mature server-management processes leverage their existing tools to achieve use-specific virtualizations, at micro-levels, using virtual appliances (no, this does not mean your microwave can heat up food for you if it was in the virtual world). As an instance, consider a case where you need to create a virtual server dedicated toward handling the event-planning and calendar application used by your organization.

Other use-specific virtualizations could target creation of shopping carts, content management systems, groupware servers, and more. VirtualBox allows for easy and intuitive virtual appliances. With several websites focusing on virtual appliances, you have better capabilities to set up more sophisticated systems in short project timelines.

Bridged networking mode

Here’s one of the often missed aspects of working with VirtualBox. You can set it to bridged networking mode for all virtual machines created. Whenever you set a new VM, the default networking setting will be NAT. This means that the network resources will have no visibility of the device. Bridged networking mode is the solution. Remember to set the mode to “bridged” for all VMs you set up using VirtualBox. A lot of VirtualBox users are not aware of this; make sure you do it right.

Don’t be like be like Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill) in “War Dogs,” who cheats his own partner and steals his money. That is not doing it right, either!

Future-proofing using Snapshots

Nothing gives a server administrator the chills like a production release going wrong. (Did you see “Jurassic World”? That was a production release gone wrong!) When releases into the production system are huge in volume, you hardly have the time to identify the real culprit. In such situations, and in several others, VirtualBox enables you to roll back the system to a previous state. This is achieved using VirtualBox's Snapshot feature. Whether you wish to experiment with new settings, doing new configurations, or installing new applications, Snapshot options keep you safe.

No more hassles of backing up or reinstalling the guest OS. To do this, follow these steps:

  • Go to “Machine” option.
  • Select the “Take Snapshot” option.
  • Give a description and name, and hit OK, and you're done.

Virtual machine cloning

VirtualBox cloning enables you to quickly manage tasks where you need to create a duplicate instance of an operating system, or when you are looking to use an OS in a distributed model with set configurations. Earlier versions of VirtualBox offered the option of using the command line to achieve OS cloning. The latest version enables you to do it through the graphical user interface. This makes it super quick and super easy to clone any OS for using the copied version with other hosts.

Here's how you do this:

  • Right click the OS to be copied, and click on the Clone option.
  • The next dialog box will request a new machine name. Click on Next when done.
  • The next window asks you to choose a Clone type. Either choose Full Clone or the Linked Clone option.

Drag‘n’Drop sharing of files and folders

Complicated virtualization projects often involve unpredictable volumes of exchanges of files and folders between guest and host operating systems. Even if you use shared folders, this can become a time-consuming activity, and prone to errors and misses. VirtualBox offers a solution in the form of its Drag‘n’Drop feature. It allows you to easily drag and drop files and folders you want to share across operating systems. This saves time, and eliminates errors.

Here's how you do it:

  • Right click the guest OS name and click on Settings.
  • Go to the Advanced tab, and switch the Shared Clipboard and Drag‘n’Drop options to Bidirectional.

Install phpVirtualBox

If you feel the need to manage VMs from your network, try using phpVirtualBox. It’s an amazingly effective AJAX implementation of the VirtualBox GUI. This PHP-coded web interface lets you manage remote VirtualBox instances. PHP coding allows this add-on to mirror your VirtualMachine GUI on the web-enabled interface. You can get phpVirtualBox from SourceForge.

Take advantage of Guest Additions

VirtualBox Guest Additions consists of several useful system apps and device drivers to optimize the OS. VirtualBox Guest Additions empowers your VirtualBox implementation for better utility and performance. Automated logons is among the more sought-after features that VirtualBox Guest Additions invokes. To do this, go to the Devices menu in the Windows hosting the running VM, and select the Install Guest Additions option.

Advanced features also include remote display of virtual machines, import and export of VM appliances, port forwarding to enable running server software in a virtual machine, and detection of USB devices connected to the computer directly on the virtual machines.

The bottom line is to keep on exploring the myriad settings and configurations offered by VirtualBox, so that you can set it up for the quickest, most accurate, and effective implementation of your virtualization management processes. And then you can head over to Taco Bell.

Benjamin Roussey

Benjamin Roussey is from Sacramento, CA. He has two master’s degrees and served four years in the US Navy. His bachelor’s degree is from CSUS (1999) where he was on a baseball pitching scholarship. He has an MBA in Global Management from the Univ. of Phoenix (2006). Currently he lives in the Phoenix area after living in Cabo San Lucas, MX for 3 years. He enjoys sports, movies, reading, and current events when he is not working online.

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