A virtual computer is one that exists only as a part of another computer, utilizing the other computer's physical hardware to perform and function. Although a virtual machine cannot exist independently from a host computer, it still can perform all of the same functionality as a "normal" computer. Virtual machine networking is the process of connecting together either one or many virtual machines to access the resources of a local area network (LAN) or wide area network (WAN).
To establish an effective virtual machine networking connection, one option involves providing the virtual machine in question with access to the network adapter located within its host computer. This means providing it with access to either the modem or the network card. After access to the networking hardware of the computer is granted, the virtual machine will be able to connect with any and all networks that the physical network adapter is authorized to use. If an Internet connection is available on the network adapter, this will provide the virtual computer with working Internet access. If no Internet access is available, the virtual computer will have only local access to other computers plugged into the same network.
A second option for employing virtual machine networking involves selecting no network adapter. In this case, the virtual computer will not have access to external networks, either online or offline. Instead, the virtual computer will be able to connect with other virtual computers on the same host machine using an internet virtual machine network. This facilitates the transfer of data between virtual computers on the same physical host computer, streamlining the transfer of files and data between virtual computers.
One disadvantage to virtual machine networking is lack of portability. The virtual machines and the network are tied to a host computer and its hardware, so relocating a virtual machine network in any meaningful way is largely impractical. Therefore, virtual machine networking is suitable for use only on computers that will not be relocated on a regular basis.
Depending on the operating system in use, certain software might be required to employ virtual machine networking. In some cases, the software might allow for creation of an unlimited number of individual virtual networks. With a virtual network, it is never necessary to add additional hardware to add additional computers to the network, making virtual networking on a large scale more cost efficient than traditional physical networking.