So What Exactly Does Virtual Mean?

In recent weeks several clients have come to me confused. ‘I’ve heard of virtual servers, virtual firewalls and virtual phone systems. These folks all come to me with the same question: What exactly does virtual mean?

Let’s break this term down in a way everyone can better understand!

Today’s technology products and services have much in common with previous generations. Businesses still need email servers, firewalls, phones and a place to store files.

That hasn’t changed.

The revolution came in the delivery of these products and services. And this is where the word VIRTUAL comes into play . . . So let’s use another word to help make sense of this term.


Once upon a time (not so long ago) your business had an email server. It sat in your office along with other equipment (phones, computer servers, etc). Periodically, a technician would stop by to check on it and make sure it was running properly. The email server sat, ON PREMISE, as some of us like to refer to it, at your physical location. The funny thing is if you’ve been paying attention then you know your office hasn’t had an email server on premise for quite some time.

Why is that? Well, IT professionals found it was easier to maintain email services if the server was located in a different place. They call it a hosted data center. The email server moved there and, wa-la, the server became a VIRTUAL SERVER. It still exists but it’s now located in a remote location where you can’t see or touch it. The server provides the same email albeit in VIRTUAL form. The service is cheaper, more reliable and easier to maintain.

Techs don’t have to make visits to your office and your business enjoys a lower cost of ownership. For the end user the change is hardly noticeable because the server is available via a secure internet connection. Over the years, due in large part to the success of the email server migration, other systems and products followed the same path. Internet services are faster and (hopefully) more reliable then in years past. So, many businesses now take advantage of this VIRTUAL ARRANGEMENT.

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