If you are heavily involved in software development, and want to test out your new creation but don’t want to risk damaging any data or the operating system your hardware runs on, then consider using a Virtual Private Server – essentially, a virtual machine that you can break and put back together as many times as you like, with a full system restore in moments.
There are many advantages to this, notably that the risk factor is zero. The VPS uses an OS and hardware that is completely simulated, from the hard-drive to the disc drive, so there’s never any chance of damaging data or putting the machine into an irreparable state. The files that run the virtual machine are easy copied, and restoring the system is simply a quick copy-paste job.
The flexibility of a virtual private server also means that you can set the parameters of your own environment. This means being able to test the same software on a low-end machine as well as a top-of-the-range model, without actually having to purchase or use either. All you do is set the specifications of the virtual machine within the options menu, and it will reconfigure itself to reflect its newly-changed capabilities.
Tweaking small aspects of your machine’s hardware will usually involve anything from a screwdriver to a soldering iron, neither of which are going to make things run at any great pace. Using a VPS allows you to instantly swap one motherboard for another, and over-clocking and overheating are no longer major risks to the health of your components, as none of them actually exist.
Being able to issue file backups of certain instances of the same virtual environment means that if you’re working in a development team, you can package an environment that displays a certain bug or a fix, and send it over to the other members who can then explore that same instance of the virtual environment. This is invaluable for those working on the same aspect of a program, or debugging after the design phase of a software project has been completed.
A virtual private server is definitely worth the minute investment requires to get it up and running. Of course, there are a wide variety of VPS hosting offered by companies who will do most of the virtual legwork for you if you just want to run a few tests rather than get into the nitty gritty details. If you want to test solo or as part of a team, then a VPS is definitely the right solution.