What does it really mean for the non techie folks working through mountains of data in the litigation world? There is so much talk about technology that it gets jumbled and difficult to determine what the right path for you and your business would be.

Virtualization is just that, an option to have nonphysical machines without the need to purchase additional hardware. This gives the option for not only for cost savings immediately in the long run, but also flexibility when your computing needs change. When I think about virtualization, it always reminds me of the movie Sybil with Sally Field. While dissociative identity disorder are nothing to make light of, the compartmentalization is very similar. When Sally Field is Sybil, she is entirely separate from Peggy. In this case, when a virtual Windows machine is running on a MAC laptop, the two are completely separate from one another. They share the physical resources of the hardware, but the operating systems and everything running within them are not shared.

Let’s look at the different options for virtual machines that might be advantageous in the legal space. First, there is the option for a virtual desktop. As more and more attorneys and paralegals fresh out of school are entering the work force with MAC products, the need for virtual options is imminent. The world of litigation products has been firmly rooted in the Windows environment for 30 plus years. As more firms are turning to Apple products, the options for litigation products are slim. Virtualization allows the users to access all of the current litigation applications that run in windows while utilizing their MAC machines. There are a few options on the market as well as Boot Camp which is built into the MAC OS. I personally use VMWare Fusion to run Windows 10 on my MAC.

Second is server virtualization. If one large server has resources to spare, a second virtual machine can be run on the same machine. This is very similar to the desktop version mentioned above, except multiple users can connect, in the same way other server resources are shared. Often when looking at increasing server class hardware, it is less expensive to buy one machine that is top of the line than to buy 2 machines that have far fewer resources. If you were to purchase one server with 16 cores and 32 GB of RAM vs 4 machines with 4 cores and 8 GB of ram each, the cost difference would be approx. $6,000 for 16 cores versus $2,700 each for 4 cores. Additionally, with more hardware, there is more space requirements and maintenance.

Last but not least, one of the most advantageous features of virtualization is the ability to snapshot. This feature gives you the option of taking a picture in time of a clean environment. If anything goes wrong with your machine, you can easily restore to a snapshot. This is especially helpful when testing new software options and features when doing a trial or proof of concept.

Virtualization is all the buzz these days, and knowing what your options are and how they may help make your firm more flexible and efficient takes away the smoke and mirrors we sometimes see with new technology.