How Do Cloud-based Virtual Training Labs Work?
Virtual training labs utilize cloud-based training environments to host hands-on, computer-based training from anywhere through the use of virtual machines.
Let's back up and unpack that sentence for a minute. First, we'll need to define a couple terms.
Cloud-based Virtual Training Lab Definitions
Cloud: (Not the fluffy white kind). "The Cloud" is a phrase that gets tossed around quite a bit these days. But what is it? Where is it? What does it mean? And why is all your stuff in it? To put it in the simplest terms, “The Cloud” is a just a trendy buzzword for a series of off-site servers.
Server: A server is any computer that provides functionality to other computers. In most cases, they're used to store, manage, and send data (like emails, photos, videos, etc.) back and forth between other computers. However, these powerful computers can also perform a variety of other functions too, one of which is a process known as running virtual machines.
Virtual Machine: A virtual machine (also known as a VM or System Image) is a type of computer file that behaves exactly like an actual computer. Virtual Machines are basically simulated computers. A single powerful server can operate many Virtual Machines simultaneously. It's like having a bunch of tiny computers running inside a big one.
Okay, now that that's out of the way, let's understand how all these geeky computer terms have revolutionized training.
Traditional Computer Training vs. Cloud-based Training
Let’s imagine you want to teach someone how to use a particular piece of software. Say, Microsoft Word.
First, you'd need a computer.
Second, you’d need to install Word on the computer you're going to use.
Next, you'd have the student sit down in front of that computer and, standing over their shoulder, you'd begin instructing them how to use the program, pointing out the various tools, settings, menus, etc.
Now, what if you needed to teach 100 people how to do that same thing at the same time??
If you were hosting a traditional computer training, you'd have to find a high-quality computer lab that seats 100 people, acquire 100 copies of Microsoft Word, and hope that the location has a presentation screen large enough for all 100 people to see what you’re demonstrating.
What happens if your students don’t all live in the same place or you can’t find a space big enough??
Not exactly practical, is it?
Let’s again imagine that we need to train 100 people how to use Microsoft Word, but this time we have access to the latest and greatest cloud-based virtual training lab technology.
Once again, everyone needs their own computer with Microsoft Word. However, with a virtual training lab, we don’t actually need 100 physical computers in the same place.
We'll start by creating a single Virtual Machine running latest version of Word.
Once we have one VM, we can clone that system image 100 times. Boom! Now we’ve got 100 virtual computers.
Thanks to the power of the cloud, we can run those 100 system images on just a handful of powerful servers located anywhere in the world.
Great! We’ve got 100 computers up and running, ready to go! Well, sort of...
How do students access them if they’re halfway around the world? They can’t just grab a pair of binoculars and stretch their mouse and keyboard cables from California to Amsterdam, now can they?
Funnily enough, that’s kind of how it works actually.
Through the magic of the internet, all each student has to do is open a browser window on their own internet-connected device, head to a designated URL, and enter a special access code. This allows them to remotely take control of their very own Cloud-based Virtual Machine.
The instructor gets their own VM and students are able to see exactly what the instructor doing and follow along step-by-step.
Virtual training labs offer huge benefits over standard computer training. The added flexibility offered by cloud-based solutions is no doubt why their popularity has grown so rapidly over the past several years. By leveraging this powerful technology in your training program, you can create effective, hands-on training experiences wherever your users are located. All that's left to do is pick a virtual training lab provider.
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