What are Virtual Organizations?

Carol Francois

Virtual organization is a term used to describe a collection of people or organizations who are sharing resources without physically moving into the same space. Typically, virtual is used to describe computer-generated environments, where people with a common purpose or issue can meet, unrestricted by geography. This type of organization has grown substantially in the past 10 years as the cost of technology decreases, providing opportunities to remove these barriers at a lower cost.

Unlike traditional organizations, the members of a virtual organization may never meet in person.
Unlike traditional organizations, the members of a virtual organization may never meet in person.

All virtual organizations have the same requirement: the ability to communicate directly with a large group of people. In virtual organizations, there is often no single leader, but a collective group of people overseeing the operations of the organization. This structure is most common in organizations united by a common goal.

In order to support an Internet-based collaborative environment, there are specific hardware and software requirements. Typically, a powerful web server and large hard disk capacity is required to provide the processing power and memory required for the virtual software program. These programs use the Internet to provide access to shared folders, provide communication tools, and manage document versioning. The resources required varies, depending on the size of the group and the type of documents being used.

Virtual computing removes the need for this type of expensive infrastructure. Instead, the processing power of a large number of smaller computers connected via a grid is used. The decrease in cost for personal computers while increasing processing power and speed has made this concept much more prevalent.

In research-focused virtual organizations, there are different requirements for accessing profiles and data sharing. These types of organizations typically require more computer processing power and data storage. Researchers need to access large amounts of data, reports from colleagues, and lengthy dialog and discussion. Most research institutes set up a virtual organization for their researchers to encourage collaboration and teamwork.

A virtual organization can be made up of multiple workstations within a specific area, such as a corporation or educational institute. Alternatively, they can be located all over the world. The excess processing power is channeled from the computers on the network to a larger supercomputer.

These projects are typically focused on the types of supercomputers found in universities or research institutions. The computers are processing massive, complex calculations. The additional processing speed provided through the virtual organizations keeps costs down, while providing the opportunity to expand the power at any time.

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