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So, my master server seems to have just died a horrible, and quite painful by the looks of it, death...

so I was thinking, VM's are great and all, the little I have played with them it seems that the whole VM is really just a folder/directory/etc which would make creating a backup of the whole machine as simple as stopping the client, and then coping the folder?

so my question is, would running CQC in a bare metal VM make sense? are there any issues to be aware of?
if this is a valid/sane plan, what is a good (and preferably free/cheap) bare metal VM?
I just had a major system crash a few weeks ago too and when to a VM for a while.

CQC worked real well within it and I think is a perfectly fine way to go. I tried out VMware Player and Virtual Box both on a Linux host. Both are free I think for Windows as well. Virtual Box seemed richer in features/ways to run it. (ie. headless, RDP only, fullscreen)

The only drawback I experienced was that I can't get the sound card driver I use for multi-room audio working as it's not supported in a VM. If not for that I would be staying on the Virtual Box VM permanently. Backups are pretty much copy and paste of folders although the software provides a way to make snapshots.

There's a how-to in the forums here on setting up with VMWare server software although when I looked into it, the software used in the tutorial seemed to be older/less supported by VMware now (in Linux anyhow). The thread was started by Wuench in the How To's section and is a good read if you are going this way.
Drivers are going to be the issue on bare metal. The drivers you need are vmware drivers, so may not be as readily available as drivers for Windows or even Linux.

If you run on a Windows based host instead, VMWare uses the Windows drivers. I run CQC on VMware Server 2.0 on a Win7 host, with CQC itself on a WinXPSP2 VM.
I think I have reconsidered going the VM route, and will stick with just plain old XP for now.
for one thing, my CQC MS is running on a little ATOM board, no real HP to speak of, it is plenty for CQC, but throwing VM into the mix may cause some HP issues...
2nd in the true spirit of "worry about things after it is too late", I managed to recover my CQC folder off the failed drive, so now it is not "too late" anymore and I am no longer worried about having backups...

thanks for the insight and suggestions though, it is something to think about for future builds...
I use a VM (ESXi) and its fine. For things like Audio a USB audio card should be the easiest to get working.

I use a Digi Etherlite serial server for connecting all the devices to CQC. This makes it simple to "rebuild" and I dont need to worry about compatibility with hypervisors etc.

If all you are running is CQC then it does not make much sense, but if you run other functions (Asterix, firewall etc) then it can make sense to use a VM setup.

If you are worried about a potential failure, get something like Acronis and make the separate bootable CD. Once in a while throw in the CD and reboot and do a perfect disk image backup to another drive. Then you can always have a backup disc to throw in. You may need then to bring over a CQC backup from a later date to get more recent changes, but you'll be way, way ahead of the game.
I built an ESXi server and I intend to move my Master server over in the next month or so. The advantage of this route is that you end up with a bare-bones systems that can run multiple VMs (up to 5 in the free non-commercial model). My system will be my AD domain controller on one VM and CQC in a second.

My intention is to leave all of the devices on the old master server so the USB devices does not get accidentally owned by the wrong virtual.

Never had this accident happen and I use VM's in an industrial control situation (using ESXi - same as I use at home).

I dont think it will be an issue at all unless you unplug them a lot and happen to plug them in elsewhere.
I had mine getting unassigned everytime I rebooted the host on VM Server. I think there was some setting in the VM config I had to set. Something like if a VM came up and the USB wasn't ready it wouldn't assign it, and that setting forced the assignment, if I remember right.
I know I have USB assignments changing all the time in Player. I do not want to have this issue to resolve. Wuench has brought up a good point, VM does not play well (at least for player) when the USB device is not fully ready on startup.