Virtual Machines VS Containers: The Pros and Cons of Each

Unsure whether to choose virtualization or containerization? In this comparison, StratusGrid breaks down the pros and cons of each to help you decide.

Table of Contents



Virtual Machines VS Containers: The Pros and Cons of Each

Containers and virtual machines are two ways of running applications to save resources. Here we’re going to look at the difference between the two, pros and cons, and how to choose between them.

What is Virtualization?

Virtualization is a technology that enables you to run virtual machines in a single physical server. Each virtual machine can run an app with its own independent operating system. You can think of each one as a mini virtual computer all linked through a hypervisor to a physical server (like one of those old computer towers).

Virtualization Use Cases

Virtual machines are useful in many scenarios, here we bring you three in which virtualization is beneficial:

  1. Virtualization is useful for running legacy systems. You can transfer these systems to a virtual machine. This change improves stability, deployment, and controls.
  2. You can also use virtual machines to use resources in a physical server more efficiently. Virtualization saves space and money.
  3. Using virtual machines you can test unknown apps, potential spam, or new applications safely. 

What is Containerization?

Containerization is when applications are packaged up into lightweight, portable, individual containers to make them faster and more agile. The containers have everything an app needs to run. This includes libraries, frameworks, binaries, and dependencies. What they don’t have is an independent operating system. Instead, they’re linked to one shared operating system.

Think of it like a room that has everything that you need to live in: a bed, TV, books, a stove, a fridge, and so on. But it doesn’t have an electrical switchboard to control the electricity. So when the power goes out, there’s nothing you can do until someone else sorts it out.

Virtual machine containerization (1)

Containerization Use Cases

Containers are becoming increasingly popular. An IBM survey showed that 61% of people had used containers in at least 50% of applications in the past 2 years. 

They’re useful in many situations, here we’ve highlighted three use cases:

  1. Since they’re light, containers are great for microservices. Containerized apps can be used to build smaller services that are linked but can be deployed independently.
  2. People often use containerization in serverless computing. Developers can focus on creating applications in containers without worrying about servers.
  3. When you have an app in a hybrid cloud or multicloud situation, containers are useful. Containerized applications can run in different environments. They are the ideal solution in these cases.

Virtual Machines VS Containers: The Pros and Cons

When should you go for a virtual machine over a container? Let’s break down the pros and cons of both.

  Virtual Machines Containers
Performance Can be slower but are more dynamic Very fast and easy to adjust
Security Highly secure as each machine is isolated Less secure - multiple containers can be impacted by one operating system being compromised.
Scalability and Flexibility It can be expensive to scale and virtual machines are more rigid Easy to scale and highly flexible
Cost Efficiency Since they take up more space, they’re more expensive. They’re still cheaper than physical systems. Highly cost-efficient as they don’t use hardware resources.


Virtual machines are slower than containers, they’re a full stack system that take time to build. They also process information slower than containers which are lightweight, agile, fast, and easy to change. 

However, since they’re essentially a virtual computer, virtual machines are more dynamic and can be interactively developed.


Containers are linked to a single hardware system. So, if one container is exploited, it could affect all of them via the shared hardware. However, virtual machines run independently so even if one is hijacked, the others aren’t at risk.

Scalability and Flexibility

Virtual machines are fixed, so scaling them is more difficult and can be expensive. If you move them to the cloud then they become a bit easier, but migration also poses challenges. Containers occupy less space, and they’re much easier to scale. They can also be run over multiple environments, making them highly flexible.

Cost Efficiency

Each container holds the resources for one application. They use little data, so they are cost-effective. Virtual machines can be several gigabytes. So, they can get heavy and take up a lot of space. This makes them more expensive.

How to Choose Between Virtual Machines and Containers

When deciding between virtualization and containerization, you need to consider your priorities.

Virtual machines are the way to go if you want a highly secure system with a lot of control over your application’s environment.

However, if you want to speed up your development, release improvements, or scale your applications quickly, containers are best for you.

Virtual machine containerization (2)

Experience the Power of Strategic IT. Contact StratusGrid for a Consultation

At StratusGrid we use our knowledge of AWS and cloud computing to improve your cloud environment. From migration to cost optimization, we’re here to help you.

Book a call to discuss your current infrastructure and your vision of the future, we’d love to help you get there.

stratusphere by stratusgrid 1


  1. What is the difference between containerization and virtualization?
    Containerization is when you package up operating systems so that applications can work in any environment. Virtualization is creating a virtual physical machine to run independent operating systems.
  2. What is the purpose of containerization?
    Containers run an application and its dependencies in an environment. It’s a lightweight, fast, flexible, and cost-effective solution.
  3. What are the disadvantages of containerization?
    The main disadvantage of containers is that they are a security concern. Since they share a hardware processor, if that’s infected, all containers are at risk.


What are the disadvantages of containerization?


Similar posts