Administrators Admins Hyper-V VMware

Build Your Own IT Lab


One thing that sets apart an amateur from a professional is experience. What a better way to gain experience than by building a lab and testing. From the basic AD installations, Exchange installations to the more complex hybrid O365 environments, labs are quintessential. When in doubt use a lab, when the change in question will have broad business effects, test in the lab, you get where I am going. If you are starting out in the IT industry the lab is your friend and teacher. Where else are you going to be able gain skills without any risk?

When I tried to build my lab I used Hyper-V as my hypervisor and ran into issues with network connectivity. This doesn’t mean that it can’t work for you. That being said, I decided to use VMWare Workstation which is the free version. Once I changed hypervisors the network issue experienced with Hyper V was resolved.

Pitfalls experienced during the process:

  • VM boot times where slow this grew exponentially when booting multiple VMS.
  • Issue number two, when running multiple VMs they were sluggish.

After combing the web and looking at countless benchmarks, I decided to purchase a Samsung 850 Pro. The new drive solved both problems. I took it a step further and decided to use it as my boot drive as well.

Below is the two step process to build a lab without the need of a dedicated server or desktop.

Step 1

Download and install VMware Workstation

Step 2

I like to download Microsoft Trial software from TechNet or Linux ISOs from DistroWatch.


One thing that you will encounter eventually is that you will want to open up a VM to the world. By default this is not possible because VMs are defaulted to use NAT behind the host’s NIC. This doesn’t allow a VM to see the rest of the LAN thus not allowing port forwarding or adding the VM to the DMZ. This can be resolved by making the changes below.

Provide LAN access

Navigate to the VMs settings shown below.

Network-Settings VMWare Workstation -1

Navigate to the Network Adapter option and choose Custom, choose a vnet. Don’t worry about the which vnet you use as long as you do not use the vnet labeled NAT.

Network-Settings VMWare Workstation.png

That is all I have on building a LAB.