VMware provides several methods to provision vSphere virtual machines. The optimal method for your environment depends on factors such as the size and type of your infrastructure and the goals that you want to achieve.

Create a single virtual machine if no other virtual machines in your environment have the requirements you are looking for, such as a particular operating system or hardware configuration. For example, you might need a virtual machine that is configured only for testing purposes. You can also create a single virtual machine and install an operating system on it, and then use that virtual machine as a template from which to clone other virtual machines. See Create a Virtual Machine Without a Template or Clone.

Deploy and export virtual machines, virtual appliances, and vApps stored in Open Virtual Machine Format (OVF) to use a preconfigured virtual machine. A virtual appliance is a virtual machine that typically has an operating system and other software installed. You can deploy virtual machines from local file systems, such as local disks (for example, C:), removable media (for example, CDs or USB keychain drives), and shared network drives. See Deploying OVF Templates.

Create a template to deploy multiple virtual machines from. A template is a master copy of a virtual machine that you can use to create and provision virtual machines. Use templates to save time. If you have a virtual machine that you will clone frequently, make that virtual machine a template. See Deploy a Virtual Machine from a Template.

Cloning a virtual machine can save time if you are deploying many similar virtual machines. You can create, configure, and install software on a single virtual machine. You can clone it multiple times, rather than creating and configuring each virtual machine individually. See Clone a Virtual Machine.

Cloning a virtual machine to a template preserves a master copy of the virtual machine so that you can create additional templates. For example, you can create one template, modify the original virtual machine by installing additional software in the guest operating system, and create another template. See Clone a Virtual Machine to a Template in the vSphere Web Client.