Computer Backup Power
What do you recommend as a backup power supply for computers? During the last storm, we lost power for several hours. If I had a battery backup, I could have gotten online to check email and weather updates. Is an 'uninterruptible power supply' what I need?
What Kind of Backup Power Do You Need?
A sudden loss of electrical power can cause your computer to shut down or reboot. Of course, you will lose anything you were working on at the time of the power glitch. But power failures can also cause head crashes in hard drives, which can damage a disk and the data on it. To guard against power failures, get yourself an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) to provide a backup power source for your computer.
A UPS, at its core, is a battery backup power supply. It includes circuitry that instantly switches from line power to battery power in the event of a power outage. The simplest and cheapest type of UPS, called a standby UPS, does nothing more. But power outages are not the only hazards your computer faces.
Fluctuations in line power quality are much more common than blackouts. A voltage spike or its opposite, a voltage drop, can adversely affect your equipment's performance and lifespan. Protections against this type of electrical power hazard should be part of your UPS.
A line-interactive UPS is also relatively inexpensive; it filters and conditions line power as well as providing battery backup. An on-line UPS provides the highest quality line power and the greatest protection against power outages. Most home computer setups require no more than a line-interactive UPS.
What Features Do You Need in a UPS?
A UPS may include other features as well. Monitoring ports on a UPS can tell attached equipment to shut down gracefully in the event of a power outage, in case no one is around to shut things down manually. Fax and modem telephone-style outlets may be provided on a UPS to give these devices surge protection. Some unprotected power outlets may exist for printers and other devices that do not need battery power but should be protected against power fluctuations.
The capacity of a UPS is measured in volt-amperes (VA). How much capacity you need in a UPS is a function of the power needs of all the components you wish to protect and the amount of time that you want to be able to run on battery power. APC, a major UPS manufacturer, has a handy calculator that can help you determine what the capacity of your next UPS should be.
One of the most popular consumer-level UPS models is the $59 APC Back-UPS ES 550, which provides battery backup and surge protection for home computers, and your phone/fax/modem/DSL line. Automatic system shutdown software is included. This model gives you just a little over 3 minutes of battery backup - enough time to save your work and shutdown, but not a good solution if you want to stay up and running during a longer power outage. Other top brands include Tripp Lite, Eaton, Liebert, CyberPower, and Minuteman.
But I Already Have a UPS...
I've had a UPS for ten years, and there have been many times when the lights flickered in the house, causing televisions and alarm clocks to shut off or reset. My computer never even flinched. Even during power outages, my trusty computer plugged away, while the rest of the house was dark. But during the winds that Hurricane Irene brought to my area, we lost power and my UPS failed me. Fortunately, I only lost the document I was working on.
A UPS contains a battery, of course; typically, a lead-acid battery much like the one in your car. Such batteries are generally good for several years, but eventually they do need to be replaced. UPS units and replacement batteries are available online, but pay close attention to shipping charges; these things are heavy and expensive to ship! It may be a better idea to shop locally, when purchasing a UPS.
Do you have a battery backup UPS? Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 3 Oct 2011
|For Fun: Buy Bob a Snickers.|
Do You Need Laptop Insurance?
The Top Twenty
Carbonite Versus Mozy
There's more reader feedback... See all 23 comments for this article.
Post your Comments, Questions or Suggestions
Free Tech Support -- Ask Bob Rankin
Subscribe to AskBobRankin Updates: Free Newsletter
Copyright © 2005
- Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved
Article information: AskBobRankin -- Computer Backup Power (Posted: 3 Oct 2011)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved