UPS. Not Brown.

June 15, 2009

When you see UPS, you probably think of United Postal Service. Most of us do. But there is another UPS you should know about. The Uninterruptable Power Source. Some people call it battery backup. A UPS does 2 things for you.

First, it is a surge protector protecting your electronic devices from power surges. Any expensive electronic device you have, especially computers, should be connected to surge protectors. Not all power strips are surge protectors and not all surge protectors are created equal. Any time you purchase a surge protector, make sure it has a connected equipment guarantee that says they will pay for any equipment that was connected to the device and damaged by lightning.

Second, if the power goes out, any electronic device connected to it will not lose power and can continue to run for a while. How long depends on the UPS and what’s connected to it. In the case of a computer connected to a UPS, you can set it up so that if the power goes out and stays out for more than a certain number of minutes, your computer will automatically shut down. So even if you aren’t there when the power goes out, your computer will safely shut down.

All servers should be on a UPS. Any computer that is critical to the operation of your business should be on a UPS.  Any computer that is important to you, or contains important data should be on a UPS.

You might be asking, what’s the big deal if the power goes out when my computer is turned on? The big deal is that it is very possible that you could lose data, or it could render your computer unbootable. It all depends on what the computer is doing when it loses power. If a file on the computer is open when the computer loses power, it could corrupt that file. If that file is a critical data file, you better have a backup. If that file is a critical Windows component like the registry, it can render your computer unbootable.

You can go down to Walmart and get a UPS for $50. But don’t get those cheap ones. These cheap UPS units don’t last very long. A decent UPS is going to run you at least $100 for something that will run one PC. Good brands of UPS include CyberPower and Opti-UPS. Good places to purchase UPS units are Frys Electronics and Altex Electronics. Because UPS units weigh a lot, purchasing online may require very high shipping costs. When shopping for a UPS, get one that provides at least 1100VA/550w of capacity and at least 1000 joules of surge protection.

Most UPS units have two different types of outlets. Some are just surge protection meaning anything plugged into those plugs will be protected against power surges, but will not be on battery backup. Other outlets offer both surge protection and battery backup. Plug your computer and it’s screen into battery backup outlets. Any other plugs can be plugged into the surge protection only outlets.

You will generally need to connect your UPS to  your computer using a USB cable that comes with the UPS unit. This is so the UPS can communicate with the computer and tell it to shut down if there is a power failure. These UPS units come with a CD with software on it. Be sure and install the software. The software is what allows the UPS to talk to Windows and shut the computer down if there is a power failure. You can configure the software as well.

Be aware that if the power goes out, your UPS is going to beep at you.

And by the way, a UPS, like all surge protectors, should be replaced every 3-5 years. A good rule of thumb is when you get a new computer, get a new UPS or surge protector.

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