Storm Season is Upon Us

April 6, 2010

Storm season is upon us. Every year around this time, we like to remind everyone about how to protect your computer from storms.

Storms can have an effect on your computer in one of two ways.

Wind or lightning from a storm can cause a power outage. If a computer is turned on and suddenly looses power, it can cause data loss. One way you can lessen the risk of this happening is to shut your computer down before a storm hits. This is effective, but what if you are not home? A better way is to purchase a UPS (Uninterruptable Power Supply). When a computer is connected to a UPS and there is a power outage, the UPS can provide power to your computer for a little while. If the power doesn’t come back on after a set amount of time, the UPS will instruct the computer to shut down normally. In addition, a UPS also provides surge protection.

It’s a good idea to have all computers on a UPS, but not necessarily required. Servers, however, should be on a UPS. No exceptions!

When shopping for a UPS, don’t buy the cheapest one. You can pay anywhere from $50 to thousands of dollars for a UPS. For a workstation, you should be able to find one for $80-$100. A UPS should have a capacity of 1000VA and 550W. It should be rated for at least 1000 joules. It should also include a connected equipment guarantee. This is like insurance that allows you to submit a claim if equipment connected to your UPS is damaged by lightning.

For a Server, a better UPS is recommended. What a server needs depends on how much power it’s pulling. Give us a call to help you determine what is needed.

If lightning strikes the building your computer is in, or hits the power line or phone line, it can harm your computers. It can harm any electrical device in your home, but computers are more susceptible than most household appliances. A lightning strike can take out most any part in your computer. I’ve seen lightning take out power supplies, modems, keyboards, Ethernet cards, and motherboards. It can take out more than one with one strike too. Even if a lightning strike only damages one part in your computer, it’s going to cost you money to fix that. A lot more money than it would have cost to protect your computer in the first place.

A popular myth is that shutting your computer down before a storm will protect it from lightning. This is totally false. As long as your computer is connected to a phone line, electrical line, or network, lightning can get to your computer. If you shut your computer down and disconnect all wires that go to the wall, that would protect it, but what a pain that is. And again, what if you aren’t home when the storm hits?

It’s easy and not very expensive to protect your computer from lightning. Just get yourself a good surge protector and connect your computer and all of its accessories to it. Please be aware that a power strip is not necessarily a surge protector. Also be aware that all surge protectors are not created equal. Some are better than others.

Here are some tips for purchasing a good surge protector. Get one that has at least some of the plugs spaced apart so that those plugs with transformers on them will fit. Get one that is at least 2400 joules. Get one with a lifetime warranty. And finally, get one that has a connected equipment guarantee. This guarantee is basically an insurance policy. If the surge protector fails to protect your equipment from lightning, you can submit a claim to be reimbursed for the cost of your equipment.

My favorite surge protector is the CyberPower 850. You can even purchase it at Walmart.

By the way, unless you have dial-up or use your computer for faxing, we recommend not plugging a phone line into¬† your computer. It’s just another way for lightning to get in. So if you aren’t using it, why increase your risk.

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