Power failures and power spikes can crash your server or PC. You don't want that to happen!
You could lose important files and miss days of work while you recover.
The solution? Spend around $130 plus tax and you could avoid an electrical disaster.
You may already have a power strip and a backup battery, aka an uninterruptible power supply (UPS). But they probably are inadequate.
I recommend two critical components:
- NEW, strong surge suppressor power strip.
- UPS with auto-shutdown technology.
Surge Suppressors Wear Out
Your local electrical power grid is subject to intermittent power spikes. In some areas they are more common and more severe than others.
A problem with power spikes is that you don't notice hundreds of them. But they are wearing out the protective components of your electronic devices that are plugged into the wall, including power strips and UPSes. Computers are especially sensitive.
At some unpredictable moment, your computer can fail due that one last spike that uses up the surge suppressor's capacity. You'll experience it as an unexpected computer crash.
Power Failures Damage Electronics
Power failures are the other, more common electrical threats. Even a momentary power outage can wreak havoc on your computers and other devices. They threaten not only your work in progress, but also the files on your drives.
An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) instantly switches over to battery mode if your power goes out. That action protects you from both data loss and component damage.
If have a UPS, but are not around when the battery runs down, power to your computer will be suddenly cut off. That's just as bad as having no UPS protection unless you shut down your computer 100% of the time when you are not around. (That's not going to happen!)
Automatic computer shut-down software is included with many of the UPSes from the most popular vendors.
APC - which I recommend - has PowerChute software. CyberPower has PowerPanel. Both of these systems use a USB cable connected from the UPS to your computer. Your UPS will keep your computer running until the battery runs very low. Then the software is alerted to perform a computer shutdown gracefully.
If You Have a UPS
If you already have a UPS, I recommend the following precautions:
- Find the manual for your unit. Check online for a PDF if you don't have the paper manual.
- Read about the indicator lights and sounds for your model.
- Check the indicator light(s) on the UPS to see if the battery is running low.
- If your UPS has power shutdown software, download it. Connect a cable between UPS and computer. Install the software.
- Run a test:
- Shut down your computer.
- With the UPS switch in the ON position, unplug the UPS. Does it whine? That could be normal. Check your manual.
- Plug a few lamps into the UPS and turn them on. (Don't substitute anything with a motor!)
- If the lamps stay on for half an hour or more, your battery is probably OK.
- To double-check, unplug the lamps. Make sure your monitor is plugged into the UPS.
- Power up your computer.
- Does it power up properly? Will it run for several minutes? If so the UPS has passed the test.
If your UPS does not have power shutdown software, replace the UPS following the recommendations in the next section.
If your UPS has power shutdown software but is more than three years old, follow the instructions below for purchasing a surge suppressor power strip.
I recommend that you purchase the following protective equipment:
UPS for a small office server:
APC BX1500M Back-UPS Pro 1500 VA 900 Watts 10 Outlets Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) $164.99 – Free shipping - from Newegg
This model should keep the server running for 20 minutes or more if the power goes out. It can also power the monitor, a modem and a network switch simultaneously. It has software and a USB cable that connects to the server and gracefully shuts down the server if the UPS runs out of battery power during a power outage. The UPS battery is good for about 3 years. A replacement battery will cost around $69.99 direct from APC. Surge suppression rating: 1103 Joules.
UPS for a PC or laptop:
APC BE850G2 850 VA 450 Watts 9 Outlets UPS Back Up Power Supply
$102.99 - from Newegg
APC Replacement Battery Cartridge #17 - $44.99
Surge Suppressor Power Strip for Servers, PCs and Laptops
APC Surge Protector Power Strip with USB Ports, P10U2, 4320 Joule, 10 Outlet Surge Protector - from Newegg
I strongly recommend this surge suppressor power strip because otherwise you would likely need to replace your more expensive UPS after 2 to 3 years. While the UPS has its own surge suppression components, they wear out from exposure to electrical spikes.
This surge suppressor power strip protects the UPS, has an indicator light to tell you when it is worn out, and is much less expensive to replace than the UPS. This particular unit is rated at 4320 Joules (a measure of the quantity of surges it can absorb). That is far higher than other similar power strips. And it is about four times as high as the rating for the APC BX1500M UPS unit.
Don't skip replacing your power strip! In all likelihood, it is already silently worn out.
Plastic Outlet Safety Covers, Clear (30-Pack)
Pick these up at Home Depot or order online. Use them to protect your UPS from an overloaded circuit.
The APC company warns against plugging a UPS into a power strip. That is because plugging other devices into the same power strip can interfere with the operation of the UPS, starving it of power.
Inserting outlet safety covers into all of the power strip outlets but one is intended to prevent anyone from using them. Placing plastic tape or a printed plastic label across the covered outlets is also recommended. People, including me!, find it hard to resist plugging a cord into an open outlet.
USB 3.0 Hub
If you are running low on USB ports on your computer, I suggest you also order this USB 3.0 hub. You will need an available USB port to connect your UPS power shutdown software.
The quality of USB hubs varies widely by manufacturer, so it is best to stick with the Anker brand.
Anker 4-Port USB 3.0 Hub, Ultra-Slim Data USB Hub - $12.49 - from Newegg
If you need to connect disk drives or larger USB devices, get a powered USB 3.0 hub:
Anker 7-Port USB 3.0 Data Hub with 36W Power Adapter - $39.99 - from Newegg
Installing the UPS
- Shut down the server.
- Unplug the server.
- Insert Outlet Plug Covers into all but one of the outlets in the new power strip.
- Plug in the new power strip.
- Plug the UPS into the power strip.
- Plug the server into one of the PROTECTED outlets on the UPS.
Important Note: Any UPS is good for about 3 years. After that, there are two risks:
- The battery becomes weak. The UPS should alert you to a weak battery. The battery is replaceable.
- The surge suppression technology that protects against power spikes wears out over time, doing its job. The life span is unpredictable and the UPS unit may not accurately warn you when it reaches end-of-life. Using the above power strip and checking its indicators periodically addresses this second risk.
I have provided links to Newegg for all the devices. They are competitive with Amazon and have given me good service.
Lightning strikes can zap right through all or your protection equipment. For the best protection, get a whole house surge suppressor for your home and check that your office building has this sort of protection. Without it, you will need to take precautions before any lightning storm:
- Power down your electronics.
- Completely disconnect them from the wall outlet.
Otherwise, a nearby lightning strike can zap anything that is plugged in, whether it is on or off.
Laptops have an advantage. They have their own built-in battery that can act as a UPS. You will still benefit from a good surge suppressor power strip. And a UPS is a good protection for your other electronics and can keep them running through power failures of an hour or so.
Procrastination - It is all too easy to tell yourself, "Oh, these are good ideas. I'll get around to them later."
But the time to take action is before your computer fails and you are out of action for days while replacing expensive, damaged technology.