Why Your Computers Should Be On Battery Backup

By Rockbound Computer | Feb 14, 2014
Photo by: Billy Rhythm A $70 battery backup is cheap insurance.

Many residents of Owls Head, South Thomaston, and Thomaston woke up late late Wednesday night to a power outage. Not only are power outages inconvenient (especially in winter), but they can be damaging to electrical items. Lots of computer parts are very sensitive, and a small power surge will fry them faster than shrimp tempura at a Benihana. In fact, after that power Wednesday, more than one machine came into the shop with a cooked power supply. A simple battery back-up is usually enough to save your expensive equipment.l

 

Here's how a battery backup works. The UPS (for “un-iteruptable power supply”) usually looks like a big power strip, or perhaps a box about the size of a shoe box. It plugs into your wall, and then your components plug into that. Here's how a UPS differs from your standard power strip... Inside the UPS is a battery. That battery protects some of the outlets on the unit. When power goes out, the battery continues to supply current to those particular outlets, meaning that those items plugged into those particular outlets stay on. The size of the battery and the number of items turned on at the time of the outage determines how long you can run on battery power, but in general it will allow you time to wake up, haul yourself out of bed, get to the computer, and shut it down properly.

 

A battery back-up protects your equipment in a few different ways.

 

  1. Even when you're on “regular” utility power, voltage can vary a little bit. You don't always get a nice clean 120 volts. In fact, voltage at the outlet can range from 110 to 135 volts. Most equipment can handle this change in voltage, but smaller electronics sometimes don't like it. Ever had a router that was “flaky” and needed to be rebooted every couple days? Have you ever had your Internet tech person ask you to “Unplug your modem, wait 30 seconds, and plug it in again?” It's possible that voltage changes have caused that unit to lock up and not respond properly. A UPS evens out those voltages. If the volts drop (like in a “brown out” situation), it moves current stored in the battery to the outlet. If voltage is too high, it uses the extra to keep the battery charged. If voltage gets to dangerous levels, the surge protector will kick in and keep a spike from reaching your equipment.

  2. Have you ever been working on a document, have a quick power outage, and lose all your work? A battery backup will prevent that. A bookkeeper in our office recently told us how she was working on a year end report, and lost it all during a power blip. If you were to look at the Rockbound Computer's Facebook wall (http://www.facebook.com/rockboundcomputer), you'll find a note on one Sunday morning when I was posting to Facebook at the exact moment of a power blip. Since I have a battery backup, I was able to work right through the short outage, and didn't lose anything.

  3. During a longer outage, a UPS will give you time to get to your machine and shut it down properly. This is especially nice if you keep your computer running all the time. The Tripp Lite units we sell have a very nice feature: you connect the UPS to your computer via a USB cable. If the power goes out when your computer is on, after a few minutes (or whatever interval you choose) the UPS will send a shut-down command to the computer. It will then initiate a proper shutdown through the operating system, the safe and effective way.

 

Convinced you should be running a UPS? I hope so. Here are some things you should take note of when setting up your battery back up.

 

  1. Not all the outlets on a UPS have battery back up. Some offer surge protection only. Make sure your computer is plugged into the battery protected outlets. I plug my monitor, computer, router, and cable modem into battery protected outlets. My scanner, desk lamp, and cordless phone don't require the same level of protection.

  2. Surges come in over phone lines too. If you're running DSL or (gasp!) dial-up, make sure the phone line going IN to the modem is protected. Most UPSs offer phone surge protection.

  3. Make sure you get a unit that has enough juice to get you through an outage. A 10 or 15 minute unit is certainly adequate for the home user. If you want to put the office server on a battery, and you live ½ hour away, consider a bigger unit.

  4. Some UPS units don't allow you to replace the battery. After 2-3 years, when the battery life is exhausted, you buy an entirely new unit. The majority of the cost of a UPS is the battery itself; a $70 unit may have a replaceable battery that costs $45. If you like the idea of being a little more “green,” or like the idea of saving a few bucks, consider a unit with replaceable batteries.

Feel free to call Rockbound Computer at 207-596-7803, and we'll talk to about what your needs are, and fit you with a battery backup just right for you.

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