Is a UPS Something You Should Consider?

 
It’s that time again here in the Midwest, that the power seems to be less reliable than normal.  Call it bad weather or overloading services, but brown outs or blackouts are things to worry about. 
 
Two years ago, at my home office, we had a big blackout which left me feeling like I had entered the Puritan Age.  When the power came back on, we were getting little short brownouts.  You know the type that cause your lights to flicker and your cablebox reboots every 5 minutes. How frustrating not being able to use the computer or Internet during this time. Argh!!! 
 
When our customers ask about investing in an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) they always ask if purchasing a UPS is worth it or not... the easy answer is YES, but let’s take a look…
 
What is a UPS?  (not a delivery company)

Basically, a UPS is a battery which can provide short term power to your connected equipment when your main power source is having ups and downs or is just plain unavailable. The UPS plugs into your wall outlet’s main power and then your other devices such as your IP phone, computer, router and monitor plug directly into the UPS. This way when the main power goes out, the UPS will quickly switch over to battery power within a few milliseconds preventing anything that you have plugged into it and running from suffering a problem and turning off.  Your equipment and your service will be able to continue operating for some time on emergency battery power.
 
The UPS is also capable of protecting against other power instability issues such as brown outs and voltage spikes, as the UPS will fail over to the stable battery power when it detects any such problems.  In the picture below, you can see how a UPS is charged during normal times, and then how it kicks over to the battery during bad power issues.
 
 
What are the benefits of a UPS?

Having a UPS can provide you with the following benefits.
  • Avoid Data Loss: If the power goes out unexpectedly while you are in the middle of working on something important on your computer there is the potential for significant data loss unless you have recently saved everything that you were working on. With a UPS you will be notified when you are running on battery power, typically with a loud beeping noise, allowing you plenty of time to safely save what you are working on and correctly shutting down until the main power source comes back on.
  • Reduced Down Time: This may or may not be important to you depending on what you’re doing, for instance if you’re playing games on the computer it may be acceptable for you to unexpectedly lose power for 30 minutes, however if you’re working on some important business details, then the down time associated with power loss could potentially result in financial loss. The UPS is only a stop gap but can provide around 30 minutes of power with using a PC, however you can get more out of it, if you read on...
  • Additional Equipment Protection: By protecting against random power glitches, your equipment that is plugged in to the UPS will typically be protected from unexpected power surges, voltage spikes and brownouts. Most of our customer’s UPS’s will stabilize the AC signal and maintains a safe voltage level, allowing the UPS to provide safe power levels for the connected equipment without switching over to battery power.
  • Small and Affordable: Most UPS units that you will be looking to purchase for important areas, like your main telecom/router area (IT closet), are generally quite small and do not take up much space allowing you to easily hide it with your other power cables. They are also priced inexpensively, so you can get a decent UPS that will provide you with plenty of battery power if your power gets yanked. The amount of power will depend on the size of the battery in the model you’re looking at and considering the equipment that it’s protecting… It’s worth many times more than not having a UPS and needing it.
 
Increase the Impact of Your UPS

Here are some tips that will help you get the most benefit out of a UPS, these should help outline the benefits.
  • Reduce Power Usage: This may seem understandable, but if you reduce the amount of power draw from the UPS battery it will last longer. We have found that during a power outage the best thing to do is safely shut down your PC and turn off the monitor, but leave the modem/router plugged in. This way you can switch over to using a laptop which runs off of it’s own battery power source, allowing you time to still make use of the Internet. Typically, you should get about 25 minutes of power with the NAS, PC, monitor, and router plugged in and running. If you power down everything except for the router it will last close to 2 hours which is usually more than enough time for the mains power to be restored and allows you with Internet access in the meantime.
  • Automatic Shutdown: Depending on your UPS and devices plugged into it, you can configure various devices such as your PC, server or NAS to become aware if they are running on battery power from the UPS. This way if you are away or asleep and not able to manually shut your equipment down it can automatically shut down and power off those devices for you, which is typically better than running the equipment until the battery runs out, if this happens you’re losing the advantage of using a UPS
 
Selecting a UPS

Hopefully by now you have been able to see how useful a UPS can be, they are definitely worth considering if you don’t have them now. UPS systems come in all sorts of shapes and sizes with different size batteries capable of lasting for different periods of time under certain levels of load. 
 
Your local computer, office supply, or hardware stores all carry residential UPS’s for your home office, but your office may have some additional needs.  If you don’t know what you have or would like Metropark to offer some UPS solutions, just give your Metropark Account Rep a call or email.