As the rainy season continues in our country, Power surges (Black-outs and brown-outs) are increasingly becoming a realistic scenario. The power surges, however small they maybe have been producing undesirable effects on unprepared businesses in Kenya.
It’s long been known that frequent electrical storms and power outages can damage electronic devices or fully destroy them and that mainly includes computers. These power surges mainly occur due to issues beyond our control such as power station disruptions, damaged electrical lines among others.
The real danger of blackouts and brownouts is the unexpected computer shutdown. Operating systems are complex and they must undergo a shutdown sequence to make sure all running processes have completely terminated before going off. A sudden loss of electricity can interrupt important threads and leave your computer in an inoperable state.
One way that people can avoid damage to the computer and system files is by using a UPS (uninterruptible power supply). Ups units are like power strips that contain a big battery inside, providing a buffer against power supply interruptions. The buffer can range from a few minutes or more depending on the size of the unit. This can provide one with ample time to save their work and gracefully shut down the machine preventing any damage.
There are many UPS units available in the market today. Even though a UPS unit is effectively just a sophisticated battery, there are tons of little features that can greatly enhance your UPS experience. These features can greatly help anyone looking to purchase a UPS unit but is overwhelmed by choice paralysis. They include;
Supplementary software/OS compatibility
UPS units aren’t just power strips with big old batteries attached. Any worthwhile UPS unit should include some method for interfacing with the computer it is attached to. For most units, this is a simple USB cable run between the UPS and the computer, so that when the unit switches over to battery power it can alert the attached computer and initiate the shutdown process. When shopping for your UPS unit, make sure that the unit you’re looking at can communicate with attached devices and 2) communicate specifically with your chosen operating system.
Sometimes one may want a unit that can be used for your cable modem and router. When looking for such a unit, you have to double check the specs to ensure that the UPS unit includes surge protected/filtered ports for your Ethernet and Coax cables. Ethernet ports on UPS units are notoriously unreliable, so it’s often best to isolate the source of the Ethernet, e.g. the router or network switch, with its own protection instead of worrying about isolating every individual cable before it reaches a computer or device.
Number of outlets
UPS units generally have a mix of on-battery and off-battery (but still surge protected) outlets. Make sure that there are adequate outlets for your needs. Some brands include additional outlet-related features such as peripheral outlets that automatically put peripherals to sleep to save energy.
Not all UPS units have displays but they can be quite useful. Older units and newer low-end units do not include displays. As such, you’re limited in receiving feedback from the unit either via communication over the USB/serial cable or (more annoyingly) as high-pitched beeps from the unit. A compact display screen that can tell you additional information like remaining run time, battery health, and other tidbits is very handy.
Does the unit have user-replaceable batteries, and how much do they cost? UPS batteries don’t last forever. The lifecycle for a typical UPS battery is approximately 3-5 years. When the battery finally fails, and it will, you’ll either need to buy new batteries, if you are savvy enough to swap them yourself or buy a whole new unit. Except for very low-end UPS, you should always look for units with user-replaceable batteries.