Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What is the UPS and WHY do I need one?

In a computer world it is not a package delivery company. It is - Uninterruptible Power Supply. Many pronounce it "ups", but most of the literature seems to favor "you pee ess".
The most common question people ask – do I need a UPS?

The answer is always - yes. If you are reading these lines, most likely you have already run into power problems which crashed your computer, possibly, causing more damage than just one unsaved document which you were typing for last few hours.
Yes, you need a UPS for your personal computer. If you are running business, then, yes, you need UPS devices for your business computers, and more important, you need a UPS for your server (-s). Without the UPS you are taking a risk of not only losing your data, but the computer (be it a personal computer or a server computer) hardware can be damaged. This may cost you hours of a down time and more important, it will add an additional expense to bring the computer back to a working order.
So, what does a UPS device do for you?
A UPS has internal batteries to guarantee that continuous power is provided to the equipment even if the power source stops providing power. Of course the UPS can only provide power for a while, typically a few minutes, but that is often enough to ride out power company glitches or short outages. Even if the outage is longer than the battery lifetime of the UPS, this provides the opportunity to execute an orderly shutdown of the equipment. Advantages:
  1. Computer jobs don't stop because the power fails.
  2. Users not inconvenienced by computer shutting down.
  3. Equipment does not incur the stress of another (hard) power cycle.
  4. Data isn't lost because a machine shut down without doing a "sync" or equivalent to flush cached or real time data, i.e. you have a time to save all your work.
To make this sound worse, when the computer experiences a power loss, the hardware that most likely is going to break is the hard drive. The hard drive keeps all your documents, all your pictures, other business and personal data, which may not be retrieved from the drive after the computer crash, and you may need to turn to your backups in order to get it all back.
To sum things up, the UPS device (when properly selected and configured) can do the following for you:
· It will keep a computer running until the shutdown threshold is reached. When it is reached, the UPS device would send a shutdown command to the computer. This will gracefully shut the computer down and prevent from any possible hardware failures. Not all UPS devices can do this; so, seek for a professional advice before getting the device.
· Power surges are as bad as power losses. Even if your computer keeps running after a power surge, the next computer reboot could be its last. Not only the hard drive can be damaged, but the power supply, memory and even the motherboard can be “fried”. This would put you into the position where you would need a professional help to identify a broken hardware, or, you would need to replace the whole unit.
· You have time to save your work. Most UPS devices, even with small batteries, would give you some time to save your work. It could be 30 seconds, it could be a minute, or two, but in most cases it is enough just to click “Save” on the document you were working on.
· There is other good things that UPS can do for you, for example, monitoring and logging of the status of the power supply, display the Voltage/Current draw of the equipment, restart equipment after a long power outage, provide alarms on certain error conditions, etc.
Be aware that batteries of UPS devices drain over the time. The only way to make sure your UPS is in a good shape is… testing, testing, testing. No, you do not have to do this every single day. Come up with a periodic testing, like once a month, a quarter, or, even better, find a professional who would do this for you.
Finally, before you buy a UPS device, do good research, or, hire a professional to pick one for you. And, remember, it takes a long time to create a data, but it takes only one time to lose it all.
by Gedas Aleksas – Lead Technical Specialist, CMIT Solutions of Stamford

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