Absolute Power, Part 1

Perhaps you’re hoping for an entry on ruling the universe …or the 1997 Clint Eastwood film …well, as you might surmise, it’s neither. Instead we are talking about power needed for the film, or more precisely, backup power for the computer systems.

Some of you may have a battery backup unit connected to your computer. If you don’t and your computer is not laptop with a working battery installed, do so now — but only after reading Part 2 .

Battery backup power (often called an uniterruptible power supply or UPS) is a must need for any desktop computer (and certainly any powerful machine, server etc.). Many people are aware of this to some degree but you may also be surprised it’s equally important for some inkjet printers (not lasers – some lasers will damage a UPS when being turned on) and other devices. Check your inkjet printer’s manual and see if has a blurb about turning off the power only with the powerswitch (not with a strip or pulling the plug). If it does, you need a UPS even if you have only a laptop to keep from damaging your printer.

But why is a battery backup so important? Although many people think it’s so to run their computer during a power outage or that it provides surge protection, that’s not the reason to run out and get one. The reason is it saves you from losing data in several important ways. (But if you don’t have surge protection either, get it now, but more on surge protection later)

  • If you the power goes out and you have not saved a file or if you programs have not done an auto-save in the last few seconds unsaved work will be gone. If it’s just a few sentences in an email, no big deal. If it’s a breakthrough moment or financial transaction etc. it can be bigger loss.
  • More importantly, it gives you a chance to close big or complex files and shut down your program (many include auto-shutdown software for when you are away from the computer). A common large file is the email store in Outlook etc. Sometimes a bad shutdown will render the file temporarily or permanently corrupted.
  • But the critical reason is protecting your hard disk drives. If your computer is in the middle of a intense disk operation (saving a big file, running backup or virus scanner etc.), especially if it has several hard drives or a RAID and the power is suddenly cutoff, there is chance some, much or rarely all the data on the drive (or the drive itself) could be damaged. Modern new hard drives have designs to prevent this, so it won’t happen every time, but it can happen and does happen, especially if the drive already has some wear, tear or undiagnosed problems. A UPS can save you from a very serious disaster.

You might argue that you have a backup but even if you have complete backup of your data and all your hardware is under warranty, the lost time and expense to restore your systems is usually far more than the cost of even quality UPS. And you won’t get data back after you last good backup.

Next, Part 2 on the kinds of UPS choices and what I’m upgrading to for production.

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