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April Showers bring . . . June Thunderstorms?

June 11, 2009

These late spring thunderstorms are giving us all, and our computer systems, cause for concern. The Help Desk has been a buzz with power spike, brown out and black out calls from customers. I myself have replaced one computer power supply just this week that got zapped sometime over the weekend. For the record, the computer *was* on a battery backup until the battery needed replacing last month and I was neglectful in replacing it in a timely manner. As I shop for battery backups I thought I would share what to look for with the group.

A battery backup (also known as a UPS for Uninterpretable Power Supply in techno-babel) is basically a medium sized battery coupled with a cool surge protector. It helps keep power spikes at bay and will kick in with battery power during brown and black outs. Depending on the size of the battery, and how much equipment you connect to it, you will typically get anywhere from 5 minutes to as much as an hour or more of “run time” once the power goes out. I consider it *mandatory* to have one of these on any server – and a great idea to have at the cash register station, especially if you are in an area that suffers from unreliable power.

Here are a few things to look for when shopping:

  • APC is recommended both by Sun and by SUM/IT – and pretty much the best brand you can buy.
  • Be sure it has a “Replace Battery” light on the front, or an LCD information panel – the batteries inside need to be replaced about every 3 years and it needs to have a way to let you know when it’s time.
  • Point of sale stations need something small – look for “350 VA” to “500 VA” on the box.
    Our recommendation is this: APC CS 350
  • If you want to run point of sale stations for even longer during lengthy power outages consider the larger “server” unit listed below for one of your stations.
  • Servers require a bit more – 750VA minimum, but 1000 – 1500 VA would be recommended.
    Here is a unit that gives you good “bang for the buck”: APC RS 1500 VA

Tips on hooking them up:

  • Pay attention to the outlets – some will say “battery & surge” and others might say “surge only” (be sure to plug the equipment you want protected into the “battery” side).
  • Do not plug high power-draw devices into the battery backup: things like vacuums, fans, and laminators would be VERY bad.
  • Laser printers can only be plugged into “surge only” outlets.
  • Make sure you can see the status lights on the front at least occasionally. However, most battery backups will give you an audible alert when they require attention.
  • Don’t forget to plug your networking equipment into the battery backup too. Your point of sale equipment won’t work very well if it can’t talk to the server.

I hope this helps! Let me know if you have any questions or need additional information.


From → APC, Power Protection, UPS

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