- December 2002 -
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Upgrade to Power 'Runtime' with An Uninterruptible
At some point in your lifetime of computer and electronic equipment purchases, you may have heard the benefits of power protection. Rather than risk losing your technological investments to the frequency of spikes and surges, you decided it made sense to plug that CPU, monitor, and printer (or maybe that television, tape deck, and CD player) into a surge suppressor.
By this point, you've already realized that purchasing surge protection does more towards the lifetime of your equipment than a simple outlet strip with no built-in protection. After all, what good are extra outlets if they have no protection? You may consider it an advantage to plug more items into an unprotected outlet strip, but your chances of surge-related damage are then just as high as if you plugged each piece directly into the wall.
Now you know there's a definite difference between surge protectors (or "suppressors") and multi-outlet strips with no built-in surge protection. However, there are reasons to even upgrade from a surge suppressor to an uninterruptible power supply (UPS). Consumers should seek out manufacturers who provide both surge suppressors and UPSs and know there are great reasons to purchase either one.
Start With Surge
Well that almost answers the question. What 'job' does each product perform? You purchased the surge suppressor to protect any equipment plugged into it from excessive voltage that may damage the components inside. Lightning storms, reconnection of utility transmission lines and/or transformers following a blackout, or the starting of a generator are just a few possible causes of surges that your suppressor should keep from entering your equipment.
A UPS, at its most basic level, should have the same high-quality surge suppression capabilities, but that's just the starting point. Simply put, the major benefit that the UPS provides in addition to surge suppression is "time", or to be more exact, "runtime" via an attached battery. UPSs are also referred to as "battery backups", further describing the product's function.
What Needs 'Runtime'?
UPSs are commonly found connected to computer equipment, and for good reason. For most businesses, the data stored on such computer equipment is highly valuable and typically is more important to a user than the actual equipment and requires reliable protection. Customer information, online stock trading, banking transaction records, online gaming, and even internally generated data are all at risk of corruption or deletion due to bad power. Small office or home users can also testify to the value of their applications and data. To lose one's work in the middle of preparation or to have your computer shutdown in the middle of an online stock or banking transaction is a nightmare shared by millions of computer users worldwide.
A UPS protects the hardware itself from surges, while some even protect against under-voltages that can cause equal amounts of damage. (Under-voltages can sometimes cause computer hardware to be 'starved' of needed power, which strains internal components trying to perform normal operations.) In addition to such voltage regulation, some UPSs can also communicate with the CPU itself via power management software. Users are then able to configure alarms or notifications in case of a power "event" or monitor their home or office power "quality" with a running record of voltage fluctuations. Such knowledge is useful when your day's work depends on your computer staying up and running.
Still, for most users, the most-needed feature of a UPS is the "backup" providing enough time during a power event to react. Imagine working at your computer when, suddenly, there's a blackout. With a premium surge suppressor, you may be slightly relieved to know that when the power suddenly switches back on, your equipment won't get fried. However, that important file you were working on disappeared as soon as the lights went out.
Let's look at the same situation after you've upgrade to a UPS.
Imagine working at your computer when, suddenly, there's a blackout. With your computer now receiving power directly from the UPS battery, you now have enough time to save the data in the application you're running and then properly shut down the computer.
"What if I'm away from my computer when the blackout hits?" you may ask. In that case, you could have configured the integrated power management software to save any work in progress and then perform an automatic safe shutdown of the operating system.
Backup to the Extreme?
Customers have utilized UPS protection for aquariums, video game consoles, emergency lighting, recording equipment, cash registers, garage door openers, answering machines, emergency service scanners, home automation systems, small battery rechargers, weather monitors and various other applications where extra "runtime" was needed.
There are, however, some caveats for the adventurous UPS user. One is that users make sure they do not exceed each UPSs VA (Volt-Amps) rating when connecting equipment. VA is the actual power drawn by any load (linear or non-linear). Users have many options from the shape and style of the unit to the amount of VA power. Some UPSs are better suited for higher VA equipment such as computer, monitors, server, and other internetworking products.
Also, UPS manufacturers typically do not recommend the use of such products in life support applications where failure or malfunction of the product can be reasonably expected to cause failure of the life support device or to significantly affect its safety or effectiveness. These same vendors also do not recommend the use of its products with devices designated as critical by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).