You backup your files, what about your power? / by Andrew Dacey

I've been talking a lot about backup lately, and it's an important subject. However, one area tends to get overlooked and that's power. You might be backing up your files but what happens if the power goes out and you lose a pile of work? Surge protectors can be good for protecting you against power surges but if you want to survive a power outage then you need a UPS (uninterruptable power supply, not the courier company). I'll admit that this is one area where I'm a little weaker in too. Finding out good information about how big of a UPS you need is pretty tough. You don't want to have to buy more than you need but you definitely don't want to underestimate your requirements either.

I solved the problem of how big of a UPS I needed by buying one that has a display on the front that shows me how loaded the UPS is, as well as other handy things like the current voltage coming into the UPS. This is great for the piece of mind as I can visually see that I tend to hover below half way on the UPS, telling me that I have plenty of headroom. If I start running some other peripherals then I do see the graph go up higher but so far I seem to be well within the safety zone.

One thing to also watch out for is that most UPSs have a mixture of battery protected outlets and surge protected outlets. Only the battery protected outlets will stay on in a power outage so make sure that you understand how many outlets of each type your UPS has. I thought that I had enough battery protected outlets but it turned out that the power bricks on some of my peripherals blocked some of the outlets and that limited what I could put on battery. In my case, that means that if the power goes out then I'm going to lose my internet connection. Ideally, I would have liked to have that on battery but choosing between it and my external hard drive was an easy decision.

That does bring up the point that not everything needs to be on battery, and that's where the surge protected outlets come in handy. For instance, in a power outage I'm not going to be too concerned about my scanner being out of commission. The main point of a UPS is not to keep you up and running indefinitely, it's meant to give you the time to save your work and shutdown safely. This would be why I opted for the external drive rather than my internet connection, right now I don't tend to work under tight deadlines where I'd need to transfer files so I'd much rather make sure my Time Machine drive was safe.

Aside from the obvious power outages, a UPS can be great for protecting your gear against voltage drops as well. In my case, I live in an older house and when some appliances turn on the lights will dim. I used to not think anything of it but once I plugged in my UPS I started hearing it kick in briefly whenever this would happen and I could see the voltage drop on the display. I'm not certain if I was potentially doing damage to my equipment before this but it's certainly reassuring to see that my UPS will react that quickly and is protecting my computer now.

So invest in a little piece of mind and look into getting a UPS for you machine, it's not a glamorous piece of hardware by any stretch of the imagination but the first time it saves your butt when the power goes out you'll start singing its praises.