Office settings with computers often have black boxes with all kinds of power cords plugged into them. But have you ever thought about what these items are and what they do? Coming in all shapes and sizes ranging from thick power strips to small, “computer-looking” devices, UPS – Uninterruptible Power Supplies – can prevent a lot of employee heartbreak in the event electricity goes out for a short period of time.
It only takes roughly two seconds or less for a computer to reset itself, but you are at high risk for losing all your work if the auto-save function didn’t do its job. The cost of UPS devices ranges from $60 to several thousand, but you can get effective protection in the $60 to $200 range. I’ll bet the cost of losing that work would be a lot more than $200!
Below are some of the key benefits of having an inexpensive UPS device in your workplace or home.
UPS can keep a business going during a power outage
Point-of-Sales devices – such as one used to process card payments – cannot keep operating unless they are powered. Pure and simple. Consider this situation: A car/truck hits a local power pole or a tree limb falls on an electrical line and knocks out electricity in a given area. If a customer is in the middle of a transaction and your systems are out what will happen to that transaction? A customer in the middle of an order may not be able to complete the process, and a small business can find customers walking out the door leaving their purchases (or, rather, potential purchases) sitting on the counter.
How lame would it be to have to tell your customers “Sorry, the system is down” when a simple UPS could have kept the payment process going. Is that point-of-sale device dependent on a computer in your building or a communication point? Should that have a UPS as well? For a few hundred dollars, you can keep transactions going. That’s a small price to pay to keep business going and customers’ happy.
UPS offers a level of protection (such as surge protection during brownouts)
A simple way to look at a UPS device is that it takes electricity from the outlet and puts it in a battery. When the electricity goes outside a certain range, it takes that battery power and passes it through to your device (or whatever is plugged into it). Like a spider that’s ready and waiting to jump on top of a bug, the UPS can switch itself in between the outlet and device when it detects “bad power.”
The effects of lightning, surges and other “noises” that can damage sensitive systems and render a thousand-dollar system to mush in no time can be eliminated by UPS. One could consider this more than “just for protection”. It can be an “asset-saver” for sensitive systems that, if taken down, can leave you without your critical computer systems for several weeks until fully restored. How much would THAT cost?
UPS is generator compatible
In certain situations, you may have access to power provided by a backup-generator. While this can be a relief, it may not always be a good thing. Depending on the configuration and model, generators can produce power that is not “sensitive-component friendly”. Variations in the generator’s output can wreak havoc with a server, point-of-sale device, monitors, televisions, communication systems, to give but a few examples. A UPS system can help smooth these issues out and make a backup power system friendlier to your electronics, allowing them to run on a generator for extended periods.
UPS can warn you about potential problems
While many businesses can benefit from having a UPS system, you need to think a little farther than simply plugging a device into a UPS. Eventually the batteries in a UPS will die and whatever you have plugged into it will cease to operate while power is still out. In some situations, this is simply annoying. But in other cases, this could be as catastrophic as the power failure itself.
While the UPS will allow you to extend your operational time and complete tasks you were in the middle of, they do have limitations you need to prepare for. Some UPS systems come with software applications that can alert the computer system they are tied to that the batteries are running low. This can alert the operator and help a computer to shut down properly, reducing the risk of losing important data and files. If your UPS is powering a server, this can be a critical benefit to have. When considering a UPS system, especially for servers, consider this feature.
UPS is more than just power maintainability
Many UPS systems have extra connections other than just a power cable and outlets. Many are coming with the ability to connect coax cables (for cable television), phone cable connections and even network cable connections. These often-forgotten lines can still carry damaging lightning spikes and surges that connections were not designed to handle. Passing these connections through a UPS that has these features can help reduce the risk of damage through these lines.
The physical and electrical protection to equipment can be immeasurable not only in not having to replace equipment but also in the effort needed to process paperwork and insurance claims, and in rebuilding systems once actual hardware is received. Could spending a few hundred dollars to prevent such an event be worth it? Do the math!
About the Author
Mike Bivins is an engineer with the Lake Wales, FL-based Natural Air E-Controls, LLC (www.naturalair.com). Natural Air E-Controls, LLC designs and builds HVAC control systems that enable the building’s HVAC equipment to provide fresh air and remove pollutants by taking in outdoor air in amounts needed to improve indoor air quality while saving on heating and cooling bills.