GEEKNOTE: I awoke this morning to the sound of thunder. The unsettled weather gives us the opportunity for rain showers almost daily and those showers frequently include lightning.
The Tampa Bay area is known for lightning storms. If lightning hits your house or very nearby, you can kiss your computer and other electronics good-bye. There is simply nothing on the market that will completely protect your stuff from a direct strike.
Lightning strikes further away can still damage your sensitive electronics by creating power surges, brownouts, and drops that come into your home via the power, cable and phone lines.
Computers and computer like devices (DVRs, TVs, etc) don’t deal well with power outages, even when they are just momentary. Anyone who has had to sit and wait for a cable or satellite TV box to reboot after the lights blink knows exactly what I’m talking about.
In the case of computers, if the lights blink at exactly the wrong instant, your data files will be corrupted and you won’t be able to reopen those files. In a worst case, you won’t be able to get the computer to start back up because Windows itself has been corrupted.
In each of the cases above, there is a relatively inexpensive way of protecting your electronics. UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supplies) or battery backups will keep your electronics running when the lights blink. No more missing the end of your favorite TV show or losing the Great American Novel that you have been writing for hours, but haven’t saved.
Battery backup units also include surge protection circuitry that helps prevent spikes and other electrical nasties from toasting your gear.
Battery backup units range in size and price from small and inexpensive to very large and expensive. The more power your equipment uses and how long you want to keep things running determines how big a battery backup unit you need to purchase. Something in the 500VA range will cover smaller systems and a 750VA backup unit will run a nice size system several minutes in the event of a power outage.
I’ve got a 750VA unit protecting my TV, DVR, and other video gear and another 750 protecting my computer. When a transformer blows down the street, I’ve got enough time to shut everything down normally.
Battery backups have a finite life. The surge protection wears down over time and the batteries lose their ability to hold a charge. A general rule of thumb is that a battery backup unit ought to last 2-4 years.
You can buy replacement batteries for some battery backup units, but I tend to simply replace the whole thing when the batteries give out. The batteries often cost nearly as much as the whole thing and I figure the surge protection is in need of replacement too. The exception to this rule is when you are dealing with the larger battery backups found in business settings. Some of these units are hundreds or even thousands of dollars and replacing the batteries makes sense.
Prices vary for consumer grade battery backups. Figure somewhere around $75 for a good 500VA unit and close to $100 for a quality 750VA unit. We’ve found cheaper ones from time to time, but they don’t seem to last.
Want to know more? Drop me a line or give us a call.
Rob Marlowe, Senior Geek
Gulfcoast Networking, Inc.