Is Your Power Safe?

When Power Fails

Protecting your data is key when you work in a digital environment. So you back up your data regularly and think everything is safe, right? Wrong. You can also run into serious issues during a power outage if you don’t have a UPS (uninterruptible power supply). Let’s take a look at what can go wrong and how to prevent it.

When Power Fails

When Power Fails

When there is a power failure there are several issues that can result in lost data and lost time for you. Backing up your files regularly is good but it doesn’t help with things you are currently working on or saving your computer hardware from being ruined. There are several fail points for power failure and almost none of them can be controlled by you.

The biggest risk is power failure due to lightning, a transformer failure, or an issue at your power plant. There is also the possibility of you tripping the breaker in your home causing the power to go out – this is caused when you overload an outlet with too many devices.

What Can Go Wrong?

The main problem with power failures is that all of a sudden your computer stops receiving power – it can’t save anything, go through the proper shut down procedure, or properly lock hard drives. At the very least this will mean you lose any unsaved work you’ve done. It can also result in your hard drives becoming corrupt and in some cases physically damaged. There are a hundreds of different cases in what can go wrong depending on what you are doing on your computer at the time (for example, if you are syncing your back up drive then both drives can get damaged). Along with memory loss and digital issues you can ruin your computer hardware because of a power spike – last year we had our main server’s power supply fail at the studio leaving us without access to important files for days.

How to Prevent It

The solution to these problem is a UPS (uninterruptible power supply) – essentially a big battery and a power bar in one. The way it works is you plug in the UPS into your outlet and it charges the battery. Then you plug all your devices into the sockets on the UPS. When the power goes out the UPS automatically switches to the battery providing you with enough time to save and shutdown your computer properly. Some units can automatically shut down your computer during a power outage (if you aren’t there) and can conserve power on a daily basis by turning off your monitor and speakers if your computer goes into sleep mode.

The models we use at the studio are made by APC (American Power Conversion) and we have one for each work station. Because computers draw so much power a UPS typically powers the computer for only about 10 minutes, this could be longer with more expensive units (larger batteries). When choosing a unit you should know the rough amount of power your computer drains (this information should be found in the spec section for your computer). APC has this convenient guide for making sure you pick out a unit that will be enough to support all your hardware. An average unit should cost you about $200 – a small price to pay to keep everything safe.

Image by Jaypeg21