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Power Protection
by rob

Since you got that new computer or peripheral for the holidays, you may want to protect it from the power that feeds it. All computers run on electricity. It is their lifeblood but, plugged into an outlet, your computer equipment is at risk from power surges, line noise and blackouts. These power problems can cause data loss or corruption. The two main products that can easily help protect your equipment are surge protectors and UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) systems.

Surge protectors prevent power surges from affecting your equipment. This is the first line of power defense. Some surge protectors can even reduce line noise and distortion.

Don't make the mistake of thinking a power strip offers surge protection. It simply provides more outlets at the end of an extension cord.

When buying a surge protector, notice its joule rating. Joule ratings measure a surge protector's ability to handle surges. The higher the number, the better the protection. Look for a joule rating of at least 600 Joules for most computer equipment.

In addition to protecting the AC power to your computer, some surge protectors have connections for Ethernet, phone and cable lines. They protect from surges from your modem, fax, cable or network connections.

Most surge protectors offer some amount of insurance against any damage to your equipment done by power surges, including lightning strikes. Policies on surge protectors that take effect at time of purchase, with no forms to send in, are the best.

UPS systems (or battery backups) are simply devices that contain batteries that are charged by AC power. In the event of power interruption, the UPS supplies power for enough time that you can safely shut down and prevent data loss. UPS systems have insurance and built-in surge protection, so there is no need for an additional surge protector. Advanced features include line conditioning, advanced battery management, and communications port.

The two main things to consider when buying a UPS system are capacity and runtime.

UPS systems come in a wide variety of VA (volt amp) capacities to accommodate your computer and peripherals. To make sure your UPS system will handle running all of your equipment, add up all the power draw of the equipment to be connected to the UPS system. You'll find the power draw on the label near the power connector for that device (it may be on the underside). If the power draw of your equipment is expressed in amps, multiply that number by 120V. If the power draw of your equipment is expressed in watts, multiply that number by 1.4.

For example, for a computer that draws 3.16A, an LCD monitor that draws 3A, a scanner that draws 1.25A and an inkjet printer that draws 0.7A, you get 8.11A. Multiplied by 120V, you get a total power draw of 973.2VA. Standby UPS systems typically are rated 350VA, 500VA, 650VA, 800VA, 1000VA, and 1200VA so you would need one that supplies 1000VA but to be safe, you could get the 1200VA model.

A UPS system will give you plenty of runtime to safely shut down your applications to keep from losing all the work you did on that spreadsheet or allow you time to save in whatever game you're playing. To get enough runtime to do this, compare the power draw of your equipment to the half-load and full-load runtimes of the UPS system. For example, a 650VA system may have a half-load runtime of 45 minutes and a full-load runtime of 5 minutes. If you are running close to the UPS system's full-load capacity and you require more than 5 minutes of runtime, you can simply unplug any unnecessary equipment.

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