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Why Surge Protectors, Battery Backups & UPS Systems are Essential

Each month, the typical business or home experiences several electrical disturbances — from infrequent blackouts to spikes and surge fluctuations. What most people don't realize, however, is that even the slightest electrical blip poses a danger to all programmable appliances, whether the device is a telephone, a computer, or a high–priced server. And if your computer or telephone no longer works after a power surge, it most likely won't be covered by the manufacturer's warranty.

Types of power problems

Even momentary power fluctuations can cause damage to computer components over time. The chips and circuit inside PCs and peripherals are highly sensitive. Unless these components receive clean, steady 120–volt AC current, they won't perform as designed. Small power fluctuations can also corrupt or erase data stored on hard drives.

Here are the most common types of power problems and how they can damage your computer:

  1. Blackouts – Total loss of utility power

    While most blackouts in the United States are relatively brief, storm–related blackouts can last hours or even days.

    Blackouts can harm computers in two ways:
    • The sudden loss of power can crash the system and erase data
    • When power is restored, a momentary surge may result
  2. Brownouts – Decrease in voltage level

    This is the most common power problem. Brownouts often happen when unusally high demands are made on the power grid. They can also occur when large electrical devices are turned on nearby.

    Brownouts can harm computers in several ways:
    • Hardware damage
    • Systems crash
    • Data loss
    • Performance problems
  3. Spikes and Surges – Increase in voltage level

    Spikes, which are often caused by lightning strikes, are brief but extreme. They can literally fry computer components. Surges are less intense than spikes, but tend to last longer.

    Surges can harm computers in two ways:
    • Cause incremental damage that gradually degrades system performance
    • Erase or corrupt valuable data

Why do you need a surge protector?

Even small power spikes can degrade internal circuitry and dramatically shorten the life of electronic devices. For this reason, all important electronics and appliances should be connected to a surge protector.

Most surge protectors resemble power strips, but they actually contain additional circuitry designed to absorb excess electrical energy and prevent it from reaching connected equipment. Some models feature telephone/modem, coaxial and Ethernet jacks, which provide surge protection on those lines as well.

Surge protectors are the best power protection option for equipment that does not require battery backup, including printers, scanners, fax machines, overhead projectors, TVs, cable boxes and more.

What features are important on a surge protector?

Here are some common questions about surge protector features:

Why is the joule rating important?
A joule is a measurement of energy. The higher the joule rating, the longer your protection will last.

Is it important to protect my telephone line?
Yes! Surges can enter your home or office through telephone lines and end up harming or destroying sensitive electronic devices, including your computer. Using a surge protector with telephone–line protection is the only way to ensure the safety of your telecommunications devices.

Why do I need coaxial cable protection?
Electrical surges can also enter your home or office through coaxial cable lines. A surge protector with coaxial cable protection is the best way to protect your audio/video equipment and cable modems from surges and spikes.

Remember: If you have a computer, an entertainment system or a stereo system, each component must be plugged into a surge protector. If one of these devices isn't plugged in, it can send a surge through every other piece of equipment and cause permanent damage to them.

Battery Backup/UPS: When a surge protector isn't enough

Computers connected to a surge protector will be protected against a jolt of electricity if there's a nearby lightning strike. But when the power goes out — even for a second — it can result in lost data and potentially a damaged hard drive.

Protecting important files and data against permanent loss due to insufficient power requires a UPS battery backup device. A UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) device provides both surge protection and emergency backup power. The backup power gives a computer user time (from ten minutes to an hour, depending on the device) to save critical files and properly shut down the computer until power is restored.

What is AVR?
Automative Voltage Regulation (AVR) technology provides clean electricity by increasing low voltage or decreasing high voltage — keeping it within a safe range of 110–120 volts.

Which UPS device is right for me?

  1. Standby UPS Systems

    These provide basic power protection in the form of battery backup plus surge protection. They do not, however, provide protection against brownouts.
  2. Line–interactive UPS Systems

    These are the next step up from standby UPS systems. Line–interactive systems feature Automative Voltage Regulation (AVR), which corrects power fluctuations. If the UPS detects a brownout, it draws on its battery to boost power. If it detects a surge, the UPS automatically trims power. This assures that connected equipment receives properly regulated power at all times.
  3. Online UPS Systems

    These provide the highest level of power protection. They convert incoming AC power to DC, then convert it back to clean, regulated AC. This process removes most power imperfections.

    Remember: Many UPS devices have several sockets, but sometimes only half of those will have backup power. The others will have surge protection. Be sure to connect your computer and monitor to the sockets with backup power.

    Also be sure to check which devices offer a large enough warranty for your connected equipment. Because the manufacturer's warranty will most likely be nullified in cases of damage caused by power surges, the warranty of the UPS manufacturer becomes even more important.


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