The Australian Small Business Blog

Thursday, February 01, 2007

How an Uninterruptible Power Supply can save you money and downtime


This month we had some pretty wild weather in Melbourne including bushfires and extreme temperatures. It caused problems with the electricity supply including blackouts and power surges. On one of these day days we received a phone call from one of clients who was unlucky enough to be affected by a power failure. We knew it was bad news when he mentioned that 2 of his 5 computers were not booting up after the power came back on. It turned out that whilst there had been no power surge, the power failure had damaged a hard drive in one computer and a motherboard and power supply in another.

Our client was lucky that no critical data was lost (they hadn't backed up for 7 days) but the business still suffered from downtime, 24 hours in the case of one computer and a repair bill of $800. I have no idea how much it cost business in terms of lost revenue and productivity. Probably thousands.

Frustratingly this could have been avoided had he invested in a single piece of equipment called a UPS or Uninterruptible Power Supply. It is a device that provides continuous, reliable power to your computer. It plugs into your outlets and you then plug your computer, monitor, and other components into. Via a battery (similar to your car battery) it ensures that the computer will stay on even if there is a power outage. It is very easy to install and setup. Generally the longer the battery uptime the more expensive the UPS.

For small business and home computers I recommend just going with an entry level UPS which will provide about 15 minutes power to an average computer and set you back about $150. The great thing about a UPS is that you can set it to turn the computer off once the power has been off for a set time. I usually set this at 5 minutes on entry level ones. The other great thing about a UPS is it will protect your computer from power surges as well.

So I hear you ask, which computers should have a UPS. Basically any computer which is critical to your computer network such as servers but what about your workstation or that computer you use to receive faxes. Often power failures occur when you least expect them and as our client experienced, they often damage the hard drive. This results in loss of data on that drive and reinstallation of all your software. A major pain for anyone to go through and an exercise you need when you are already stressed about data loss and downtime. I personally think that all computers used daily should have a UPS. Systems such as these are obviously fairly important machines otherwise they wouldn't be used daily. The potential savings on repair bills, lost time and lost productivity definitely outweigh the cost of an entry level UPS.

I must admit that until recently I didn't have a UPS on each computer in our office. I figured that our server had one so we were covered. After a particularly bad week with a faulty safety switch in which we lost power 3 times, two of our test machines had dead hard drives. Whilst we didn't lose any data, we did have downtown as a result of this. Suffice to say I now have one for each computer. It's not something I want to worry about or go through again and I advise you to do the same.

Damien Battersby is director of PC Diagnostics, a IT support company specialising in ensuring small business have reliable and productive computer networks as well as being prepared should an IT disaster strike.

The Australian Small Business Blog

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