Some people feel that a surge suppressor is enough protection for their computer. It is if you never have any sort of power failure, line noise, brown out, or other disruption. Yes, a surge suppressor works fine when you don’t do anything of significance on your computer—when you can honestly say that losing data won’t matter even a little to you. Unfortunately, most people, even home users, can’t truly make that claim any longer. Because my livelihood depends on the availability of my computers and the integrity of the data they manage, I’ve always attached them to an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS). Using a UPS ensures that even if the power goes out, my systems will stay up long enough for me to save my data and perform an orderly shutdown. More importantly, the UPS provides an immediate stopgap until my generator comes online so that I can continue working in the worst possible weather conditions. A UPS also tends to reduce the damage to your system from all sorts of electrical problems, including both brownouts (something your surge suppressor can’t handle) and surges.
A UPS contains a battery that you must replace every three to five years. The UPS will tell you that the battery is going bad—a fact you can confirm by running a self test. I recently upgraded my UPSs, rather than replace the batteries, because the UPSs relied on an older serial cable connection to the computer for monitoring purposes and the batteries were becoming as expensive as buying a new UPS. After reviewing my choices, I purchased three American Power Conversion (APC) Back-UPS RS 1300 G UPSs.
The new UPS has a Universal Serial Bus (USB) connector that’s a lot easier to connect to the computer than the old serial cable. In addition, the monitoring software on my system was able to find the UPS immediately. In the past, I had to configure the serial port and even then there was a chance the software wouldn’t find the UPS immediately. So, installation was a real pleasure this time because I spent considerably less time doing it and everything works immediately on all three test systems.
The UPS is significantly lighter than my older UPS, even though it provides the same amount of battery backup time. If you tried to work with a UPS in the past and found it a back breaking experience, you’ll find the new battery technology used in modern UPSs a real blessing. The battery also installed without the use of any screws or the need to perform error prone direct terminal connections. Getting the UPS into place was quite a bit easier because the form factor is easier to manage than my older UPS.
This UPS has an informative front panel display. You can check the input voltage, output voltage and frequency, number of line events, estimated run time, and UPS load in watts and as a percentage of battery backup capacity. My older setup never had these features, so I always had to rely on the software supplied with the UPS to learn about the power conditions. The display is bright enough to see that the information is visible in most conditions.
The product comes with APC PowerChute Personal Edition, which is more than enough for most home and small office scenarios. The software does require administrative privileges to run, so you’ll be bothered by one of those UAC message boxes during start up. I’m going to determine whether there is some way around this annoyance.
The display tells you the current status of the UPS, along with important information like the current run time. I also like the fact that I can plug in the cost per kWh for my utility and get an estimate of how much it costs to run my system. The options control issues such as the amount of time the UPS will run during a power failure before performing an orderly shutdown of your system. You can also perform a self test of the unit, which is an important task to perform to ensure that the UPS is working as anticipated.
One of the new features of this software is that you can control when the UPS notifies you about a power failure or other problem. Gone are the days when the UPS will go off in the middle of the night when I’m sleeping. It’s also possible to set the UPS sensitivity, which is nice because now I won’t hear the UPS clicking off and on while running the generator. Overall, the new software is a vast improvement over the older software that came with my previous unit.
There have been a few complaints about this UPS online. All of the complaints I could find were from a year or two ago and I can only conclude that APC has corrected any problems. These UPSs have installed without any problem at all, work quietly, and haven’t caused me any problems at all during their first weeks of operation. However, as with any equipment purchase, make sure that the UPS you get matches your equipment. I normally try to load the UPS to no more than 25 percent of its capacity to ensure I have plenty of run time and the life of the UPS is as long as possible.