For years California has hoped for more rain – we certainly could use the water. Unfortunately, with each storm comes additional problems in the form of power glitches. California is plagued by power outages, blips, surges, and everything in between. The cost to our businesses and homes is significant.
The good news is, there are a number of things you can do to proactively prevent a power-related IT catastrophe which will save you money and sanity in the long run.
Power Distribution Considerations
In addition to your computer, you can easily count half a dozen additional plugs required to get work done: a monitor, printer, speakers, maybe a phone charger or headset. These all require power to charge up or stay on.
Wall outlets typically have two sockets and can therefore provide power for two items. But, with a simple power strip, you can easily turn one socket into 6 or 8. However, power strips aren’t one size fits all. Here are some dos and don’ts to keep in mind when choosing a power strip for your electronics:
Don’t use cheap power strips for valuable electronics
Inexpensive power strips are common and can even be purchased in the local grocery store. But it’s important to remember that you get what you pay for.
These may power your items but using a bargain-rate power source poses risks to valuable technology (like in the case of a power surge). These types of cheap power strips should be avoided.
Don’t “daisy chain” multiple power strips
If you need more power outlets, it may seem like an easy solution to just plug one power strip into another. Power strips are not built to handle infinite power distribution, only distribution to the number of outlets they are designed for.
This can cause problems to your equipment and be downright dangerous. I commonly see people doing this. In one case, I had to put out a fire caused by multiple strips plugged into one another.
DO: Use power strips with “power conditioning” and the right number of sockets
You are always better off purchasing a proper power-conditioned strip that has enough outlets built in for your needs.
Make sure your power strip says “power conditioning” on the box as well as on the strip itself. This means that it will take the “dirty power” coming out of the wall and turn it into the clean power needed to power electronics safely.
What’s more – many power conditioners have surge-protection built in. This means they can absorb a power surge after an outage. By design, a surge may kill your power strip with surge protection. But it’s always better (and less costly) to have to replace that strip and not all of the equipment plugged into it!
Power conditioners only cost slightly more than a run of the mill power strip and can easily be found at local electronics retailers or online (even twelve to sixteen-port strips!).
What about Backup Batteries?
Sometimes equipment requires even more power protection than a power conditioner. This is where a backup battery (also known as a “UPS” or “uninterruptible power supply”) with built-in power conditioning and surge protection comes in. These are designed to keep your computer or other equipment running even during a brief outage.
These power supplies will often have two sides to them – one will say “surge protection-only” and the other will say “surge and battery.” In this case, it is wise to plug your computer and other essential equipment into the battery section. Leave your monitors, phone charger, printer, or other items in the surge-only section. If you have multiple monitors and absolutely need a monitor to be backed up by a battery, consider only plugging one into the battery section. The more items you have plugged into the battery backup, the less time it will live when there is an outage.
Battery backups like this typically cost between $50 and $100 depending on the number of outlets or length of battery. Most power outages are under 5 minutes in length, but if you have ever lost a document that you were working on due to an outage, chances are you’d gladly go back to pay the $50 if you could.
Be Choosy With Your Power
When it comes to powering your critical electronics, it’s important to be deliberate about the power supply equipment you’re using. And it’s good to be choosy about what else gets to share space with them!
Having a backup battery (UPS) can be highly beneficial, but not all equipment should be plugged into it. Anything with a motor (refrigerators or pumps), hair dryers, air conditioners, air compressors or major electronics will trip and often break a battery backup unit.
It’s important for the safety of your electronics (and yourself) that you consider how you’re powering them!