Outage

Protect your computer and your data with a UPS


One of the most important gadgets in the security arsenal -- and one of the most often overlooked as a tool for security -- is the uninterruptible power supply (UPS). A good UPS isn't just a battery backup designed to provide you with a precious few minutes to save files and close applications when there's a power outage. In fact, that may be its least important function.

More important, a good UPS provides both power conditioning and protection against file system corruption in the event of a power outage:

  1. Power conditioning is provided when a UPS ensures that the level of power provided to your computer doesn't fluctuate too much. Surge protectors provide a very rudimentary form of power conditioning, but they only protect against spikes in power, ignoring brownouts and blackouts. Surge protectors generally aren't even all that great at protecting against power spikes. The lowest quality UPS devices don't provide any power conditioning at all other than protection against blackouts, but, as you move up the quality scale, you can get better power conditioning from your UPS. Over time, fluctuating power sources (what we often call "dirty" power) can damage your computer's power supply. A power supply that has been degraded in this manner can begin providing variable power to the computer's components, which are extremely sensitive to such fluctuations, and they too begin to degrade. This can lead to intermittent hardware problems that are difficult to diagnose and ultimately to failure of RAM, CPUs, and even hard drives.
  2. File system corruption protection is provided to some extent by even the cheapest UPS, as long as it acts as an effective battery backup. Whenever your computer suddenly loses power or otherwise halts or restarts without warning, there's a possibility your file system may have been in an inconsistent state at that time due to data write scheduling. If you're unlucky, this can corrupt your file system, possibly killing the operating system install or destroying important data. There are ways to recover such data most of the time, but these techniques can involve hiring an outside data recovery expert and end up costing thousands of dollars. It's better to simply prevent file system corruption in the first place as much as possible.

The importance of a good UPS to security is often overlooked because when people think "security," they generally think of perimeter security. It doesn't often occur to people that ultimately, all security boils down to two things: Protecting your data and protecting your resources. You don't want either one falling into the wrong hands, and you don't want either one destroyed. While you're thinking about keeping them from falling into the wrong hands, don't forget about keeping them from simply being destroyed.

A quality UPS is key to protecting your data and hardware against being destroyed by pure, unadulterated bad luck.

About

Chad Perrin is an IT consultant, developer, and freelance professional writer. He holds both Microsoft and CompTIA certifications and is a graduate of two IT industry trade schools.

6 comments
alexisgarcia72
alexisgarcia72

UPS must be installed in all offices to protect all computers. A single Brownouts can give you problems with the PSU, the hard drive or Windows will have essential files corrupted. Even the user can lost some work (and this things happens at the worst moment)

deepsand
deepsand

The issue of shutdown procedures, etal., has been raise by others. It should be noted that most modern UPS systems provide for a graceful shutdown, provided that the user has taken steps to activate such. Additionally, some provide for the ability to receive automatic notification of select events via various media, such as e-mail, cell phone, etc..

Daniel.Muzrall
Daniel.Muzrall

I can't go without a UPS on any of my servers or networking equipment. Power conditioning, runtime, grounding, and distribution together provide valuable protection for your hardware and your data. Remember, like all other hardware, UPS devices must be monitored, and repaired/replaced when needed. At a former office location, we had a backup generator with automatic failover for when we suffered a utility outage. While that particular technology has improved greatly, I still kept all my equipment plugged into UPS devices.

brian.mills
brian.mills

I've got every computer in the house, as well as all my networking equipment, plugged into UPS. That way if the power goes out, I don't have to run all over the house to power everything down. I can simply use my laptop to connect to everything and power it down remotely. My tower used to be connected to the tv, and one night the power went out and my wife freaked because the living room went dark but the tv was still on. I thought it was funny. I live in an older home, but fortunately a previous owner upgraded all the wiring, so I've got grounded outlets everywhere and GFI outlets wherever there's water nearby.

mjd420nova
mjd420nova

I attempted to post a reply earlier but it must have found a black hole or something. In any case I'll repost. The most important part of having a UPS system is knowing what to do when the power does go out and how much time you have to finish before the UPS dies too. One overlooked item that I didn't see mentioned is the importance of proper grounding. Some power strips also have jacks to connect cables and phone lines to them to protect them but without a ground they will cause more damage that without them. In many older homes the outlets are only two prongs and users will use ground busters to adapt the three prong to a two prong outlet and not ground them. The next evolution was to polarized outlets that would prevent a voltage difference between two pieces of equipment plugged into the outlets. The next stage was three pronged outlets, but only in the kitchen or bathrooms. Now days the newest construction is to have ground fault interupters (GFI) in the kitchen and bathrooms, but the most advanced will have GFI at the breaker boxes to protect the entire house. If you do not have grounds for your outlets, one can be provided by driving a copper-clad iron stake into the ground and 18 gauge wire attached to the UPS unit. The UPS unit will help in power failures and some over-voltage situations but lightning strikes will really smoke even small systems if not protected. Grounding is important even if a UPS isn't utilized.

info
info

Great basic information for all and a UPS should be on everyones shopping list that is concerned with data protection..not to mention helping avoid hardware meltdowns.