Don’t let the Brownout Win Out

One of the biggest issues that plagues any computer network is POWER. In this case, I do not mean a shortage of outlets or a power spike that can pop a circuit breaker. I am referring to the quality of the uninterrupted power delivered to an outlet and then on to your network devices plugged into it.

Damage from Brownouts

Most of us are familiar with power surges. But have you ever noticed how lights can DIM when an air conditioner, iron, or microwave turns on? The power is lowered (but not lost) for an instant or longer. That is called a brownout.

During a brownout, the outlet is pushing out less than the ideal amount of power, and that can cause internal damage to devices plugged into it. For example, many computers have hard disk drives that are essentially small record players. The motors that spin those metal platters of data do not appreciate disruptions or fluctuations in power. They can cause the motor to torque, which over time can cause damage or total failure.

Other components of a computer network – Wi-Fi antennas and DSL or cable modems, for example – are no fans of brownouts, either. Wi-Fi signals can be lost or degrade, which causes connectivity problems. The job of a DSL or a cable modem is to dial into and stay connected to the Internet provider. During a brownout, this signal is lost, but because it occurs so quickly the devices don’t power down and then reconnect properly. All too often the user must turn the device off and then back on to get the connection re-established.

Surge Protectors, Power Strips and UPSs

One of the most frequently used items of equipment for any home or office network is the surge protector/power strip. (Did you know you are supposed to replace them every two to three years? Who does that?) Yes, they are important. However, they only prevent power surges – not power drops – from reaching the devices.

There is something better. A UPS (Uninterruptable Power Supply) contains a surge protector PLUS a small rechargeable battery that will supply power to the connected devices for a limited period of time during a brownout or even a blackout. A UPS typically lasts 10 years and it comes in many shapes, sizes, and capacities.

Most desktops and simple network equipment can utilize this APC UPS 600V UPS. It comes in a six- and eight-outlet model and can supply power for up to 30 minutes. If you need more outlets or if you want to be able to work during a blackout for more than 30 minutes, you can get a higher voltage model. For rack-mounted equipment or servers, we recommend UPS models with 1000V or above. Please contact us if you have trouble finding these models.

So, think of the UPS as the filter that purifies the electric flow to your device. Not too much current, not too little … it is just right, every second and millisecond!




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