Do you need an uninterruptible power supply?

A photograph of a woman typing on her laptop.

If your office experiences a power outage, what happens to your mission-critical hardware like switches, firewalls, routers, and servers? Do they suddenly blink off and need time to reboot? What happens to your data when the power goes out?

If you’ve lost time or discovered corrupted data due to a power outage, you know that, sometimes, IT is not as simple as turning a device off and on again.

An uninterruptible power supply offers a solution for unplanned outages to help keep your machines, time, and data safe.

For over 25 years, WEBIT Services has helped hundreds of clients discover and utilize powerful technology to increase productivity and protect data.

By the end of this article, you will learn more about what an uninterruptible power supply does, its benefits, and possible disadvantages.

What is an uninterruptible power supply?

An uninterruptible power supply (UPS), also called a “battery backup,” holds a charge and provides attached devices with short-term power in emergencies.

UPS devices come in a variety of sizes with varying battery capabilities. Some are small enough to be used for personal computers or home offices. Others are large enough to power crucial office hardware like servers, firewalls, and internet routers.

Without a UPS, a power outage will abruptly shut off mission-critical hardware. However, hardware plugged into a UPS will have a limited power supply in case of an outage.

If the outage is brief (a few seconds to a couple of minutes), a UPS allows these machines to continue functioning without interruption.

On the other hand, if the outage is substantial, the UPS will give users enough time to perform a clean shutdown on the attached devices. This prevents damage to the machines or data.

An unexpected, sudden shutdown caused by a power outage can potentially damage equipment or data. Having even a few minutes to perform proper shutdowns can help keep hardware and data safe.

 

4 Benefits of using a UPS

1. A UPS provides a backup power supply

In a power outage, devices plugged into a UPS will continue receiving power until the UPS battery runs out. At a minimum, this allows users to perform clean shutdowns and save data.

The length of time the UPS powers devices will depend both on the size of the UPS and the number of devices attached to it. The larger the UPS battery, the more devices you can plug in, and the longer it will keep machines running.

2. A UPS maintains productivity during short outages

Because a UPS provides power during an outage, devices can continue functioning for a limited time.

If the outage is brief, critical devices connected to a UPS will continue working and won’t require rebooting. Therefore, work can continue without interruption.

While rebooting an individual computer is an inconvenience, rebooting a server or firewall can be more complicated and may require an expert’s hand.

Sometimes, you may need an IT technician to help reboot more sensitive, mission-critical hardware and prevent additional loss or damage. If your IT provider is off-site, this means waiting for the technician to arrive on-site.

3. A UPS protects data

Because a UPS prevents sudden shutdowns, it protects data from being lost or corrupted.

A file will be corrupted if it is interrupted during the downloading, uploading, or saving process. A corrupted file cannot be opened or will not function properly.

For example, the power goes out when you upload a file to your company’s cloud storage. Because your firewall and internet router are not plugged into a UPS, they also suddenly lose power. As a result, the half-uploaded file is now corrupted and cannot open.

A UPS provides a steady source of electricity in case of a power outage. It will allow time to save files and properly shut down any attached devices.

In the above example, a UPS would keep the firewall and router on during the power blip. As a result, the internet service isn’t interrupted, and your file uploads.

If the power outage were longer, the UPS would give you time to save a copy of the file on your laptop and upload it later.

In both situations, the file or its copy is not corrupted.

4. A UPS offers surge protection

A sudden influx of electricity (known as a “power surge”) can damage hardware beyond repair by frying electrical components. A UPS protects your devices in case of a power surge.

A UPS doubles as a surge protector by maintaining a steady flow of electricity—not too much or too little—to all attached devices.

For example, if a power surge damages a critical network switch, your entire network will be out of commission. If you do not have a backup switch in storage and ready to go, you will have to purchase a replacement, which may take days or weeks to arrive.

With UPS surge protection, you don’t need to worry about damage caused by a power surge.

 

2 Disadvantages of a UPS

1. Price

UPSes vary in price based on their functionality. They range from roughly $100 to over $1000.

A small UPS may cost around $100. It will have minimal outlets and brief battery life. This kind of UPS would be best for personal use.

However, if you want more battery power for more devices, you will need to consider a larger and more expensive UPS. These can cost upwards of $1000.

Depending on your needs and IT setup, you may also need multiple UPSes.

Your IT provider can recommend a UPS that best suits your IT system and meets your budget. It will also take care of setting up the device to ensure functionality.

2. Battery replacement

While the UPS as a whole may last 10 years, its battery will need replacing every 3-5 years. However, this will be a smaller purchase than replacing the UPS itself.

Over time, the UPS will not achieve optimal functionality if the battery is not properly maintained and replaced.

Your IT provider can help order the batteries and will handle battery removal and installation. IT providers will also monitor the UPS to ensure it is well-maintained and effective.

 

Next steps to determine if you need a UPS

A UPS offers an additional layer of protection for your essential network hardware and data.

You may be a fit for a UPS if you:

  1. Want an emergency power source to allow for clean shutdowns in an outage.
  2. Want a secondary power source to prevent interruption to critical hardware in momentary power loss.
  3. Want to avoid data loss and corruption in a power outage.
  4. Want to protect network hardware from power surges.

You may not be a fit for a UPS if:

  1. The purchase does not fit into your IT budget.
  2. You are uncomfortable purchasing new UPS batteries in 3-5 years.

Talk to your IT provider or internal IT team to learn more about UPSes and how they may fit into your IT system. Your IT provider or team can also help you select a UPS that meets your needs and budget.

Once the UPS is ordered, your IT provider will set up and maintain the device.

WEBIT Services has helped hundreds of satisfied clients select, set up, and utilize technology that increased productivity and protected data.

If you are looking for a new IT provider or have questions about managed IT services, schedule a free 30-minute consultation with WEBIT services to see if it can help.

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