The Utah Valley Technology and Genealogy Group Newsletter
A Selected Article from the September 1997 Issue

UPS: Good Insurance
by Merlin Kitchen

    Do you have insurance to protect your possessions? Your car, your home, your health, your life? How about your computer and your PAF data?

    Have you heard horror stories about people losing their PAF data, not because of theft or fire or flood (all good reasons for having good recent backups), but because of electrical problems? You probably have purchased a surge protector for your computer that will protect you from spikes in the power line. But what would happen to your data if the power sagged or went out completely?

    I heard recently of a family history missionary working in a Family History center who was using the computers there to enter her own personal ancestral data. She had about 300 names in her PAF when lightning struck close by, probably causing a tremendous spike on the power line just before it went down and they lost power completely. When power was restored, she could not retrieve any of her data. She called for help. She was told that was no problem-just go back to her most recent backup (as she had been taught in the senior MTC) and all she would be out is the material she had entered that day. But she had not been practicing good backup policy because no one else was doing it. Guess what-she lost it all!

    I have an Uninterruptible Power Supply (sometimes called a UPS or battery backup) on my system. It is designed to have two very valuable features: (1) It has super surge protection built in-that means that if lightning hits close by, it will not get thru the power line and destroy your computer; (2) It has batteries built in such that if the power sags or goes away completely, the UPS will continue to supply power (AC) to your computer and keep it running.

    The one I have is guaranteed by the manufacturer that no spikes will get through it and backs it with an insurance policy that they will replace your equipment (up to $25000) if it fails to protect as specified. They make various units with different sizes of batteries, which will keep you running for different amounts of time upon power failure-mine will keep my computer and monitor running for at least 5 minutes which is long enough for me to save my data and shut the computer down gracefully if the lights go out. I bought it at the local office supply and is also available at most computer stores for about $169. It is about 3 inches by 5 inches by about 18 inches long and heavy as lead. The batteries should last about 5 years and can be replaced. That works out to about $30 per year for complete power protection. The store will probably have several units on hand, all with different prices, some bigger and more expensive than others but allowing either larger computer systems or longer time

    How does it work? You plug it into the wall socket and plug your computer and monitor into it. As long as you have proper power, it sends that power on to your computer and also keeps the batteries charged. If the power drops or goes away completely, it switches internally (faster than the eye can blink) so that the battery power is converted to alternating current and your computer continues to receive power. It also has built in surge protection so that no power spike can get through it to your computer.

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