Last time I was explaining how important it is to have a backup.   However there is another type of backup, which is also very important – battery backup.   Before I explain how this helps, let me explain why it’s needed.

You might remember from previous articles that a computer has two types of memory – RAM and a Hard Drive.    RAM is where everything you’re working on is stored and is only usable while the computer is powered on.   When you save something, it gets saved to the Hard Drive.   The great thing with a Hard Drive is that you don’t lose information when the computer is switched off.   When you power back on – all those files you saved are back and ready to use again.

Now if you’re using a computer and don’t shut it down properly, whatever is stored in RAM (Random Access Memory if you were wondering) is lost.   This is why it’s always important to shut a computer down properly (using the Start Menu) rather than just pull the power.

However what happens if the power goes?   Yup – you loose anything that isn’t saved to the Hard Drive!    Even worse – if Windows was in the middle of an update, or was working in the background – the changes lost might even stop your computer from booting again.

Now this isn’t the only problem that can occur with a power outage.   You’ve probably noticed the lights dim prior to the power going out?   Computers don’t like this either – they’re called “brown-outs” and can be equally damaging to sensitive computers.     Another risk is power surges, which can irreparably damage computers.

So this is where a battery backup comes in.   An uninterruptable Power Supply (or UPS) is basically a box of batteries, which sits between the computer and the electrical supply.

This box of batteries is kept constantly charged, and if a problem occurs it instantly takes over the job of supplying power to your computer.   It’s able to smooth our “Brown-outs” and also protect you against surges.

UPS’ are however limited in terms of how long they can run.   This is somewhat dependent on how much you have plugged into them and what capacity they have.   When looking at a UPS you should buy one that has enough capacity to keep you running, however you’re generally looking at 5-20 minutes of cover.    This is why it’s important to get a UPS that also plugs into your computer with a USB cable (UPS, USB – very confusing!).   This means it can talk to your computer and automatically shut it down if it’s going to run out of power.   This way, the computer has time to shut down properly and write everything it needs to the Hard Drive before the battery runs out.

You may be thinking that if you have a laptop that you don’t need a UPS as you already effectively have a battery backup.   This is somewhat true, however you’re not protected from power surges.   Also, if you have a UPS it can protect multiple devices such as printers, screens, routers etc.

If you don’t have a UPS and are expecting the power to fail, say if there’s a storm, it would be wise for you to shut down and unplug your computer to be safe.    Or go buy a UPS.

If you’d like advice on which model of UPS would be suitable for you, please get in touch.

Until next time – keep powering on!