What is a UPS and do I need one?Posted on 18 November 2022 by Beaming Support
Let’s start with the first (and probably simplest) part of that question:
What is a UPS?
UPS stands for Uninterruptable Power Supply – a device to power computers (or any electronic device) when the mains power goes off.
They are also very helpful in the case of a ‘Brownout’, when the voltage from the mains supply drops, but does not cut out completely. The UPS will make up for this shortfall and stop devices from turning off.
They are usually a high-capacity battery or capacitor that all the time the main power is on, simply sit and keep fully charged. As soon as the mains feed drops, they kick in to keep the power flowing to the device or devices connected to them.
They are generally designed to either keep the device powered for short amounts of time (between 15 and 20 minutes). This is simply to give the user (or software installed on the device) time to turn the computer off safely, and thus avoids uncontrolled shut-downs of PC’s and servers, and the potential loss of data this can cause.
They come in various shapes, sizes and costs – ranging from small desktop devices that will keep a PC running for a few minutes and costing less than £100, to large rack-mounted UPS’s that will power multiple devices for long periods, costing many thousands of pounds.
Now to the (slightly) trickier section…
Do I need a UPS?
This really depends on who you are and what devices you have.
If you are a home user with a general use PC then no, you probably don’t need one, as you probably don’t have your computer on all the time – so the chances of it being on when a power cut happens are lower.
The other issue with using a UPS on a home PC is that when the power goes off you will no longer have a working monitor (and thus you will not be able to shut the PC down safely as you can’t see what you’re doing) or broadband connection, unless you connect them to a UPS as well. Before you know it, you end up with a very complex and expensive system that will probably never be used.
Smart UPS’s are available that connect to your PC via USB, and send a shutdown signal to your PC when the power goes off – using one of these at home would be sensible if you have important data on your PC and / or you are using it to work from home.
There is an argument to be made for connection your home broadband router to a UPS. As most of us now use laptops, tablets or phones that are all battery powered, if the router is kept on with a UPS you would still be able to stay on-line during a power outage and as the router has quite a small power drain, a small cheap UPS should keep you on line for much longer.
If you are a business, however, the answer is very different. For most businesses, data is vital, as is the availability of that data.
Servers, NAS drives, routers and core switches should always be connected to a UPS if at all possible.
Servers and NAS drives should be connected to smart USP’s which, like the home version described above, can automatically shut them down in case of a power loss event. In a business environment these will be connected to the network and will be able to shutdown multiple devices via that connection, ensuring all data is kept safe.