Tech Stuff - Home & Small Office UPS
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Home & Small Office UPS

(February 19, 2008)
Not so long ago, while I was working on my desktop in our New York appartment, power tension drops started to happen at regular intervals and sometimes it would be bad enough to restart the computer! Not the kind of restart you want to happen and even though I was not producing anything that could be lost, I started to get worried for the health of the system as it could happen 5/6 times per hour. To make a long story short, we uncovered the source of the problem: the water pressure pump of the building was not working properly and every time it started it would affect the entire electrical system until it gave up and I could not take a shower anymore ... (that was an easy problem to troubleshoot!).

As all good human being, all worries dissipated with time and potential power issues did not resurface until recently ... more precisely when I started my quest for a data storage solution (see my previous article on the subject). Reading tons of horror stories about what would happen to my data if I did not have proper backups (specifically for me running RAID 0) I also found a lot of unhappy reviews of NAS (Network Area Storage) devices owners related to power. From data corruption during transfer to system malfunction after unexpected power interruptions, there was quite a few people that spent the extra $ to backup their data but ended up with nothing but a potential multi-thousand dollar invoice for data recovery services (I tried with my laptop and it costs $1,500 for a 40GB hard drive to only recover 60%).

What to do? Well, it is said everywhere on the Internet ... get that UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) and become stress free. So you throw the UPS acronym into your Google search toolbar and wait for results that pretty much talk about everything but power (i.e. United Parcel Service, Supply Chain Solutions, University of Puget Sound, etc.). Adding the word "power" or spelling the acronym helped. But as usual, after a little while I ended-up with TONS of potential solutions but no idea what would be useful versus money thrown out of the window (wether it is not enough or too much). So I finally asked myself the only critical question: What do I need?

  • A power backup solution that can sustain my desktop and storage device long enough for a clean shutdown.
  • A system that provides clean filtered power while we are at it (New York utilities are not know for quality).
  • A power backup compatible with my storage device for automatic shutdown since it is running when I am not home.
  • A solution that can provide information on what it is doing without my desktop running (LEDs, screen, etc.).
  • Something not too heavy (LB-wise and Dollar-wise).

Once the wish list was established it was much easier to narrow the search. I must say (as an IT expert in some way ... but for large implementations) that I focused more on the well know and industry recognized manufacturer: APC! I did not think of them as the supplier of affordable home power systems until I saw most of their home/small office units advertized for less tham $200 on various retailers website. I then started to spend some time on their solution and discovered that you can benefit from large UPS system functinoalities in a gallon-size box though 30+ LB (and did I mention that nobody gets fired for using APC? That's my preferred corporate statement).

After all that, I finally selected the APC Back-UPS XS 1500VA solution which provided me numerous benefits in line with or expecting my requirements:

  • 6 Battery-protected outlets with a 865 Watts / 1500 VA output as well as 2 Surge-only outlets
  • 3 minutes backup at full load and 13 minutes backup at half load (more than 300 NAS only)
  • Configurable multi-function LCD display (Load, Charge, voltage, event, run-time, etc.)
  • Audible alarms when events or failure occurs
  • Automatic self-test (every 2 weeks I think)
  • Boost Automatic Voltage Regulation (AVR) for low voltage without switching to battery
  • Phone and cable lines surge protection
  • Hot-swappable batteries user replaceable without tools
  • Lifetime data recovery warranty
  • Predictive failure notification
  • Replace Battery LED
  • Resettable circuit breakers
  • USB Connectivity (compatible with ReadyNAS)

Besides the fact that you have to open the device to plug in the battery, the install was totally seamless. I was worried about the UPS-NAS interconnection and configuration but it happened by itself. As soon as I plugged the UPS into one of the USB port on my ReadyNAS it was recognized and auto-configured (I love Linux backend systems). In a few minutes my desktop, flat screen, NAS, Linksys router and Verizon modem were all the UPS running happily. I did not install any software on my desktop, if I need any information on the status of the UPS, I get it through the device integrated screen!

For more details on the APC Back-UPS XS 1500VA characteristics, Click Here!

How much do I get with all that? It depends on what is running and the integrated UPS interface is really great for that as it gives live feedback on power consumption and backup capability. Basically, when everything is running (desktop, flat screen, NAS, Linksys router and Verizon modem) I get 19 minutes of backup power which is enough time to react and shut down my desktop (not automatic). When my desktop if off and only the NAS, router and modem are running I have an incredible 311 minutes of backup power! After that, the NAS will shutdown automatically and my data is safe!

Conclusion, if you have a little less than $200 to spare and big worries for your systems health, I think it is worth the price. After all, if you keep stressing it is going to cost you more than $200 in medicines! Some slightly less fancy or powerful solutions will get closer to $100. The key things to consider are the power of the systems you have to backup and the compatibility of those systems (specifically for a storage device, mine does not have a long compatibility list and some APC solutions are excluded).
Good luck in your UPS solution quest ... if you need one.




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