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Do I Need an Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS)?

Updated: May 16, 2024

An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) is a battery-driven power supply that helps protect electronic equipment from a sudden loss of power. It is especially useful with computers and equipment that could suffer damage in a power outage. In some cases, UPS battery units can be combined with generators to provide power for longer-term outages in larger, corporate environments where downtime could hurt business.

Uninterruptible power supply units are important for certain types of equipment that could be damaged in a power failure. For example, computer servers are typically left running 24 hours a day, as they provide services and files for other computers. A power outage could corrupt the data on a server or make data unavailable to users. In large business environments, networking equipment could also benefit from being on an uninterruptible power supply, as a lack of power to network equipment could prevent communication on the network. In both cases, a, uninterruptible power supply can ensure that the equipment remains operational even if external power was unavailable, as well as reduces the chance that a power outage could corrupt data on a server. In these cases, an appropriate backup power solution is highly recommended.

In other cases, uninterruptible power supplies are less necessary. Individual computers in a home or office likely do not necessarily need backup power. In these instances, while backup power from a UPS could ensure that the computer would be operational during a power outage, it is likely that a lack of power to other devices (such as having no lights or other electrical equipment) would make the backup power less than worthwhile. While a sudden power outage could corrupt data on a computer that was running, regular backups of a home or office PC provide protection against data loss. While uninterruptible power supply units aren't necessary for many PC systems, small units are available for little money and can provide a measure of protection against power failures.

Uninterruptible power supply units come in a variety of capacities and price ranges. Some UPS units are designed to provide enough power to keep computers running just until they can be safely shut down. Others can keep equipment operational for hours. When purchasing a uninterruptible power supply, it is important to consider what equipment must be kept running, as well as for how long. The more devices that are connected to the uninterruptible power supply, the faster a battery-based power supply will drain. Not surprisingly, larger-capacity solutions with longer-term power supplies generally cost more than smaller systems.

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Discussion Comments
By anon212333 — On Sep 06, 2011

In the UK we rarely have power cuts and in my experience, the mains electricity is about as reliable as a UPS. So unless you have redundant power supplies (rare in a desktop PC) and plug one into the UPS and the other into the mains, they're a waste of money, resources and electricity.

By Perdido — On Sep 05, 2011

@NathanG - Everyone at my office has an uninterruptible power supply as well. We only use them if what we are working on when the power goes out is urgent. Otherwise, we wait until the electricity is restored.

These power supplies beep loudly every few seconds. It is really an annoying sound, and each one beeps at a different interval, so the office is filled with constant, loud beeps during power outages.

It seems that the power tends to go out when we are not all that busy. I can’t remember a time when I’ve actually needed to use the UPS. I’m glad we have it in case that time comes, though.

By allenJo — On Sep 04, 2011

@SkyWhisperer - An industrial uninterruptible power supply is a necessity, I agree, but there are certain conditions where we don’t use it and have no need for it; a lightning strike.

We live in hurricane alley, so anytime a storm winds its way through the area we just turn off our computers completely. No power supply will help in the path of a direct strike, and few surge protectors will keep our equipment safe as well.

By SkyWhisperer — On Sep 04, 2011

@NathanG - Our units do the same thing; they run through system diagnostics to make sure that they are working properly.

However, I wouldn’t leave everything up to its self checks. You need to develop a visual maintenance from time to time as well. You should have a check list for uninterruptible power supply maintenance which includes things like making sure the wires are free and clear of any obstruction, ensuring that the power light is on and even occasionally restarting the unit as a reset.

Believe me, this is one important piece of equipment that you don’t want to fail on you in downtime.

By NathanG — On Sep 03, 2011

I have an uninterruptible power supply system installed on my computer at work; we all have one actually.

I think it’s indispensable. We leave our computers on 24 hours and sometimes we get brief power outages. That’s when the power supply kicks in. It has about twenty minutes of backup power, and I’ve rarely needed that much time. Most of the time our power is restored within ten minutes.

The system will check itself from time to time to ensure that it’s still working. When that happens I will hear a click as the power supply kicks in and then I’ll get a message on the screen saying that the system has been tested and everything is working properly.

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