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Over the years, I've had to throw away a quite a few bits of computing equipment (and the like):

  • Several ADSL routers with odd symptoms (losing wireless connections, losing wired connections, DHCP failures, DNS symptoms etc)
  • Two PVRs spontaneously rebooting and corrupting themselves (despite the best efforts of the community to diagnose and help)
  • One external hard disk still claiming to function, but corrupting data
  • One hard disk as part of a NAS raid array "going bad" (as far as the NAS was concerned)

(This is in addition to various laptops and printers dying in ways unrelated to this question.)

Obviously it'll be impossible to tell for sure from such a small amount of information, but might these be related to power issues? I don't currently have a UPS for any of this equipment. Everything on surge-protected gang sockets, but there's nothing to smooth a power cut.

Is home UPS really viable and useful? I know there are some reasonably cheap UPSes on the market, but I don't know how useful they really are. I'm not interested in keeping my home network actually running during a power cut, but I'd like it to power down a bit more gracefully if the current situation is putting my hardware in jeopardy.

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13  
Wouldn't it be lovely to have a UPS on the mains coming into the house? As you say, not to keep everything running during a blackout but to give you time sprint around the house shutting things down gracefully. It could have some nice flashing red lights and a digital countdown :) –  Nick Pierpoint May 6 '09 at 9:54
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If the UPS was on the mains... how would you notice when power went out? :p –  Svish May 6 '09 at 14:21
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Svish - well that's where the nice flashing red lights come into their own. :) –  Nick Pierpoint May 13 '09 at 9:05
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Some power companies (Florida Power & Light) will install a whole-house surge protector for a monthly fee. –  joeforker May 18 '09 at 20:22
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I can't believe it - Jon Skeet, with... 1,464 rep? –  Isaac Waller Aug 30 '09 at 1:11

14 Answers 14

Short answer, yes.

Long answer, read this:

http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/archives/000632.html

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4  
+1 for Linking to one of Jeff's best blog post. –  Lucas McCoy May 2 '09 at 17:33
    
pretty sure most of his posts will get linked to over time :-) –  Omar Shahine May 2 '09 at 17:57
    
@OmarShahine Could you give a short summary of the link? Link only answers become useless if the linked site goes down. –  totymedli 2 days ago

You might want to distinguish between filtered power and uninterrupted power. Uninterrupted power is probably a good idea for things that you want to shutdown gracefully. Depending on your needs you might only need enough time for the shutdown to finish, resulting in a much cheaper UPS. Other devices may not need UPS at all, but only filtered power. Typically, it's the line spike that takes out power supplies and electronics, not the sudden absence of power -- it has to handle the switch being turned off in any event, which may be indistinguishable from pulling the power plug.

In my server room (back in the day), I had all my servers and disk drives hooked up to a UPS -- and a mighty big one at that. Printers, terminals (which could be moved to the UPS in an emergency), and other stuff that didn't need to up for the system to shutdown nicely, were on filtered power. Generally, I'd buy high quality filtered power strips (rack-mounted) for this purpose. Cheap power filters probably aren't worth the price.

I haven't priced UPSes recently. Depending on the price difference between the UPS and the hiqh quality filtering power strip, you might want to get the UPS anyway. Just be sure that the UPS is always filtering the power and won't let the spike happen, then try to pick up before the equipment notices that the power is gone. If it's truly important you want an inline UPS rather than a stand-by UPS, but you'll pay extra for it.

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Inline UPSs are nice, but can you list at least one for under $1-1.5k? I haven't seen inline UPS for under $20k (and it was a rack, not rack unit...) –  Hubert Kario Oct 21 '10 at 17:19
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@Hubert - a line-interactive UPS is probably a good compromise. This is actually what we went with. They are pretty reasonable cost. For really important things I would avoid a stand-by model. There's a nice discussion of the types at apcmedia.com/salestools/SADE-5TNM3Y_R7_EN.pdf An APC Smart UPS 420 is probably less than $150. –  tvanfosson Oct 21 '10 at 17:51
    
I use standby UPSs only for really inexpensive or otherwise non critical equipment (WiFi APs, switches, etc.) while line interactive for all other applications (big routers, computers, servers, NAS, etc.) –  Hubert Kario Oct 21 '10 at 18:22

I've had a lot of problems in the past from power outages destroying equipment that was on surge protection. Now I consider UPS devices to be essential. In this day and age, there is no reason why I should have to suffer without power. All computers in my house are on UPS, as well as all network equipment. The lights and appliances may be off, but I'm still downloading from the Internet.

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I just took mine out of the circuit because after 4 or 5 years, its "self test" function started failing every Monday at 1am. I'm probably going to buy new batteries for it and put it back, because every few months there is a little power glitch that crashes other electronics in the house but my home server keeps on chugging away.

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Yes! And not just for computers. My TiVo, cable modem, router, and Xbox are all on a UPS.

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It's a simple investment to protect all the toys. You're right, UPSs shouldn't just be for computer hardware. –  Matt Hanson May 3 '09 at 21:42

I didn't consider buying one, as in many years I haven't experienced any power outage. Until on day a thunder storm took out the PSU of my PC and the PSU of the console.

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I give you a concrete example a few days old.

My Macbook was directly connected to the power supply without UPS. I had an external display connected to it. I started my Macbook. My both display were blank. I could only heard the noise of my hardisks.

The solution to the problem was to take my Mac out of the direct supply. Both my displays get alive again.

It seems that the voltage was too high at the moment which caused me the problem. I now have my Macbook in UPS - both displays work.

Other problems which I have had

  1. My external harddisk got broken immediately as I connected it to the wall: it just corrupts data similarly as with you.
  2. Three of my WiFi stations cannot get connections - they all are about one month old
  3. My SCX-4300 printer seems to be broken after two weeks usage
  4. A power adapter in my PC got broken after a year usage.
  5. Two of UPSs are now broken after a year usage
  6. My black Macbook's harddisk needed to be changed after one year.
  7. One of my Al Macbooks do not start sometimes when it does not have UPS.

Conclusion: I recommend you to have UPS for your home equipment.

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Not only is it useful and essential to protect your home computing equipment, but also if you have a home theater system. Basically, you'd rather the lower cost UPS buy it in the case of something happening.

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What I want is a pile of tiny UPS devices. They would only have to run my stuff for about 30 seconds as the bulk of power outages don't seem to even last that long.

Heck, from the same logic, I'd LOVE to see someone start making supercapacitor based replacements for laptop batteries so I can avoid cooking the real thing while plugged in at work.

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Where I work we have had issues with sudden power cuts and because some of our developers run virtual machines off of external hard drives, a UPS is a must. I can highly recommend the APC Back-UPS ES 700 (which I believe I found via Scott Hanselman's blog). We have a few at work and I also have a couple at home.

They come with 8 sockets total, with 4 being battery backed. It also comes with a socket to plug your phone line into and you can connect to it via USB, so it can detect for power failures and perform an automatic shut down. Although I must admit the software is ropey.

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I have been using one for over 4 years now (batteries should be up for replacement soon, so knock on wood that there's no outage).

It has saved my bacon at least once, during an unexpected power outage. I was able to save everything and shut down without a hitch. I should mention that I live next to a switching station in my area (which happens to power the rail yard for our light rail system on our side of town). The switching station had "caught fire" and as a result, power was out everywhere for 10 blocks in all directions, along with the rail yard next to it. Preceding the event was a brown-out that lasted for several minutes. Eventually the fire was subdued (a mineral oil tank was the cause of the blaze) and service was restored.

My computer would have been reduced to so much expensive junk during that wonderful brownout. It would be one thing to be inconvenienced by losing some games or something, but it's another when you make your living with it.

"Personal" UPS units lack many of the bells and whistles of the big ones, but they get the job done.

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I don't currently use one, but have in the past.

I'm considering doing so again, simply because despite living close to the same power station as you, Jon, we seem to get a surprisingly large number of power cuts of varying lengths.

Frankly, it's starting to be too much trouble trying to get the network back up again after each one, particularly if I'm away on business. My kids' squid proxy depends on it :)

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Okay, now I'm intrigued as to how you know we're close to the same power station :) –  Jon Skeet May 6 '09 at 8:04
    
I've sent you an e-mail... –  Alnitak May 6 '09 at 9:19

Surge protectors definitely don't protect you from everything, especially if your house wiring has problems. I've discovered that an ordinary surge protector plugged into an outlet with an open ground can actually make surges worse than equipment plugged straight into the outlet (the result was several fried xbox 360 power supplies).

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I used to run a media server without a UPS and was always a bit nervous of power failures. So I stumped up the cash and bought a cheap UPS, I installed that software which would perform an auto shutdown when the power went out for more than a few minutes. My mind was put at rest.

But, more importantly all of the odd problems I'd get, random crashes and reboots just stopped. Now that may be down to me having fairly cheap components in the server back then (I've done a number of upgrades / new servers since), but the cleaner smoother power coming in to the server certainly helped IMO.

I now have my 2 servers, 2 network switches, router PC and TV signal distribution amp all running from my much beefier UPS. The last time I tested it I got 40 minutes runtime before it got down to one light (but that was with one server). Anyway, the net effect of all that is that if the power goes down for 20-30 minutes my TV recordings aren't interrupted. The server performs TV/media duties. Unless of course the local TV transmitter also has no power (but I'd hope they'd have some kind of backup too).

I keep meaning to find myself another cheap UPS to run my home cinema projector from. I'm not entirely sure how my £200 lamp will behave being suddenly shut off and now cooling fan to bring the temperature down gradually. So, if a UPS were installed, I could just power the projector down and the UPS would effectively run the cooling fan until the temperature of the lamp dropped.

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