Stopping Power Surges Before They Reach Your Equipment

Ron Cochran is Help Desk supervisor for Tech Experts.

We all have some sort of electronic device that we plug into the wall, either to charge the battery or power the device. While these devices are connected to the power source in your home or office, they are being subjected to power surges on a regular basis. Some of these surges can damage your electronic devices.

The main source of a power surge is inclement weather. A surge protector or suppressor will keep your devices safe from inconsistencies in power delivery.

Most people will use power strips to connect more than one device to an outlet and these are OK to use, but they do not offer any surge suppression attributes.

A legitimate surge protector or suppressor will have a rating that is measured in joules, which represents how much of a power surge it can mitigate without damaging your electronic devices. There are several manufacturers of surge protectors for home use, whole-home use, and even industrial applications.

Depending on your needs and budget, you could install a whole-home surge protection system which would protect all of the devices in your house from a surge.

If you are budget-minded, then picking up a couple brand-name, surge-protecting power strips for your entertainment system or electronics charging station would be sufficient.

The one thing you have to keep in mind is if you are not protecting your computers, printers, and display devices from power surges, then you are taking the risk of losing valuable data on your storage devices.

You are also opening yourself up to the potential need to replace faulty equipment due to the power surge.

These repairs are not cheap and the data that you lost due to the power surge is most likely irreplaceable, unless you have a backup solution implemented.

Now, once you have decided to purchase a surge protector, you will need to decide how many and what devices you want plugged into it, keeping in mind the total power draw of all of the devices.

You do not want to use a lot of high-power equipment on one single surge protector because they are rated for a certain power draw; if you are consuming more power than they are rated for, they might not be able to do their job properly.

On top of an overloaded surge protector having issues operating and protecting your devices, it poses a fire hazard due to wires being overheated.

Winter is over and we are entering the stormy season of spring. Power surges will be happening in our area before you know it.

If you are concerned about protecting your home or office equipment from a power surge, then now is the time to evaluate your needs for a surge protector.

We’d be more than happy to conduct a site survey, then recommend and install surge protectors for your business needs.

How To Protect Your Computers From Electrical Anomalies

Chris Myers is a field service technician for Tech Experts.

Many people will recognize these as risks of a power outage that can damage computers, but did you know that there are actually many different types of power anomalies? If the power dips for even a quarter of a second (250 milliseconds), your computer will use up its reserves of power and abruptly shut down after only 17 milliseconds.

Types of electrical anomalies

Sags, also known as brownouts and undervoltage, are temporary decreases of voltage levels. This is a very common problem, making up a majority of the power disruptions your computer will encounter. When a sag happens, computers may not get enough voltage to power all of its components. This can cause unseen data corruption, power loss to fans, and a freezing keyboard or mouse.

Electric companies purposefully induce sags in order to deal with periods of high power demands, such as high usage of air conditioners on a hot day.

Blackouts are when all power is lost. They are typically caused by power grid equipment failure, lightning, ice, car accidents, and natural disasters. When a blackout occurs, all data in your RAM and hard drive caches is lost. If critical system files like the File Allocation Table are damaged, it may render your hard drive inoperable.

A spike, also called an impulse, is a sudden and dramatic increase in voltage usually lasting less than one millisecond. It can be caused by a lightning strike or a large section of network equipment coming online. Spikes can cause catastrophic damage to computers, often overloading power supplies and burning circuit boards.

A surge, also referred to as a transient, is a short period of increased voltage typically lasting between 8 milliseconds and 2.5 seconds. Depending on the voltage, surges can cause damage similar to that of spikes.

Noise refers to both Electro-Magnetic Interference (EMI) and Radio Frequency Interference (RFI). Electrical power is transmitted with sine waves, usually as an alternating current (AC). The usage of many electronic devices in close proximity to each other can alter the pattern of these waves. When this occurs, it can result in overheating, data loss, and distorted audio or video.

Frequency shifts, also known as harmonic distortion, usually happen when lighting equipment shifts the sine wave frequency to something other than the standard 60 Hertz. This can result in the overheating of electrical wiring and power supply errors leading to unscheduled shut downs.

Preventing Damage

Surge protectors are the easiest and most affordable way to provide your equipment with an immediate layer of protection. When buying a surge protector, you want a high amount of joules and low let-through voltage.

Joules are basically how much energy the device can absorb over its lifetime. Let-through voltage is how much voltage is passed on to connected devices when the surge protector is hit with a 6,000-volt surge.

The best surge protectors will even have outlets for phone, TV, and USB cables. All of those cable types can be damaged from power surges. Just make sure you aren’t getting a power strip string only, which is simply an extension of a wall outlet and offers no protection.

For the best protection you will need an uninterruptible power supply (UPS). These power supplies will provide power to your equipment whenever it sags or stops completely. Most small power supplies will keep your computer running for about 10 minutes or just network equipment for about an hour. Having enough time to properly shut down your equipment can mean all the difference when it comes to saving your data and hardware.

Springtime Brings Seasonal Storms – Protect Your Network!

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

It’s a topic I touch on every year around this time – the criticality of power protection and backups for your network. The sad fact of the matter is, no matter how often I preach about it, too many of our clients still aren’t adequately protecting their systems.

Adequate power protection entails three things: Prevention, protection, and testing.

Prevention
During thunderstorms, many people leave their computers unprotected. Simply turning a computer off during a thunderstorm does nothing whatsoever to protect the computer.

Nearby lightning strikes can cause surges through the power lines or phone lines into your house or office, and these often damage your equipment.

The easiest way to prevent problems caused by lightning and power surges is to unplug your computer during a storm. Don’t forget to unplug your phone line or cable Internet from the computer too. These are the second most likely way for surges to get into your computer.

Protection
Having a good, quality surge protector is great for the day-to-day power surges that happen mostly unseen in the background. Don’t skimp on your power protection.

The $9 “surge strip” you can pick up at a hardware store simply gives you more outlets to use – it doesn’t provide protection against power problems.

A good surge protector should run you around $50 – a small investment when you consider the cost of the computer and the value of your data.

Servers and critical workstations should be protected by a battery backup system. We prefer APC because they offer an equipment insurance policy, but any good, well known brand will protect your network.

Testing
Power protection devices, whether a surge protector or battery backup, are designed to fail. They absorb the power fluctuations that could damage your server or workstation.

Your battery backup unit should be tested at least twice per year to ensure it’s functioning properly. The test can be as simple as plugging in a lamp, and disconnecting the unit from utility power. The lamp should stay lit. If it doesn’t, it’s time to replace the batteries in the UPS.

In general, surge protectors and battery backup units should be replaced every three years. This ensures your network, servers and computers are protected by the latest technology in surge supression.

 

Protect Your Network From Dangerous Spring Thunderstorms

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

What’s the best way to keep your computer safe during a thunderstorm? Crawl under your desk and unplug it.

While not a particularly practical suggestion, unplugging your PC from AC power, a telephone line if you use a modem, and your network will protect it from surges and power problems.

A more practical solution would be to use a power protection device, such as a true surge protector, or a business-grade battery backup system.

Computer damage from severe weather conditions is surprisingly a very common problem, despite warnings to install power protection.

When power problems strike, they can cause permanent damage, to your computer, your data, or both. To minimize the possibility of damage, install a true surge protector – not just a power strip. A true power strip will cost you in the neighborhood of $20 to $40, and most offer specific guarantees if your equipment is damaged after you properly install the power protection device.

Get a surge protector that also protects your network, phone lines, or DSL connection. Some even offer a connection to provide surge protection on the cable line that services your cable modem. Remember, the more protection, the better.

Check your protection devices regularly. If you use battery backup systems, use the testing feature at least quarterly to make sure your unit still functions properly. Batteries in backup systems will typically last two or three years, unless your power environment is particularly troublesome.

Remember, too, that not all power problems result from electrical storms. The every day variances in power quality – from smaller surges, sags, drops and brownouts – will also, over time, cause damage to your electronic equipment.

When you invest in a high-quality surge protector, many of them will also compensate for these minor electrical fluctuations, protecting your equipment at its own expense. These are called line conditioning surge protectors.

Higher end line conditioning surge protectors will wear out and lose effectiveness after a few years, and should be replaced. We always recommend using APC Power Protection equipment because it comes with an equipment insurance policy.

Throughout the month of April, Tech Experts is offering a free power protection audit. To reserve your audit, call the office at 734-457-5000, or sign up at: www.computerbatterybackups.com.

Fall Is The Perfect Time For An IT And Network Checkup

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

To make the most of your IT investment,  you don’t need to be a technology whiz. However, you should have a plan in place for making the most of your company’s data. As fall approaches, now is an excellent time to examine your company’s technology to determine what’s working well and what could be improved.

Is It Time To Update?
Technology changes rapidly. While your systems may appear to be working well, you may be missing out on new ways to protect your business information, help your business run more efficiently, and better serve your customers.

For example, to run some of today’s most powerful programs, you need a fast and large hard drive with significant memory capacity.

You might consider adding newer technology – such as wireless capabilities – to older equipment; but the cost of upgrading a computer is often more than the cost of a new model.

Check Your Power Protection
Loss of electrical power and power surges are the most common causes of data loss and weaken computer components. If your business depends on computers, protecting the power source is critical.

This is especially important if your area is prone to power fluctuations or electrical storms.

An Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) unit offers both superior surge protection and, depending on the model, anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes of backup power-enough time to save and copy critical files.

The idea of a UPS isn’t to continue your business dealings while the lights are out. Rather, it is to ensure that your data is available when the lights come back on.

Have You Patched Windows?
Have you installed the latest version of Windows on your computer, and do you keep it updated? Do you do this automatically?

It is incredibly important that you keep Windows and your software applications current. Updates improve performance, fix bugs, and many add new features. You should also regularly update and run anti-virus software.

How’s Your Backup?
Consider storage needs in terms of both capacity and physical location. Depending on the amount of data, you can back up to USB flash drives, CDs, DVDs, tapes, or an external drive.

You might also want to look into off-site backup. Our Experts Total Backup System is an excellent backup, disaster recovery, and offsite storage service.

Integrate Your Data
Over the years, businesses tend to produce multiple silos of data. Your inventory, sales data, and marketing information need to be linked together to better serve your customers and increase your company’s productivity and profitability.

Without this integration, you may not know who your best customers are or you could end up agreeing to provide a top customer with an item you don’t have in your inventory.

How To Protect Your Computer From Lightning Damage

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

During thunderstorms many people are leaving their computers unprotected. Simply turning a computer off during a thunderstorm does nothing whatsoever to protect the computer.

Nearby lightning strikes can cause surges through the power lines or phone lines into your house or office, and these often damage your computer.

Sometimes, just the power supply is damaged, and other times the damage is so extensive that the whole computer has to be replaced.

Power surges also do incremental damage to electronics, so the computer may work properly for a while, but occasionally lock up.

This type of fault is hard to diagnose or repair, so when storms approach, the best idea is to turn off the computer and unplug it from the outlet.

Don’t forget to unplug your phone line or cable Internet from the computer too. These are the second most likely way for surges to get into your computer – the first being the electrical supply.

We often have a large number of service calls in the days following a severe thunderstorm – the most common complaint is: “My computer was fine when I shut it off, but now it won’t power on.”

Having a good, quality surge protector is great for the minimal day-to-day power surges that happen mostly unseen in the background. These surges and spikes gradually damage electronics.

But if lightning strikes, a surge protector will be instantly destroyed along with anything it was  supposed to be protecting.

Also, keep in mind that cheaper surge protectors wear out over time, but there is no way of knowing their status.

Your best bet for safe computing during our spring thunderstorm season is to leave your computer unplugged when not in use – or at the very least, unplug it as storms approach.

Be sure to see this month’s special newsletter insert, “What Every Small Business Owner Needs To Know About Computer And Network Power Protection.”

4 Hidden Dangers Electricity Poses To Your Computer Network

Believe it or not, electricity is one of the biggest threats to your computer network and the data it contains. Here are four computer power problems you must know about and how to prevent them.

Transients
Commonly known as surges and spikes, these are caused by lightning storms, wind, squirrels shorting out power lines, auto accidents, etc.

Several times each week these spikes can travel up the power cord into your computer, damaging everything from power supplies to motherboards. Conventional wisdom says use a power strip with a surge protector and you are safe. As usual, conventional wisdom is dead wrong.

After a few months, these surge protectors become useless since they’ve been zapped by the surges they were designed to stop.

Blackouts
Whether momentary or prolonged, the sudden loss of power can corrupt your PC to the point of not being able to start up again when the lights come back on.

Sags
This is when the power drops below normal. Have you ever seen the fluorescent lights flicker for a moment? Then you’ve seen a sag.

Sags are more common than surges and are caused when equipment like air conditioners, water heaters or laser printers are turned on or come out of sleep mode. A typical small office will experience 30 or more sags each day.

Sags may cause many of the weird and unexplained problems computer users complain about every day.

Noise
If you’ve ever seen a fuzzy picture or white lines on your TV when you turn on a blender or vacuum cleaner, you’ve seen electrical noise. While a fuzzy TV picture is annoyance, this electrical noise causes many computer problems including loss of data.

So how do you protect yourself from electrical problems? The most simple and inexpensive solution to all four of these hazards is a battery backup, or uninterruptible power supply (UPS).

A UPS can sense when there are problems with the power and automatically switches to the battery, protecting you from computer damage and data loss.

Choosing the correct battery backup for your computer or server can be tricky. Having one with a battery too small is the same as having none at all.

For most desktop computers, a battery backup with a 500VA or larger rating should be sufficient to keep you going through momentary power problems.

Protecting your server requires detailed knowledge of the server functions and power consumption in order to pick the right battery backup. If you want help in determining the right protection for your specific network, give us a call: 734-457-5000.

4 Hidden Dangers Electricity Poses To Your Computer Network… And One Simple, Inexpensive Solution That Will Prevent Them All From Doing Damage

Is your computer plugged in? Do you use a power strip with a surge protector? If so, you are a heartbeat away from disaster and don’t even realize it. The same electricity you depend on to run your computer and network is also trying to destroy your data.

Believe it or not, electricity is one of the biggest threats to your computer network and the data it contains. Here are four computer power problems you must know about and how to prevent them.

Transients
Commonly known as surges and spikes, these are caused by lightning storms, wind, squirrels shorting out power lines, auto accidents, etc. Several times each week these spikes can travel up the power cord into your computer damaging everything from power supplies to motherboards.

Conventional wisdom says use a power strip with a surge protector and you are safe. As usual, conventional wisdom is dead wrong. After several months, these surge protectors become useless having been zapped by the surges they were designed to protect against.

Blackouts
Whether momentary or prolonged, the sudden loss of power can corrupt your PC to the point of not being able to start up again when the lights come back on.

Sags
This is when the power drops below normal. Have you ever seen the fluorescent lights flicker for a moment? Then you have witnessed sag. Sags are more common than surges and are caused when equipment like air conditioners, blow dryers, water heaters, laser printers, copy machines and other electrical equipment are turned on or come out of sleep mode. A typical small office will experience 30 or more sags each day. Sags cause many of the weird and unexplained problems computer users complain about every day.

Noise
Ever been watching TV and seen fuzzy pictures and/or white lines or dots when you turn on a blender or vacuum cleaner? This is the result of electrical noise. While a fuzzy TV picture is an annoyance, this electrical noise causes many computer problems including loss of data.

So how do you protect yourself from electrical problems? The most simple and inexpensive solution to all four of these hazards is a battery backup. The battery backup (also known as a UPS or Uninterruptible Power Supply) senses when there are problems with the power and automatically switches to the battery protecting you from computer damage and data loss.

Choosing the correct battery backup for your computer or server can be tricky. Having one with a battery too small is the same as having none at all.

For most desktop computers, a battery backup with a 500VA or larger rating should be sufficient to keep you going through momentary power problems, and give you time to shut down your computer if you experience a longer power outage..

Protecting your server requires detailed knowledge of the server functions and power consumption in order to pick the right battery backup solution. If you want help in determining the right protection for your specific network, give us a call: 734-457-5000.

Spring Is Here… Time To Check Your Battery Backup!

What’s the best way to keep your computer safe during a thunderstorm? Crawl under your desk and unplug it.

While not a particularly practical suggestion, unplugging your PC from AC power, a telephone line if you use a modem, and your network will protect it from surges and power problems.

A more practical solution would be to use a power protection device, such as a true surge protector, or a business-grade battery backup system.

Computer damage from severe weather conditions is surprisingly a very common problem, despite warnings to installl power protection.

When power problems strike, they can cause permanent damage, to either your computer or your data. To minimize the possibility of damage, install a true surge protector – not just a power strip. A true power strip will cost you in the neighborhood of $20 to $40, and most offer specific guarantees if your equipment is damaged after you properly install the power protection device.

Get a surge protector that also protects your network, phone lines or DSL connection. Some even offer a connection to provide surge protection on the cable line that services your cable modem. Remember, the more protection, the better.

Check your protection devices regularly. If you use battery backup systems, use the testing feature at least quarterly to make sure your unit still functions properly.

Batteries in backup systems will typically last two or three years, unless your power environment is particularly troublesome.

Remember, too, that not all power problems result from electrical storms. The every day variances in power quality – from smaller surges, sags, drops and brownouts – will also, over time, cause damage to your electronic equipment.

When you invest in a high-quality surge protector, many of them will also compensate for these minor electrical fluctuations, protecting your equipment at its own expense. These are called line conditioning surge protectors.

Higher end line conditioning surge protectors will wear out and lose effectiveness after a few years, and should be replaced. We always recommend using APC Power Protection equipment because it comes with an equipment insurance policy.

Protect Your Computers From Spring Thunder

What’s the best way to keep your computer safe during a thunderstorm? Crawl under your desk and unplug it.

While not a particularly practical suggestion, unplugging your PC from AC power, a telephone line if  you use a modem, and your network will protect it from surges and power problems.

A more practical solution would be to use a power protection device, such as a true surge protector, or a business-grade battery backup system.

Computer damage from severe weather conditions is surprisingly a very common problem, despite warnings to installl power protection.

When power problems strike, they can cause permanent damage, to either your computer or your data.

To minimize the possibility of damage, install a true surge protector – not just a power strip. A true power strip will cost you in the neighborhood of $20 to $40, and most offer specific guarantees if your equipment is damaged after you properly install the power protection device.

Get a surge protector that also protects your network, phone lines or DSL connection. Some even offer a connection to provide surge protection on the cable line that services your cable modem. Remember, the more protection, the better.

Check your protection devices regularly. If you use  battery backup systems, use the testing feature at least quarterly to make sure your unit still functions properly.

Batteries in backup systems will typically last two or three years, unless your power environment is particularly troublesome.

Remember, too, that not all power problems result from electrical storms.

The every day variances in power quality – from smaller surges, sags, drops and brownouts – will also, over time, cause damage to your electronic equipment.

When  you invest in a high-quality surge protector, many of them will also compensate for these minor electrical fluctuations, protecting your equipment at its own expense. These are called line conditioning surge protectors.

Higher end line conditioning surge protectors will wear out and lose effectiveness after a few years, and should be replaced.