Andrew Pollack's Blog

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Have you checked your backup power supply lately?

By Andrew Pollack on 10/08/2006 at 01:05 PM EDT

Today I was going through the fall chores, and one of those is testing the backup power and redundancy plan I have for my office and servers here. After changing the oil, filters, and spark plugs on the 12kw LP Gas generator outside, I ran a full power down test. That means walking over to the breaker panel in the basement and shutting off grid power to the house. Within 60 seconds, the house was automatically up and running on power from the generator. That's as it should be. The test confirmed the transfer switch was working as well as the sensors and wiring for the switch.

What failed was the UPS powering two of my server machines. It's a few years old, so it's not a shock, but I did realize something important. When I bought it I sized it for machines current five years ago. Today's machines have power units in them 3 to 5 times as powerful and the draw can be considerably higher. If you've bought a new desktop style or server PC -- especially a gamer's rig or high end server -- you need to check the power supply rating and make sure you've got a strong enough UPS.

BTW: yes, I do use a UPS even though I have a generator. The job of the UPS is to hold power for the 60 second turnover period, and then to regulate the line while on generator power. Generators tend put out "messy" power which varies +/- several volts and isn't always on a perfect sin wave at 60hz. Many put out a square wave which I'm told isn't as good either. Both are not what your PC or server needs to last long and run well. A good UPS that does "line conditioning" like any of the APC "Pro" models, as well as many Belkin products will act to condition that line into a perfectly smooth sin wave at 60 hz with almost no variation in voltage. Equipment lasts longer and runs better this way.

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