You're on a deadline; it's late. You've been
working for HOURS on your computer finishing up your report! Uh-oh...did the lights just
dim? Then, silence--dead silence and darkness. The lights have gone out, the refrigerator
isn't buzzing away, the heater blower isn't blowing, the ceiling fan slows down and stops.
That's about when the cussing begins...
You just had
a power failure and all your work is gone; evaporated into electrons and just a glowing
scramble of letters retained on the retina. You start praying that there is a remnant of
your work from your last "save" lurking in the TEMP folder.
Seconds tick by--maybe minutes--you can't tell since the
clocks all stopped too and it's too dark to see your wristwatch. As you sit in the
stillness you contemplate what to do and try to remember key points of your report so you
can recreate the parts that were lost.
Just then the lights flicker on and the fan begins to
turn, all the normal house noises resume and you smile while you wait for your computer to
reboot...and wait and wait... You hit the power switch--nothing. Or, a
critical failure, icons are missing, or you tried RESTORE and nothing
works. Cussing resumes as you
realize that not only is your report gone, but it looks like your computer just "ate
Sound familiar? TOO close to "real?" Just a
nightmare--someone else's nightmare?
Similarly, a power surge or spike (when the lights get
REALLY bright for a few seconds) can also close you down.
We are an electric dependent society. The power we use
puts us at the mercy of the powers-that-be and fate. We'd be wise to remember Murphy's Law
("if anything can go wrong, it will and at the worst possible time," and
O'Toole's Observation ("Murphy was an optimist") and be prepared like the
Whether we are endeared or dependent of our televisions,
microwaves, computers, heating/cooling, etc.--or even in some circumstances life support
systems--we can take precautions to protect and preserve our valuable equipment, our
sanity, and even our lives.
- If you know a severe storm is approaching you can scramble
to unplug your equipment. Make sure that the end of the power cord is as far away from the
outlet as possible--lightning looks for easy paths--which may be jumping from your outlet
to the cord laying on the floor!
- Many computers get "fried" via the
communications hardware. Old style modems or DSL connected to
the phone jack are a clear path to zap your computer. Cable
modems and satellite are vulnerable too since they have a electrical
However, unplugging everything isn't practical in most
circumstances. We can't unplug our furnaces in the winter, our air conditioners in the
summer, our refrigerators, especially if we are at the store when an outtage
or storm occurs.
For years our family has purchased power strips with
circuit breakers or surge protecting plug-in adapters. This is MINIMAL! (Trust me on
this!) They're better than nothing, except for the false security they offer.
Several years ago--AFTER we "fried" a very
expensive television--we were fortunate and wise to purchase and install a whole house
surge protector. It was not a costly investment--especially compared to the value of all
our electronic devices!
Protection doesn't stop there...
In addition to installing minimal devices you should also
look into the more elaborate power or surge protectors available.
Yes, they are more
expensive, but weighed against what is at stake, they are very practical!
Today, the protection of the hardware is almost secondary to the time to
Re-Install all software and backed up data files. (You have been backing
up files, right? External harddrive, burnable CDs?) When you
calculate in the time it takes to re-install and reconfigure software,
you've lost a block of hours--or even days. It's worth the extra
money for a quality surge protector AND POWER BACK-UP (called
UPS--Uninterrupted Power Supply.)
UPS come in various specifications and price ranges. Especially important for computer users is a combination power back-up and surge
protector including a phone protector if your computer/printer does double
duty as a FAX. The surge protector does just what the name
implies--they have various ratings for speed of response (nanoseconds), energy ratings
(how many joules it can handle--50 being low end, going up to beyond 200 joules), some
include thermal fuses, and some come with substantial warranties.
The power back-up is the savior of computer users. If you
want to and can afford to go "all-out" you can get a power supply that'll keep
you up and running for hours. The more realistic and cost effective, is a power back-up
that will give you enough time (say, 15 minutes) to gently save your work and gentle
power-down the computer. (Remember, when using these power back-ups that you need to have
both your CPU AND your monitor plugged in. I knew a colleague that plugged in their
computer but forgot the power cord of their monitor. The computer stayed on, but they
couldn't see the screen to negotiate the save and the shut down!)
Read the Specs on the packaging, it will
give you an idea of the amount of time you have to shut down depending
on monitor typoe and size, operating system, etc.
During the ICE STORM of JANUARY 09, I had my computer shut down in a
jiffy. AND there was enough battery back-up charge stored to
charge my cell phone and run a 40W light bulb for a few minutes so we
could re-group for the emergency.
Our "defensive plan" includes the whole house
protector, plus a few additional plug-in style protectors.
For spikes and blackout/brownouts your unit should
reset--hopefully it comes with a "test" button. However, if your home takes a
hit from a "feeler" the unit should perform it's task and save your equipment.
In so doing, it will be damaged (instead of your equipment) and you'll need to replace the
If your home takes a direct "strike" -- well,
you probably won't have a thing to worry about--literally! (If you catch my drift.)