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What is an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS)?

What is a UPS and what does it do? Why is it important for businesses to have them? What are the risks and benefits? Get answers and learn how to choose which is right for your needs.
  • November 27, 2018

An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) is better known as a battery backup. Sudden loss or flickering of power is a main cause of damage to computers and other electronic equipment. If your power fails, or quickly turns off and back on due to voltage spikes, it could cause expensive losses and place your devices beyond repair.  

A UPS offers near-instantaneous protection against such occurrences where your main power supply fails or experiences voltage interruptions, hence a UPS's name. The UPS system features a backup battery contained inside a power strip with outlets for your equipment, providing a buffer against the voltage spikes that threaten to knock out the work you are doing and threaten your computer altogether.


Why Do You Need a UPS System?    

Laptop computers, when their batteries are fully charged, have a built-in battery backup. If your laptop is plugged into an outlet on a surge protection strip and the power goes off, your laptop is protected and continues to run on its battery backup — giving you the opportunity to save your work without fear of loss. Desktop computers don't have that ability because they don't have built-in batteries. If the voltage spikes or your surge protector fails when you are completing an important presentation or have multiple internet browser tabs open doing research, your work is gone.

The ability to save your work is one important reason to have a UPS battery backup. Another reason is to reduce the undue stress power surges have on electronic equipment. Unnecessary stress that components experience during the shut-down and startup process, especially sudden shut-downs when the power goes off, is a main cause of hardware failures.  This is why a UPS battery backup may offer more protection than a standard surge protector.

Even a small UPS unit offers protection by providing you with enough battery time to save your work and shut down your computer the correct way in the event of a power outage. Larger UPS units provide you with the battery backup to work right through power outages without loss of work time.

Those are just two reasons why you need a UPS system in your home. But what about businesses? No matter the size of business that you run, a UPS is an essential and invaluable add-on. From banks and hospitals to manufacturing companies, a UPS assists with storing and processing data even when standard electricity is unavailable. The UPS battery backup protects business devices from voltage surges and provides continuity of operations by switching on an instant power supply at the moment the power goes out and providing you with critical minutes to switch to a larger and more stable power supply like a generator.

APC Back-UPS Pro BR - UPS
UPS Types: Choosing the Right UPS for Your Needs    

To choose the right UPS design for your home or business, first you need to examine your needs. Do you want a UPS system to simply give you enough time to to shut down your equipment properly? Do you want a UPS with enough battery backup power to keep your computer and peripheral devices running for
a specific amount of time, allowing you to work through an extended power outage? After you make this decision and determine the amount of Minimum Volt-Amperes (VA) needed for your setup, you can start picking out a UPS unit.

There are three types of UPS designs.

Standby UPS (offline):   

This unit waits in a standby mode and simply charges its battery while your normal power source is working. When the main power drops off, the standby UPS mechanically switches to the battery backup. It takes about 20-100 milliseconds, which is within the tolerance threshold of most electronic devices.    

Line-Interactive UPS:

A line-interactive UPS unit is similar to the standby unit but includes a special transformer that better handles brownouts and power sags. Line-voltage issues, where the power dims but doesn't actually shut off, are handled well by these types of units. There is a small price increase between the standby and line-interactive unit.        

Double-conversion (online UPS):

This unit is the most expensive type of UPS and requires significant setup, including extra circuitry, because the online UPS unit completely isolates your electronic equipment from wall outlet power. There is absolutely no power interruption due to power outage or line-voltage issues because this UPS unit continually filters wall power through the battery system, essentially acting as a power firewall that stabilizes the electricity that your devices receive.

Unexpected shutdown can cause extensive damage to your computer's hardware, resulting in loss of data and catastrophic failure of your devices. If your home or business experiences power outage or line-voltage issues even just on occasion, it is important to think about adding a UPS unit to your set-up for extra protection. UPS units benefit your system by providing an uninterrupted power source during power surges, offering refined and filtered power supply, guaranteeing your operation's continuity and so much more. So ask yourself the questions posed in this article to determine whether your home or business needs a UPS in addition to or instead of a surge protector. But perhaps the real question is — can you take the risk of losing everything by not having one?


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