Foundations of Computer Maintenance
There are countless computer issues that can wreak havoc at a moment’s notice. What I have learned over the years is that many of these issues can be traced back to only a handful of causes and totally prevented in most cases.
I will refer to these core solutions as the Foundations of Computer Maintenance. Immediately putting these Foundations into place will solve or completely prevent computer disasters. These Foundations are Power, Security and Data Backup.
In this 3 part series I will detail each of the Foundations and outline a good, better and best method that any user can implement to avoid common computer problems.
Part 1: Power
A power disturbance is a common occurrence that can result in many types of power related issues. In fact, power spikes, blackouts, brownouts can all cause major problem with your electronics, especially computers.
Basically, wall outlets are expected to provide a “consistent” flow of electricity. When conditions arise that raise are lower this flow it disrupts the physical power source of the computer. The actual electronic boards are loaded with transistors and capacitors that work on exact voltage value ranges. When these ranges are exceeded or not met for long periods of time it can lead to component failure. This failure can be gradual or immediate depending on the type of power flow disruption.
Surge protectors reduce the possibility of failure caused by a sudden high voltage event. These are the more common types of products that most people are familiar with, but which one do you buy?
First of all, I can tell you which ones you most certainly don’t want to rely on. Power strips. Many people have relied on power strips to protect their expensive and sometimes critical computer equipment only to find after a power surge that these products are insufficient. I can’t even tell you how many people over the years have told me they thought their power strip is a surge protector.
What you want is an actual surge protector with a high joule rating. The joule rating refers to the magnitude of power the device can minimize during a power spike by diverting the voltage to a component within the device itself. I recommend a minimum joule rating of 2000 joules.
I won’t go into the specifics of power “sags” or brownouts. These are basically extended periods of inconsistent voltage flow. These fluctuations can be resolved by using a device that can provide “conditioned” power or a voltage regulator. These devices virtually eliminate voltage fluctuations and this is beneficial over a long period of time.
The last power scenario that can cause problems is a total power loss. A sudden loss of power to a critical machine can have a negative chain effect. This can be prevented by using a battery backup. These devices are a surge protector that sits on top of battery and are referred to as a UPS or Uninterruptible Power Supply. The battery inside this device will give power to the systems long enough for the power to be restored or for the systems to be shut down properly. This time window normally ranges from 10 to 30 minutes.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you should replace these surge protecting devices at least every five years or after a major power surge event. Like anything else these devices wear out over time and become less effective after prolonged use.
As stated earlier I recommend a surge protector with a minimum joule rating of 2000 joules. These devices can be found at Home Depot and Lowe’s for under $30. And of course, on Amazon.com.
Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS) protect from power surges and have a battery backup component in the event of a total power loss. The key ratings you want to look for here are VA (Volt-Ampere) and W (Watts). I’d recommend at minimum 700VA/400W. These units can range around $70 – $90 and up.
To cover all power related issues you want to get a device that also has an AVR (Automatic Voltage Regulator). These units usually start at around $90 and go up into the several hundreds depending on the ratings. For most residential and small business purposes you can get a great unit for under $150.