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Top HOW TO BUY A ... UPS Power Plays



Many UPSes offer software to streamline the shutdown and monitoring of systems during a power problem. You may have to pay extra for this software and probably won't need it for your standalone PC, unless your system must be shut down automatically in your absence. UPS applications are most useful on a LAN, since they allow you to automatically turn off a group of machines and notify users of impending shutdowns.


How much equipment do you need to protect? Some UPS models have only enough power to maintain a single PC and its components, while others can support multiple computers and servers on a network. See You've Got the Power to determine your needs.


As with any insurance policy, you can pay a lot for a UPS-or you can pay a lot less. On the low end, a simple unit to protect one PC costs $90 to about $300. At the other extreme, you can pay $8,000 or more per UPS to protect an entire LAN.


Runtime is the length of time your UPS can keep your system up and running on battery power. Most manufacturers provide an estimate of how long a product will support a given energy requirement. You'll need a minimum of 5 and a maximum of 10 minutes' runtime for a standalone system, so you can shut down any files and programs that you are using. For a network, you may want more time.

Feeling lucky? If you're a gambler, chances are you haven't plunked down your hard-earned cash to get a UPS (uninterruptible power supply).

Let's hope your luck isn't about to run out. A study by IBM Corp. found that a typical PC is subject to more than 120 power problems per month. Some typical problems are brownouts or sags (short-term voltage decreases), blackouts (total power loss), spikes or impulses (dramatic voltage increases), surges (short-term voltage increases) and noise (electromagnetic interference and radio frequency interference).

Power difficulties can cause a wide range of problems, from simple hardware lockups or degradation to dramatic data loss and burnt-out system components. Other nightmares include destroyed cache information, jumbled password protection or lost file allocation tables (which renders the hard disk useless).

You might want a UPS that has external alarms and signals. If you have space constraints, think about the unit's size and weight. Finally, find out what kind of warranty is offered. Often, UPS warranties come with insurance that will repair or replace equipment damaged by a power problem.

You've Got the Power

Not all UPSes are created equal; nor do they provide equal power protection.You don't have to be a math wizard to figure your requirements. Here's how to do it:

1) List the equipment you want to protect, including monitors, terminals, external hard drives or CD-ROM drives, and other critical equipment.

2) Look at the back of each piece of equipment for voltage and amperage requirements. Multiply the volt and amp numbers to determine volt-amperes (VA) for each system component. (If your device lists power requirements in watts [W], multiply the watts by 1.4 to get VA.)

3) Add up all the VA numbers to get the total VA requirement.

4) Choose a UPS with a capacity equal to the total requirement number.

Let's look at a real example: a Gateway 2000 4DX-33V PC with a VGA monitor. Say this PC is rated at 120 volts and 2 amps (120 X 2 = 240). The monitor requires 115 volts and 2 amps (115 X 2 = 230). Adding the two together (240 + 230 = 470) shows that you need a UPS that can handle at least 470 VA.

Top HOW TO BUY A ... UPS Power Plays

Power Plays

Product: APC Back-UPS Series
Company: American Power Conversion Corp. 800-877-4080, 401-789-5735
PRICE: From $119
INPUT CAPACITY: 200 to 1250 VA
WARRANTY: 2 years and $25,000 equipment protection

Product: Best Power Patriot
Company: Best Power 800-356-5794, 608-565-7200
PRICE: From $129
SOFTWARE: Optional unattended shutdown for Windows 95 and 3.1x, $99
WARRANTY: 2 years and $25,000 equipment protection

Product: Deltec PowerRite Plus
Company: Deltec Electronics Corp. 800-854-2658, 619-291-4211
PRICE: From $119
SOFTWARE: Optional power management software: network, $99; standalone, $69
WARRANTY: 5 years prorated and $25,000 equipment protection

Product: Exide One-UPS series
Company: Exide Electronics Group 800-554-3448, 919-872-3020
PRICE: From $139
INPUT CAPACITY: 250 to 1200 VA
SOFTWARE: Optional unattended shutdown software, $189
WARRANTY: 2 years

Product: Tripp Lite BC Personal series
Company: Tripp Lite 312-755-5401, fax 312-644-6505
PRICE: From $119
WARRANTY: 2 years and $25,000 equipment protection

Purchase Plans

Make copies of this checklist and fill it out for each ups that you are considering.

Product Name _____________

Manufacturer _____________

Price _____________

Requirements _________ VA

Software ___Included ___Optional ___Not Available

Runtime ______ Minutes

Warranty ___1 Year ___2 Years ___Other

Equipment Protection $ _________

Audible Alarms and Signals ___Yes ___No

Size ___Height by ___Width by ___Depth

Weight ___Pounds

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