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Buying a UPS for a small office

I'd like to buy a UPS to save me from temporary power outages, tripped fuses, power surges etc.  What capacity would I need to sustain 3 computers, a router and monitor for, say, 30 minutes?

Any suggestions on features to look for, make or model? APC seem to have quite a good reputation and got a good review in a recent PC Pro magazine (which I can't find at the moment).
Andy Brice Send private email
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
 
 
I don't have any suggestions for make, model, or capacity, but I think a 'smart' one is essential. By 'smart', I mean something that can provide power logs, event logs, test logs, clean shutdown, etc. Obviously, the clean shutdown will probably protect only one computer unless there is something that can fire a script.
Ron Porter Send private email
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
 
 
30 minutes is a long time. Figure that a $100 UPS can power a standard computer and setup for about 10 minutes.

For example, APC's more expensive 1500VA model targeted at businesses costs $225 and will last 3.1 minutes at a full load of 865 watts.

You can extrapolate that and figure that 30 minutes would run you $2200 and be quite a bit bank of batteries, all of which will need to be replaced every 2-3 years.
Scott Send private email
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
 
 
We've used APC for many years at our software company. We currently run the 550 model on our desktops (good for about 10 minutes).  The cheaper 350 unit will give you just a couple of minutes so it's really meant to manage power surges/brown outs and the ability to do a quick shut down if the power goes out. We run the 750 on our server which will run for 20-30 minutes.

The APC software is very good, interfacing seamlessly with the Mac and Windows PC OS. Of particular benefit is that the server will auto shut down just before battery life gets critical.

APC UPS units run about 3-5 years before the battery needs replacement. We've bought very few batteries as replacements seem to always be cheaper. The newer smart models are advertised as 'green' but I have no idea the actual savings might be.
Keith DeLong Send private email
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
 
 
On reflection, 30 mins is probably way more than I need. 5 minutes to ride temporary blips and shut down cleanly for longer outages would probably be plenty.
Andy Brice Send private email
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
 
 
Forget a UPS.  Just do what I do:

Use only laptops for development and have an inline natural gas generator system that fires up automatically, 30 seconds after the power goes out =)
Jason Nichols Send private email
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
 
 
@Scott
>all of which will need to be replaced every 2-3 years.

I hadn't thought about battery replacement. Better figure that into the equation. Thanks.
Andy Brice Send private email
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
 
 
@Jason
>Use only laptops for development

Ugh. A solution is worse than the problem. I like my big screen and ergo keyboard, thanks!
Andy Brice Send private email
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
 
 
I was so in your boat, Andy, until I started using my laptop as a PC tower for a big screen monitor and USB keyboard/mouse combo.
Patrick McKenzie (Bingo Card Creator) Send private email
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
 
 
I use an APC 1250 VA UPS on 4 desktop computers, a KVM and a monitor.  It has enough standby power to do a controlled shutdown on all 4 computers.  It should last about 10 minutes or so with that load.
psant Send private email
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
 
 
> Use only laptops for development and have an inline natural gas generator system that fires up automatically, 30 seconds after the power goes out =)

If power grid capacity in the UK is going to be as short of peak demand as the media are speculating in the not too distant future it might not be too bad an idea.

Personally I tend to find laptops way too constraining for long term development use - our Q9550 boxes are *way* faster. That's nothing to do with displays and keyboards, but everything to do with faster CPUs, RAM and disks. Although I *can* do development on my notebook I usually remote onto one of our desktop/server boxes for entirely that reason.

Still, find us a notebook of comparable spec for £400 and we'll certainly see if it can hack it as a desktop replacement round here... ;)
Anna-Jayne Metcalfe Send private email
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
 
 
$£%^$££!

The tripped fuse today (which prompted this post) appears to have killed my Linux box. Hopefully just the power supply...
Andy Brice Send private email
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
 
 
OK, accepting a possible 5 minutes reduces the cost a lot. You could get the $100 range units for each of the 3 computers, or get the big one I mentioned before, which might be able to handle all 3, depending on how much juice they take.

I've found the batteries don't last as long as they are rated for, especially the replacements. Replacements can be gotten over the internet for $20-$30, plus a hefty charge for shipping. Some UPS units take one battery, others take two. Batteries cost more for higher capacities.

Do not buy Belkin UPS's, the batteries are replaceable but can not be replaced because of the way they are manufactured into a chassis that can not be disassembled.
Scott Send private email
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
 
 
Jason, you've got a gorgeous area, how do you afford it?
Anonymoose Send private email
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
 
 
I'm a bit late to the party.  :-) Here goes:

> UPS to save me from temporary power outages, ...
> What capacity would I need to sustain 3 computers, a router
> and monitor for, say, 30 minutes?

Most manufacturers have a online capacity calculator; APC's is at http://www.apc.com/tools/ups_selector/ . What I would recommend is to watch your PCs + peripherals with a wall-socket power meter (like Kill-A-Watt) connected during normal operation, and during boot. Take the largest of these numbers for all connected devices, add 10% for safety, and calculate how many VA you need.

You must *not* exceed the maximum power draw (VA) from the UPS while on standby power -- you risk the UPS tripping a fuse and all power being lost. Runtime is typically the lesser problem, the power draw from the UPS will often limit you first.

Think about the shutdown process. The easiest is to use UPS's with USB connectors, one UPS directly attached to each PC, and using the Windows built-in low battery warning / UPS service.

Another alternative is to have one networked 'UPS status server', and a proprietary networked UPS client installed on the other PCs. On Linux this is open source, on Windows I guess it is a for-pay addon from the UPS manufacturer, but I don't really know?

You can save some power draw, and hence use a smaller UPS and/or get longer runtime, by not putting your peripherals on UPS (just use a regular power strip, or a surge protector). Big flatscreen monitors can consume 50-100W, other devices are typically consuming less, but when added up the savings are real. If you take monitors / keyboard etc off the UPS, consider how you'll do a controlled shutdown during power loss, using the UPS monitoring service only, or by typing keyboard shortcuts blind...?

Note that you electrical bill could increase marginally -- online UPS's are at best around 95% efficient while on pass-through power.

Wikipedia has a nice article about the various UPS technologies -- offline, line-interactive and online --  at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uninterruptible_power_supply#Technologies . My advice, for a home office, don't sweat it. They are all 'good enough' if well made, the switch-mode power supplies in PCs are really not that picky with input power.

A couple of years ago, when I last worked with desktop UPS's, Opti-UPS made nice and well-made UPS's at a good (lower) price. APC is the 'safe bet'. Desktop UPS's are a low-volume product, so I would go for a manufacturer with good volume, to ensure that spare batteries etc are available in the future. I guess I would today buy APC for this reason.
Jesper Mortensen Send private email
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
 
 
Thanks Jesper!
Andy Brice Send private email
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
 
 
The one time I needed help from APC customer support, they treated me like a king.
Michael Rainey Send private email
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
 
 
With the cost of batteries now, forget about replacing your UPS batteries to try and cover the cost long term. Its actually cheaper in many cases to buy a brand new UPS when the battery goes out. At my old company our lab was a computer graveyard of UPS's, stacked up with dead batteries. So, I would not focus too much on the quality of your UPS. Consider buying new ones a recuring cost. Just my 2 cents.
Website Photo Gallery Guy Send private email
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
 
 
What are your experiences with batteries that they cost more than a new unit?

My 500VA UPS cost $130 and has a single 12V batter that has cost $15, $20, and $30 to replace (replaced it 3 times so far).

Altogether, I have spent $195.

If I bought a new UPS each time, it would have cost me $520 instead total.
Scott Send private email
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
 
 
I have had an APC UPS for many years and it has saved me several times when there have been power cuts.

I have never replaced the battery, and it still works fine. The "Replace Battery" light did come on for a while, but I did a few tests and it is working no problem, even after 5+ years.

The model is "Back-UPS RS 1000" and it is highly recommended.

As an aside, I did wonder if the battery replacement thing was just a scam to create an after-sales revenue stream.
Scorpio Send private email
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
 
 
I too have a APS Back-UPS RS 1000 and I'm very satisfied with it.

It powers my server, switch, DSL modem and a NAS box I think for more then 20 minutes in cases of power outage. I have that thing now for at least 3 years and it worked flawlessly.

It's great when you accidentally short circuit your main fuse :)
Torsten Uhlmann Send private email
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
 
 
@Scorpio

>As an aside, I did wonder if the battery replacement
> thing was just a scam to create an after-sales revenue stream.

No. It is a lucrative sales stream for the UPS vendors, and the battery prices seem unreasonable, no doubt. But batteries *do* get weaker with use, and all high-end datacenter UPS's need new batteries from time to time.

Most likely your 1000VA model is overkill for your single-PC load, so the capacity of the UPS unit is reduced now, but your needs are still covered.
Jesper Mortensen Send private email
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
 
 

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