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Powerstrips Vs. Surge Protectors

Powerstrips Vs. Surge Protectors

Are your electronics plugged into power strips? With South Dakota winter winter rolling in, it is critical to understand the difference between a power strip and an actual surge protector. Here are some tips to make sure you have the right device to protect your computer from a power surge or brownout.

South Dakota Extreme Weather is Coming

We’ve been talking about winter weather on our blog recently, and for good reason. Not only is the Black Hills home to a wealth of breath-taking sights, but we're also home to what the National Lightning Detection Network considers a significant number of lightning strikes. On top of that, snow accumulation can lead to power outages and brownouts, which can do permanent harm to computer equipment, and even lead to data loss.

Will a Surge Protector Help?

Having a surge protector is a good idea; however, you need to understand its purpose. A surge protector's function is to protect your equipment from an unexpected surge of power. A power surge, if left unchecked, could damage your electronics and appliances, including, of course, your computers. A surge protector acts as a buffer to protect your electronics from voltage spikes.

The lifespan of surge protectors is not infinite; they need to be replaced every three to five years. However, if your location is subject to constant energy fluctuations, they can reduce your surge protector's efficiency. Being bombarded with voltage spikes, even small ones, can significantly reduce a surge protector's lifespan, causing it to fail when you need it the most. Here’s the thing—most surge protectors won’t tell you if they are actually capable of protecting your equipment. If your surge protector has already protected you from a power surge, you should replace it as, chances are, it will no longer have the resilience to protect you from the next one.

Finally, a surge protector is designed to protect your systems from being damaged by a power surge, not to help you keep running while you wait for the power to be restored or (in a worst-case scenario) to give you the time to have a controlled shutdown. For that, you need a UPS device.

How to Decide Which Surge Protector to Buy

Surge protection is measured in joules. Joules is a measurement of how much energy is released over some time. The average lightning strike releases about a billion joules of energy over a fraction of a second! When considering purchasing a surge protector, you need to know how many joules it can absorb before it fails. The more joules a device can absorb, the more expensive the surge protector will be. Things to consider when choosing which surge protector to buy are:

  • How prone your location is to voltage surges. South Dakota is prone to electrical storms and freezing weather, causing stress to the power grid.  
  • The value of the equipment you wish to protect. When you factor in your data, your computer has more value than its $1,000 price tag, and a $10 power strip may not be the best way to protect it.

Your Power Strip May Not be a Surge Protector

Here’s the other big problem.

Many people assume that a power strip and surge protectors are interchangeable. While most surge protectors can also operate as power stirps, all power strips aren't surge protectors. Power strips are designed to give you additional sockets to plug electronics in; they are multi-socket extension cords. While the power strip 2-pack you brought from your local grocery or home improvement store may say they're surge protectors, chances are they don't offer much more protection than plugging your computer directly into your outlet. 

If you are interested in a dedicated surge protector or even a power strip that offers sufficient surge protection, make sure it is rated at least 1000 joules. Ideally, you would want your surge protection device to be rated at 2000 joules or more if you're using it for office equipment such as your computer, printers, and routers.

Surge protection best practices:

  • Provide minimum protection of 1000 joules, but more is better
  • Have an indicator light which tells you if the surge protection is still active
  • Offer a warranty to replace equipment damaged if the surge protector fails.

Consider a UPS Device

As we mentioned earlier, if you need to keep your systems running at least temporarily during power instability, you will need a UPS device. An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) provides power during brown or blackouts, giving you time for an orderly shutdown if necessary. Newer generations of UPS use Lithium-ion batteries, which offer more significant savings and life span. Don’t expect most UPS systems to run your computer for very long—most only grant you a few extra minutes. There are higher-end UPS devices out there designed for keeping servers running, but the price tag goes up. It’s totally worth investing for your server, but spending that kind of money for each endpoint is cost prohibitive. 

On top of that, if a remote user’s power goes out, their modem and router will stop working. Even if a UPS is keeping their computer running for a little while, they will lose access to the Internet until power is restored.

Still, those extra few minutes will allow a user to save their documents and safely shut down to prevent data loss—something that could potentially be worth a lot.

Protect Your Technology

Power strips, surge protectors, and UPS devices offer ways to keep your equipment safe from unexpected power issues. As winter heads our way, now is the time to make sure your equipment is protected. KT Connections offers a wide range of services and solutions to not only help protect your business, but to help it to grow. Call 605-341-3873 today to schedule an appointment.

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