The Value of a UPS

I recently bought a new UPS for my home Mac Pro.  I also have a small UPS hooked up to my primary router & cable modem so I’ll still have connectivity during a power outage.  Fortunately, I don’t live in an area where we have frequent power outages.  What few people realize is that power outages are only part of the reason to invest in a UPS.

Don’t get me wrong, power outages can be very harmful to your computer, especially the hard drives.  A computer *needs* to go through the proper shutdown sequence in order to prevent harming the computer components & to preserve your hard drive’s integrity.  I know some people who get impatient & just hold the power button down to force a power-off.  This is awful practice, is no different than a power outage, & should only be used as a last resort.  And yes, I’ve told many people that.  So a UPS obviously provides the benefit of keeping a computer powered on for a limited time if the power goes out.  If the battery reserve of the UPS runs too low before the power comes back on, the UPS can tell the computer to power itself off cleanly to prevent a hard shutdown.

Another benefit of a UPS is that most common UPS’s can help “clean” the power as it comes to your computer through a feature called Automatic Voltage Regulation (AVR).  What this does is helps correct minor fluctuations in the power feed coming to your computer, such as over-voltages or brownouts.  If you’re not sure of the power quality in your home, or if you think it may be less than ideal, get a UPS with AVR.  It’s a small additional cost to protect your equipment.

UPS systems these days are a lot more affordable than they were 10 years ago.  I remember looking & seeing them in the $500 range.  The one I recently bought for my Mac Pro workstation cost me $150 from  I bought a Cyberpower CP1285AVRLCD that provides 750W of total battery power.  That’s overkill for my setup, but I wanted to leave room for more appliances should I decide to plug them in later.  The UPS I have powering my router & cable modem is an APC Back-UPS CS 350, which is an older model that was given to me.  It doesn’t have any of the latest features such as AVR, but it will keep my router & cable modem running easily for an hour on battery power.

Another common problem most users face when trying to choose a UPS is “How do I know how much power I need??”.  This can be a daunting task for anyone who isn’t familiar with how much power their computer & peripherals use.  APC has a good UPS calculator that can show you approximately how much power your system draws by picking which components you have.

However, I don’t recommend buying APC.  In this blogger’s opinion, they’re overpriced.  For a long time, they were the top name in UPS & power protection for anything electronic & over time they became a bit monopolistic in their pricing structure when compared to the features offered.  Thankfully, CyberPower is the new up & coming player in that game & is earning a lot of respect in the IT community.  You can get much more UPS for your dollar if you buy CyberPower.  On top of that, the UPS management software that comes with CyberPower UPS’s is much better than APC’s in my experience.  On OS X systems, you don’t even need to install anything, as OS X can talk to the UPS natively.  To anyone who’s ever tried to set up APC’s PowerChute software, I’m sure they can appreciate keeping things transparent on the software side.

So bottom line is (if you skimmed through the post), get a UPS for your home PC’s, & make sure it’s a CyberPower UPS.