Should you be running a UPS in your studio or office?

Today I installed a UPS in my office for the first time.  UPS stands for uninterpretable power supply and essentially it acts as a battery backup for your computer (or other electronics) should there be a power outage.  It had honestly never occurred to me that this is something you should think about, until something went very very wrong.  More on that in a bit…. but when I came to do a little research on the most popular UPS’ I was surprised as to how reasonably price they were.

Why would you want to have one of these then ?  Well to start with they will give you excellent surge protection.  Their main usage though would be to power your computer, monitors and server box or RAID system in the event of a power outage.  Quite how long they will power them for will depend on how much you spend on the UPS and how power hungry your equipment is.  For a reasonable price though you can power most photographer’s average office setup for between 30 minutes and 1.5 hours.  If you are working on an image in Photoshop, or cutting a movie in Final Cut you will have plenty of time after the power cut to save all your documents and safely shut down your system.  The other important event you want to safeguard yourself against is the damaging of files during a transfer from one place to another, this is where my “incident” comes in.

Those of you who own Drobos , and there’s a lot of photographers who do, will know that the absolute most vulnerable scenario is when a drive fails and you put in a new drive.  Or when one is full and you remove it to replace another on.  At this point your Drobo will go into data re-propagation mode.  This might last 48 hours or more depending on how big your drives are and during this time Drobo will sit there quietly chuntering away moving files all over the place to spread them out across all your drives and making them redundant.  It was during one of these scenarios that my power went out!  Now those of you who have read my previous post about how I back up my data will remember that I also have all my files stored off site on other drives but let me tell you that it still did nothing to reassure me at the time!  All I could think about was what if one of the other drives had died while in storage.  Now as it turns out, Drobo is more robust that I had imagined and a couple of days after the power came back on again, it’s lights indicated that it had succeeded to back everything up and I didn’t loose a single file.  Quite impressive.  But during those two days, there’s nothing else I could do but assume the worst and begin cloning all my offsite backup drives just in case.

If I had had a UPS then this scenario wouldn’t have happened so I began to do some research.  It turns out that every single person I asked, recommended the same brand of UPS. APC.  APC makes such a mind boggling array of different solutions that it took a little time to figure it all out.  UPS are all given a VA rating for the number of Volt Amps they can handle and you need to ensure that you will have enough for all the things you intend to plug into them.  General consensus seemed to be that 1000VA  was good enough for a computer, monitor and a Drobo.  If you wanted to be on the safe side and plan for things like bigger RAID systems and multiple monitors then it might be worth considering a 1300 or 1500VA solution.  APC makes a couple of good solutions.

There are also 1000VA versions of both of these models if you don’t feel like you’ll need more than a simple computer setup.  The SC1500 is one model higher than the BR model and the 2 main differences are that the SC will provide about 2 hours of battery power and the BR will only provide about half an hour.  Secondly the SC is a rack mountable form factor.  I decided to go with the SC version because I frequently do file transfers or uploads to FTP servers that take more than half an hour. For me the longer battery of the SC is good piece of mind.

Anyway so far so good.  I have only just set it up but I thought I’d bring these things to your attention because it really had never occurred to me before !  For my Whistler friends , I picked mine up from Burnt Stew Computers.  Talk to Scott there and he can order any UPS from APC.

Photo of author

Dan Carr

Founder of Shutter Muse, full time photographer and creative educator. Dan lives in the Canadian Yukon, but his wanderlust often sends him in search of images all around the world to meet the needs of clients and readers alike.

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