This article covers the five main electrical powers many encounter that can damage your equipment or degrade its lifespan.
Surges, spikes, blackouts and brownouts - what really happens to a computer when it experiences an out-of-bounds power anomaly? We'll use a nearby lightning strike as an example, although it is just one of countless problems that can strike a system.
Lightning strikes a nearby transformer. If the surge is powerful enough, it travels instantaneously through wiring, network, serial and phone lines and more, with the electrical equivalent force of a tidal wave. The surge travels into your computer via the outlet or phone lines. The first casualty is usually a modem or motherboard. Chips go next, and data is lost.
The utility company responds to over-voltages by disconnecting the grid. This creates brownouts and blackouts. If the voltage drops low enough, or blacks out, the hard disk may crash, destroying the data stored on the disk. In all cases, work-in-process stored in cache is instantly lost. In the worst case, password protection on the hard drive can be jumbled, or the file allocation table may be upset, rendering the hard disk useless.Back to Top
Also referred to as brownouts, sags are short term decreases in voltage levels. This is the most common power problem, accounting for 87% of all power disturbances according to a study by Bell Labs.
A blackout is a total loss of electrical power, typically short-term (hours to days).
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Also known as an impulse, a spike is an undesirable momentarily (usually a few milliseconds), dramatic increase in voltage (sometimes thousands of volts). Similar to the force of a tidal wave, power spikes can either reduce the life span of an electronic equipment or potentially damage destroy it or components within it.
A power surge is a short term increase in voltage. Unlike a power spike, a power surge typically has less voltages (usually 10% to 35% above the normal line voltage) and can last for a few milliseconds to several minutes. Surges can sometime be preceded or followed by power spikes.
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More technically referred to as electro-magnetic interference (EMI) and radio frequency interference (RFI), electrical noise disrupts the smooth sine wave one expects from utility power.
There are affordable solutions to easily protect your equipment and data against these hazardous electrical problems. Something as simple as a power surge may not seem detrimental and may go unnoticed until equipment fails. Solutions available range from a variety of sizes for different applications that offer varying levels of protection. Whether its for your home, small business, or enterprise environment, there are a variety of surge suppressors, UPS systems, and power distribution units (PDU) from many manufacturers to help you safeguard your equipment.Back to Top