Byte Me Article 211 – Power really hasn’t been with us

Power Really Hasn’t Been With Us

Will a severe tropical cyclone ever reach Rockhampton – never, was my reply just several weeks ago!  Think again!  As now we have all just experienced what we are unlikely to see again in Central Queensland during our lifetimes – I hope.  Who would have ever predicted the events of the last 10 days?

On Thursday the 19th Feb at 5pm I remember closing the doors of our shop and saying to all of the techs “we will probably still be working tomorrow – I’ll call you in the morning”.  We had turned off all of our computers and even shut down our servers but it wasn’t until I got home that night and starting watching the news that I realised how serious things were.

Early Friday morning one of my concerned techs rang and asked “Bruce do you really want me to come into work today?” – Now that’s what I call work dedication!  Of course, I told everyone to stay home as I did, to watch the events of the day unfold.

2015-02-28 Byte Me Artilce 211 - Cyclone Aftermath

Almost exactly a week later (Thursday the 26th at 3pm) the power was restored to our Musgrave Street service centre and we are now going flat out fixing the IT problems that Marcia created.  Even though there was little lightning associated with the cyclone there have been a host of other power related issues that have wreaked havoc.

During the day on Friday the 20th as the storm approached we witnessed the power turning off and then back on again around 8 times – before it finally stayed off.  This intermittent behaviour can result in corrupted databases in a business situation as well as fried ram or motherboards in any ‘still connected to power’ computers.

To add to the computer carnage above we are also seeing a lot of computers that have died when owners have tried to power them from standard domestic power generators.  Unfortunately the electricity that is produced by your average $300 to $1000 generator is not a true sine wave output in most cases.

There are dearer generators (often called Inverter Generators) that do produce a cleaner power output however even the cheaper ones here (sub $1000) still produce electricity that can be detrimental to sensitive electronic equipment such as computers.  This is where an uninterruptable power supply (UPS) dramatically helps the situation.

A UPS filters the power going to your PC and it can smooth out a lot of power problems before they get to the PC however in this case they often become the sacrificial lamb and can be destroyed by dirty power themselves (which is still better than frying the PC).

We also keep a range of UPS devices – called a double conversion UPS which are designed to work with generators and have the circuitry to protect both the PC as well as themselves.  These UPS devices produce a perfect sine wave output regardless of how ‘dirty’ the power being fed to them is, however their price precludes them from the reach of the average PC user.

Laptops are in a different category here as they can more easily tolerate dirty power and so far we have not seen any dead laptops from the effects of Marcia.  The important lesson is that regardless of the power protection you have the most fool proof action before any storm is to turn sensitive electronic devices completely off and disconnect them from the power outlet altogether.

If you think that you have a dead UPS, personal PC or server then you are welcome to call us about getting it sorted and keep in mind that many of these issues are also covered under insurance.

Luckily I can report that as of Friday the 27th Feb we once again have a status of ‘thunderbirds are go’ at our own shop and are still looking at customer PC’s the same day that they are brought to us! 

Future Byte Me topics can be emailed to [email protected] and Bruce is contactable at Kerr Solutions, 205 Musgrave Street or on 49 222 400.

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