26 March, 2011
I was at a local newsagency the other day – it was a Saturday morning and they were flat out with customers cued at the counter 4 deep. While I was waiting to be served all of a sudden there seemed to be an extended pause in proceedings where the people behind the counter just stopped working and a frustrated look overtook their expressions. “Bloody computers” was the exclamation and with that the guy that was serving me grabbed a close by calculator and started adding up my purchase. He then manually opened the till and gave me my change. I had to ask what had just happened to which he promptly replied “arrh these mongrel computers have crashed again”. I asked how often that happened and was told that “it has been happening 4 or 5 times a day for the last couple of years”. As an IT specialist I am constantly amazed at how often I hear these sorts of stories and appalled at how unnecessary this disruption is. I almost have to pinch myself and ask – is this really the year 2011? So what is going wrong here? In some of these cases the PC’s are not even hooked to the Internet at all so often we can totally rule out viruses and spyware being responsible for the crashes and locking. In the case above it was simply due to the lack of a UPS (uninterruptable power supply). At around $200 each a UPS will filter the power to a computer eliminating spikes, surges and brownouts – which happens a lot in Central Queensland. On the other hand a power board/surge protector which can cost up to $100 will do nothing of the sort – in fact they are so useless in this respect that the money would be just as well spent on a good night out on the town! The computers at this newsagency had never been on a UPS and had coped multiple power surges and spikes which resulted in their hardware components becoming faulty. This still allowed them to start and run for most of the day – with the occasional random crash or lock up. This situation can only then be fixed with replacement of the major internal components – it has nothing to do with software, viruses or the way that the users are operating them. What is perplexing to me is that in so many of these situations the users become ‘conditioned’ to this behaviour and begin to accept it as ‘normal’. I can understand that in a home situation often the user can afford to get up and walk away to make a coffee or do something else while the computer restarts but in the case of businesses and especially with point of sale it is a disruption that is costing money – since the PC has a ‘captive audience’ and you are often left staring at the screen waiting for it to become useable again. Will a UPS fix one of these computers – absolutely not! Repair or replacement is needed and a UPS should be put in place with the new PC or repaired PC from the very start. Kerr Solutions is at 128 Musgrave Street & is contactable on 49 222 400.