3 ways to survive a power outage in your business

By Luke Smits - Founder & Operations Manager
3 ways to survive a power outage in your business

With summer on the way and the first warmth of spring upon us, you’re probably planning your summer holiday instead of thinking about power outages.

But there are reports coming in from electricity companies, the government and the media, warning of the potential for large-scale blackouts at peak periods. Record population growth, longer, hotter summers and reduced base load electricity as we move to more sustainable energy options have left us more vulnerable to extended blackouts at times of high usage – like in summer.

There isn’t much you can do about long power outages (unless you can afford to install a generator). What you can do is reduce the effects these outages have on your computers and business continuity.

Here are three ways to survive a power outage in your business this summer.

1. Install an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS)

A UPS is basically a battery built into a power board that will help keep your computer running on battery power for a period of time during an outage.

The run time and cost of UPSs varies. They start at around $100 and can cost thousands of dollars. Of course, the higher the price, the better the quality and the longer the run time.

Keeping your computer running for a long period of time isn’t usually what you’re aiming for. Uninterruptible Power Supplies are most effective for when the power flicks off, then on, then off, then on. These power fluctuations are often what cause the most damage to your hardware. Having even a basic UPS will give you reasonable protection against this type of event, because it will allow you to gracefully shut down your computer if the outage persists for more than a few minutes.

A note on UPS Batteries

Like many things in life, the batteries that power a UPS don’t last forever and you’ll typically get between 2 and 4 years of good use out of them.

One thing that’s important to check when you’re choosing a UPS is the warranty. Commonly the UPS itself will come with a 2 or 3 year warranty, but the battery that powers it will only be covered under a 1 year warranty.

For this reason, we recommend purchasing a UPS solution with batteries that you can easily replace yourself. This means that when the batteries die, you can simply order some replacements, have them sent to you, and with the use of a screwdriver and a little common sense, you’ll be able to replace them without having to pay for a technician to come out and do it for you.

Cheap UPS brands often don’t have user replaceable batteries – so when the time comes, you will need to hire a technician to do it for you, or dispose of the entire unit. Once again, it’s a case of you get what you pay for – spending a little more now, will mean less investment later. We typically recommend (and sell) APC or Power Shield branded UPS devices. Power Shield is also Australian made (a great example of Australian manufacturing still at work).

2. Use your laptop with a mobile hotspot

If you’re a desktop user and the power goes out, it’s not feasible to keep it running on battery power for long. But this all changes if you work from a laptop.

Laptops are designed to run for hours on the battery inside and this might be enough to keep you going until the power comes back on.

The issue then, becomes being able to connect to the Internet. Because if the power goes out, the office Internet connection will also be down. No power, no modem. This is where using your mobile phone and its battery to connect to mobile data (via a personal hotspot for example) will help to keep you connected to your cloud systems.

This solution isn’t perfect. It relies on you having both your laptop and your mobile phone charged. But it’s a lot cheaper and easier than having a generator on stand by!

3. Protecting the network

For many, it’s pretty obvious that you need to protect business hardware like computers and a physical server if you have one. But what about your modem and network equipment?

If a power outage happens to damage a single computer, it probably wouldn’t cripple the entire business. The same can’t be said if the power surge was to damage your router and network equipment. Not having access to the Internet and business critical files could bring the entire office to a standstill.

Having a UPS and a good surge protector connected to your network equipment is inexpensive and could provide added runtime to your business in the event of a short power outage. It also provides protection from costly damage to your equipment. Think about it for a moment; if equipment is damaged and needs to be replaced, this only adds to the stress by extending business downtime.

Don’t wait for the power to go out. 

Talk to your IT service provider before summer really kicks in. They’ll be able to help you protect your most vital IT assets from unexpected power outages and come up with a business continuity plan for your business so you can keep working if a blackout does happen.

Protect your business from summer blackouts. It’s not an expensive endeavour when you consider what the costs to your business could be.

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