One day a couple of weeks ago I was working from home and decided after checking my email first thing I’d have a spot of breakfast. So after a quick rummage around for some bread, I put the toaster on and the power went off… 

Feck and biscuits. There’s a dodgy socket in the kitchen that occasionally throws a fit and trips out all the downstairs sockets. It’s not normally a problem but my email was running in a virtual machine which was running off an external hard drive. And what had just tripped out?

APC Back-UPS ES 700VAYep, the socket that the hard drive was connected to. Laptops are quite good at coping with power cuts due to their internal batteries, but virtual machines run in this way are not. After turning the power back on I ran the toaster off another socket, had some toast, then ran some checks and, fortunately, nothing was damaged.

The end result of this little incident though, was that I finally decided to buy a UPS or two for home (and for work). There are lots to choose from but I decided to go with an APC one for a couple of reasons.

The first is that we use APC devices at work and they’re pretty reliable and very easy to maintain and monitor. The second is because The Hanselman had just replaced all his UPS’s with APC ones and you can’t get a better recommendation than that.

Also, as a further bonus reason to get them, the one I picked, the APC Back-UPS ES 700VA (a model name that really rolls off the tongue), came out top in the PC Pro round up of UPS’s in May’s issue. Which was nice.

So I ordered a couple from Misco which arrived very quickly (less than a couple of days. I actually ordered another a week later and that came in less than 24 hours. I can highly recommend Misco). Anyhoo, they’re pretty chunky buggers weighing in at over 7kg, which mostly due to the battery. All you need to do on arrival is hook up the battery and plug it up to the mains to charge, which takes 16 hours on first use! 

In terms of what they have, well, there are 8 sockets, 4 of which are battery and surge protected whilst the other 4 are just surge protected. It also has more three ports on the side. Two are for surge protecting a phone line whilst the third is for connecting it up to your PC, using a special cable (which is supplied, but is expensive to replace, so don’t lose it!).

With that connected you can run the cheesy looking PowerChute software (which if you’re using Vista, you’ll have to go download since the version supplied was well out of date) which can be configured to monitor the battery life but also to shut down your PC when the battery gets low on juice. The free software isn’t much different from what you get to run the proper business APC UPS’s.

Overall, they’re nifty little devices. I’ve not had to use them in anger yet but I know they work since I’ve tested them by unplugging them from the mains. They start beeping and throwing up alerts until the power is reconnected, but at least now I know I can safely trip out the electrics whilst trying to make my breakfast!

By Paul

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