Protect against storm spikes and surges

JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin
JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin

I expect this is a familiar sound to you by now.Boom. Rumble rumble rumble. Boom. Rumble rumble. BOOM!!!

Yes, the inevitable thunder and accompanying lightning strikes at this time of year. They can play havoc with electrical systems, causing spikes and power cuts all over the place.

So how does that affect your computer exactly and what can you do to stop it?

Let’s look at power spikes. These can happen at any time, not just during a storm. They can really mess around with computers and other electrical equipment. Lightning related spikes (or surges) can be really devastating. For instance, I have seen one PC with blown USB ports, while another time I witnessed an ADSL gateway die because it was connected to an unprotected phone line.

It is not always practical to switch everything off and disconnect it from the mains, so to prevent your precious (because let’s face it, it is precious) equipment from being damaged, you should use a surge protector. Make sure you get one with line in and line out sockets, so you can protect the phone line going into your router as well as the power supply.

If the worst happens, your surge protector may end up a melted lump of metal and plastic, but your equipment will be safe.

Surge protecting equipment is one thing, but what about those annoying power cuts? We have had a lot recently, what with lightning storms and road works combined. Computers suffer especially during power cuts. It is not just the inconvenience of losing a document that you have been working on and forgotten to save. It is the danger that your hard disk may have been reading and writing when the power goes off. This can (and does) lead to corrupt files on the disk and in the case of system files (those bits that are part of the operating system) it can mean your PC stops booting up.

To avoid losing data or facing a computer in need of a repair, you can use a UPS. No, not a delivery company, but an uninterruptible power supply. It is basically a massive battery on steroids which powers your important equipment to stop the lights going out. For short outages, you can simply carry on working, but for longer outages a UPS will give you enough time to save your work and shut down your computer properly. Thus avoiding those moments of terror when you realise your time critical report has been lost and your computer has a lovely blue screen of death when you switch it back on.

You can get a good UPS with surge protection for under £100 and the investment is well worth it.

Alan Stainer