The lowdown on UPS

What is it? For the purposes of this guide, a UPS, or uninterruptible power supply, is a hardware device placed between a power source and a computer or other electronic device. It primarily provides a limited amount of power to the computer in case of a blackout, but it also gives surge protection and protection against brownouts, spikes, sags, noise and other power problems.

Are there different types of UPSes? Yes. This guide lists the main types of UPSes, which are offline or standby, line-interactive and online.

Which is best for my needs? For protecting most small PCs and peripherals, an inexpensive offline UPS is fine. For high-end systems or those protecting mission-critical data, a line-interactive or online UPS is best.

Are there times when a UPS isn't necessary? If you live in an area where the power never goes out, where brownouts, surges and electromagnetic noise never occur, and the safety of your computer hardware and data isn't important to you, then you don't need a UPS. Otherwise, you do.

Must-know info? A recent Bell Labs study indicated that blackouts account for less than 5 percent of power disturbances. The other 95 percent consist of surges, noise, sags and brownouts. Equipment connected to utility power experiences an average of 128 such events each month.

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