Power Surges: Don’t Let Your Computer (and your DATA) Be Electrocuted

electricity-iStock_000004998273XSmall.jpgIngram Micro, a technology reseller for computer consultants and others who sell computer equipment, told me about a new line of surge protectors they released.
When I received the information I thought, how simple and silly…a surge protector. You can buy these things from Radio Shack, Home Depot, Staples…just about anywhere.
However, after thinking about it, I wondered, how many computers go down and data is lost due to power surges? One of the simplest ways to protect oneself is through a surge protector. I learned further that all surge protectors are not the same – some are better than others.
I asked an Ingram Micro representative a few questions.
Why do power surges occur?
A power surge is a boost or spike in the electric voltage occurs within a power line. This boost in electrical energy increases the current flowing to your AC wall outlet. A number of different things can cause this to happen.

The most typical power surge/spikes sources include:

  • Faulty wiring
  • Utility equipment problems (power grid switching)
  • Downed power lines
  • Failed electrical transformers
  • Equipment with variable demands for power, such as a refrigerator

A familiar cause of power surges and the most powerful is lightning. Lightning strikes cause dramatic surges that are carried through power lines, run along poles, and enter into electrical systems within buildings. Lightning strikes (direct or indirect) can boost electrical pressure by millions of volts and cause power interruptions and extensive equipment and data damage.
More common surge causes involve the operation of high power electrical devices that require larger amounts of energy to turn off and on (referred to as switching). These switching surges are much less intense than lightning but can be powerful enough to damage electronic components because they occur on a consistent basis within the electrical system of a building.
Power surges enter an office or home environment through several paths. For example, electrical surges caused by lightning, enter the home through cable TV/satellite dish cables, through the incoming telephone lines, or through the incoming electrical service line. Adequate power protection is vital to ensure that expensive data and electronic equipment is not permanently damaged.
Are all surge protectors the same?
Not all Surge protectors are created equal. V7 (Ingram Micro’s house brand) makes surge protectors in partnership with one of the top manufacturers in the world to provide the highest quality and value for our customers. Our surge protectors are manufactured with RoHS compliancy, certified by UL, come with a Connected Equipment Assurance and are backed by a lifetime warranty. Durable and strictly tested, V7 Surge protectors provide the most essential features required by demanding users. These include surge protected AC outlets, widely-spaced transformer outlets, EMI/RFI filtering, phone/fax (RJ11), coaxial (RJ45) connection protection, and outlet safety covers. V7 Surge protectors offer unsurpassed power protection and peace of mind. Safeguard your home/office appliances, electronics and connected devices with reliable V7 surge protection.
If all surge protectors aren’t the same, then what are the traits consumers should look for in a surge protector?
Here are some things to look for when considering a surge protector:

  • Response time – A response time or rating of 10 nanoseconds or less. The response time is the duration it takes for the suppressor to react to a surge.
  • Energy Absorption – Look for a surge protector provides energy dissipation that can absorb a minimum of 400 joules. The joule rating tells you how much energy the surge protector can absorb before it stops working. A higher rating indicates greater surge protection.
  • Failure Indicator Light – A failure indicator light that tells you when the suppressor is defective and is not working properly.
  • Ground Indicator Light – A ground indicator light shows that the ground line is intact and is able to offer protection.
  • Circuit Breaker – A circuit breaker, one that stops the flow of electricity when there is overloading too. Overloading problems are distinct from surges or spikes.
  • Outlets – Select a surge protector that provides complete protection and has inputs for the types of devices you need to protect. Examples include: telephone, cable, electronics, switches, computers, as well as lights and kitchen appliances.
  • EMI and RFI Filters – Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) and Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) are caused due the effect of electromagnetic energy and radio-frequency electromagnetic radiation. For EMI/RFI ranges, the wider the frequency range (kHz to MHz), the greater the noise reduction in decibels (dB) across that frequency range.
  • Transformer -sized Outlets – It is useful to have one or several wide-space outlets that can accommodate the larger transformer plugs without covering adjacent outlets – rendering them unusable. (Devices like printers, scanners, external cable modems, and routers have the large transformer plugs.)
  • Compliance – A UL (Underwriters Laboratory) compliance stamp. Look for a suppressor that meets the UL 1449 specifications. There are three levels of protection: 330, 400 and 500. This number refers to the maximum voltage that the suppressor will allow to pass through the line. The lower the number, the better the protection.
  • Warranty – The surge protector should be backed up by a lifetime warranty, ensuring reliable performance and quality craftsmanship during the lifetime of the product.
  • Connected Equipment Assurance – Insurance that protects your connected equipment/device investment up to a designated dollar amount. This type of protection warrants against equipment damage or loss if the surge protector fails to perform under standard operating conditions.

Is there a difference between the way you’d set up an office with 25 computers vs. an office with only 5 computers, or should you just make sure all computers are connected to a surge protector?
All computers should have surge protection at a minimum. Data loss due to damage from surge is expensive and can create sever disruptions to businesses and home users.
What can happen to a device when a surge occurs and it is not plugged into a surge protector?
Voltage spikes or surges can be harmful to appliances and electrical devices in your home or office. Increased voltage beyond an appliance’s normal operating voltage range can cause a damaging electrical current within the appliance. Heat from this surge can damage electronic circuit boards and other electrical components. Smaller, more regular power surges can slowly damage electronic equipment, over time, and shorten the life of appliances and electronics.