Here in Michigan, this week brought us some incredibly windy weather, with lots of power flickering and outages in the area.  Sadly, we’ve already gotten several calls about “smoking electronic devices”, and dead electronics that won’t turn back on once the power comes back on.  We recently talked about purchasing safe chargers and batteries in another post, but since spring storms are just beginning, it’s worth talking about computer issues from an electricity point of view, in the hopes you can make some changes in your home before the next storm.

First and foremost, take a look at how your computer is plugged into the wall.  If your desktop, laptop, or monitor is plugged directly into the wall, you’re at the most risk.  A power flicker, surge in the power line or even lightning strike can fry your electronics and yield them useless.  Simply turning off the devices in a storm is not enough to protect them; a surge can some through the line at any point in time and hurt anything plugged into the wall, so you’re best to protect the more expensive investments by considering some of the following options:

  1. Get A Battery Backup For Your Computer.  This is our favorite recommendation, and one that’s saved MANY of our clients.  A low-cost battery backup is a great way to protect your computer against power surges.  We like APC Battery Backups like this one for most home and small business customers because they’re cheap and effective.  They protect your computer against the power fluctuation issues, and more importantly, when the power goes out, they have a battery inside that will run for a small amount of time to let you save what you’re working on and safely shut down the computer.  In the off-chance that problems still occur, buying a good brand name model often comes with a warranty that will compensate if something goes wrong (APC is three years, $75,000).  We couldn’t speak highly enough for devices like this.  We personally use several, and always keep them in stock for our customers.
  2. Speaking of Backup….Do You Have One?  It seems like I can never say this enough to my customers, because it always seems to rear it’s head at the most inconvenient times.  Stop what you’re doing right now, and think….if you lost power right now, and lost your computer, do you have a backup, and how recent is it?  If the answer you’re facing isn’t one you like, then it’s time to start making a backup now!  It’s easy….do it online through BackBlaze with our discount, or set up an external hard drive to backup like I detailed in this article.  There is simply no reason for having a backup of your computer.  Period.
  3. Check Your Power Strips & Surge Protectors.  Many of us already have several of these around the house, but it’s important to make sure we’re using good ones.  What’s a good one?  A power strip from a reputable company or brand name, and one that’s less than 5 years old.  Never rely on cheap power strips , or old yellowed ones when you’re dealing with electronics.  We like these….they’re cost effective, but from a good brand name.  Pro tip: write the date you are installing it on the back in a permanent marker….and if you see that date has passed, it’s time to recycle that surge protector.  Don’t forget travel ones too…I love this guy also from Belkin because he’s small, fits in my computer bag and is portable.
  4. Consider A Whole House Surge Protector.  If you’ve got a lot of electronics in your house, and want to consider adding some extra protection to your machine, consider having an electrician come install a whole house surge protector on your electric panel.  Items like these are fairly inexpensive, and can offer a great protection on all of the electronics in your home.  It’s a worthwhile investment if you’re a homeowner, or you want to protect your line before it comes into the rest of your home.

If you’ve read through these and think you’re ok, pat yourself on the back because you’re clearly in the minority.  For most of us, we need to rethink this, and make sure any expensive electronics are well protected (think TV’s and Game Systems too!), and that our computers are safe, backed up, and on a surge protector or battery backup.  As always, we’re here to help if you need it!