When You Positively Absolutely Have to Protect You Computer
Sep 5, 2004
Pros: Clean power for up to ten minutes.
Cons: Subject of a recall.
The Bottom Line: Final analysis: the CS 500 does what it is supposed to doprotect my computer from harmful electrical events and provide a source of emergency power.
My axiom on blackout and or sporadic power outages is the same as hard drives: the question is not if it will happen, but when it will happen. And when it happens will your computer equipment be protected from those inevitable power spikes that accompany them? I have learned the hard way that the sensitive innards of my computer need to be protected from errant electrical interference, having had to replace two motherboards as a result of electrical spikes. Add to that the constant treat of data lose as a result of unplanned power outages, and it becomes clear that a robust, reliable, smart Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) is essential.
I have for years relied on the UPSs from American Power Conversion (APC). The company has been making UPS systems since 1984 and is the industry leader in UPS and related technologies. From very small home systems to very large multi-battery enterprise systems, APC has something for everyone. When I built a new power desktop for myself recently, I purchased a new APC Back-UPS CS 500 UPS.
What is a UPS?
A UPS is a hardware device that is placed between a power outlet or source, and your computer, peripherals and or printer. The UPS is designed to protect the computer and related equipment from power outages, surges, electrical noise and power spikes, by; 1). automatically switching power over to an internal battery whenever AC power is lost; 2). providing a source of clean regulated power whenever a noise is detected, and; 3). protecting the equipment attached to the UPS from spikes and surges.
Each UPS is rated as being able to handle a load (output) expressed in Volt/Amperes (VA), and watts (W). The level of equipment the UPS can handle depends on this rating. The CS 500 is designed to provide 500VA and 300W output. When planning which UPS to purchase for you needs, can must be taken to account for ALL the equipment you plan to attach to the batter backup outlets on the back of the UPS, by adding up the wattage each piece will draw. Failure to account for all of the equipment can result in overload, and thus inadequate protection for your equipment.
Product Description (APC):The Back-UPS CS provides professional-grade power protection for office and home office systems. Battery powered & surge protected power outlets, built-in phone/fax/modem line (DSL compatible) protection, safe system shutdown software with sophisticated power management features and pro-active audio-visual status indicators ensure office systems and their valuable data are protected from dangerous power surges, spikes and blackouts. Serial or USB connectivity gives users more flexibility making installation quicker and easier. Easy access to a hot-swappable, user-replaceable battery also makes servicing the Back-UPS CS hassle-free. These features along with its classic styling make the Back-UPS CS a perfect choice for protecting your important office and home office systems.
APC targets the Back-UPS CS 500 at home and or small office users. The Back-UPS CS 500 is a 500VA/300W UPS designed to provide short-term emergency (battery) power to a computer, monitor, and perhaps one essential peripheral in the event of a power outage or electrical noise. According to APC product literature, the Back-UPS CS 500 can provide up to 14 minutes at half load (150 watts), and approximately 2 minutes with a full load (300 watts). This should be enough time to enable you, or the system itself, to save your work and shutdown the attached computer in an orderly fashion.
On the front of the off-white, smallish Back-UPS CS 500, are four rectangle status lights which illuminate yellow or red when activated; they are: Online, On-Battery, Overload, and Replace Battery. Also on the front is a lone round gray switch for turning the unit on and off, as well as performing a self-test.
On the back panel the Back-UPS CS 500 is equipped with three battery-powered/surge protected outlets and three regular surge protected outlets on the back of the unit, with one of the three outlets on each side spaced to provide room for those ubiquitous transformer power blocks.
The Back-UPS CS 500 is equipped with a USB connection to the CS 500 to your computer in order to speak APC's proprietary Power Chute Personal Edition software, which is included free with the UPS. Power Chute helps to manage the functionality of the UPS and how it interacts with the computer. Power Chute displays data on the UPS, including current estimated load, current status; electric service line status information (monitors power line faults, power fluxes, and actual voltage). More importantly Power Chute can be configured to shut down your computer after a certain amount of time after the CS 500 goes on battery power.
Testing and Use
I have attached two Back-UPS CS 500s to two file servers with Pentium 4 3.06GHz processors powered by an Antec 300W power supplys, running Windows 2003 Server Enterprise Edition, mated with a Dell 19-inch monitor, tied together with a four-port KVM switch.
After charging the battery for 12 hours, I put them in place, connected the USBs and installed the PowerChute Personal Edition software. PowerChute initially indicated that I had about 35 minutes of battery backup time on both servers but I knew that could not correct; wishful thinking on the UPSs part but not correct. So in order to get a more accurate estimate of battery backup time, I simulated a power outage by unplugging both units from the wall outlet, and let the units their thing. The Back-UPS CS 500 can only keep the system on as long as it battery holds out, and through PowerChute it will dynamically update the estimated time remaining on the battery as it starts discharging.
As soon as the Back-UPS CS 500s were unplugged they went to battery power and I received a popup box on my screen that stated: your battery backup is now supplying battery power to your equipment. An (annoying but effective) audible alarm sounded and produces four beeps every 30 seconds. This alarm can be thankfully disabled via the software. After approximately 7:00 minutes, battery power had dropped to 25% and the computer went into hibernate mode. Bear in mind that the only electrical equipment I have attached to the Back-UPS CS 500 is the computers and one shared monitor.
My results were on-par with what APC has posted on their Website where they provide a runtime chart to help you decide what size UPS is best for your applications. The chart indicates that system comparable to mine with a 300W power supply should get about fourteen minutes of runtime with half a load; I think I qualify. Of course I didnt get quite that much; around ten minutes on both was the optimal.
APC has issued a recall for the Back-UPS CS 300 & 500, to wit:
APC Press Release:Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) maker American Power Conversion (APC) has recalled some of its Back-UPS CS systems after half a dozen of them melted. The recall potentially affects 2.1 million units sold worldwide -- about 900,000 of those are being used in the United States.
Specifically, two models have been recalled: the Back-UPS CS 350 and the Back-UPS CS 500, both in 120 and 230 volt capacities. Both models were made between November, 2000 and December, 2002. If you have one of these units, check the serial numbers. Units affected by the recall include those with the following serial number ranges:
AB0048 through AB0251 BB0104 through BB0251 JB0125 through JB0251
If the serial number ends in "R," it's not part of the recall, according to APC. Users whose power supplies have been recalled are encouraged to call 866.272.7359.
According to APC, the problem causing this recall results in the outer case of the UPS to melt. No one has been hurt by the problem, although it has caused minor property damage in three recorded incidents.
I have owned my two Back-UPS CS 500 for about a year I am happy to report that my UPS units are outside the recall parameters, and that I have not problems to report.
Conclusion To me a UPS is a must have, and the Back-UPS CS 500 is a good investment in my book. The average life of a UPS battery is approximately four years, and my ES 725 cost me $60.00 (I took advantage of APCs trade-up program). Since installing the Back-UPS CS 500, I have suffered through two blackout and three noise events, all of which could have seriously damaged the servers, or the components inside. So for me the two Back-UPS CS 500s have more then paid for themselves. How much is your data worth? And I run a small business from my home; my computers are on 24/7. Data production is paramount, and I cant afford the downtime associated with damaged equipment as a result of a power event. Purchasing the Back-UPS CS 500 just makes good business and personal sense. In the final analysis my Back-UPS CS 500 do what they are supposed to doprotect my computer from harmful electrical events and provide a stable source of emergency power. With enough power to support almost all of todays power-hungry computers, monitors and printers, Back-UPS CS 500 is the idea solution for home and small office users.
Battery-protected and surge-only outlets Data-line Surge Protection Lifetime data recovery warranty Power conditioning Audible Alarms Automatic restart of loads after UPS shutdown. Automatic self-test Battery replacement without tools LED status indicators Hot-swappable batteries Re-settable circuit breakers Transformer-block spaced outlets User-replaceable batteries Serial Connectivity USB Connectivity Includes software for unattended safe & graceful shutdown Includes USB cable, Velcro cord management straps & wall-mount template 2-year repair or replace warranty & Lifetime $50,000 Equipment Protection Policy
Watts: 300 Watts Volts: Amps 500VA Surge Energy Capacity: 365 Joules Outlets: 6 Nema 5-15R Outlets Data Line Protection: RJ11 Modem
The Back-UPS CS provides professional-grade power protection for office and home office systems. Battery powered & surge protected power outlets, built-in phone/fax/modem line (DSL compatible) protection, safe system shutdown software with sophisticated power management features and pro-active audio-visual status indicators ensure office systems and their valuable data are protected from dangerous power surges, spikes and blackouts. Serial or USB connectivity gives users more flexibility making installation quicker and easier. Easy access to a hot-swappable, user-replaceable battery also makes servicing the Back-UPS CS hassle-free. These features along with its classic styling make the Back-UPS CS a perfect choice for protecting your important office and home office systems.