UPS and power infrastructure for the home office

Over the years, I’ve had several different server setups. Now though, I have pretty much settled into a specific configuration that works well. I have a couple cheap/simple “servers” for professional development at home, and I have my main PC that I use for programming and for working-from-home.

I live in an area that is prone to hurricanes and tropical storms. So, I have some preps in place for small, medium, and large emergencies. I wrote about that here.

One thing in particular that I have not been happy with, was my battery-backup, or Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS). I had a little one for my main PC, monitors, and router – but that would only buy me a few minutes.

If you are not familiar, you plug your equipment into a UPS and it switches to battery power immediately when you lose street power. It also typically has a power conditioner which makes the electricity steady with no surges or drops. A small UPS will often just give you 5-10 minutes of battery backup. You can run software on your PC to monitor this, and gracefully shut down your computer before the battery runs out of juice.

So, as I was cleaning up and getting rid of old gear, I ran across my old UPS’s from my old server rack. These are pretty big and I have two of them. So, I decided to try to use those for my office as battery backup, and use the small one specifically for my NAS (more on that, below).

The main UPS’:
This is where I have two CyberPower CPS1500AVR’s. Perhaps the biggest problem is the weight. These weigh 58 lbs each! That may not sound like a lot, but it’s a heavy, dead weight for such an awkward size. The devices themselves are smooth rectangles, so there is no easy place to grab them – and the center of gravity is spread out. Again, they are just awkward and heavy to carry, and too top-heavy to stand up on carpet. So, I entertained many options but decided to get one travel case for them.

When rack-mounted, each unit takes up 2U of space. To spread out the weight some, I got a 6U case which can roll and has a handle, and I got 2 rack-mount power strips too – more on that in a minute.

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So, this weights 116lbs plus a few pounds for the case itself. However, with wheels, it easily rolls – and with a case that has handles, I can maneuver it. It’s doable for one person, and easy if have you two people. Having handles and places to grab, make all the difference.

Next, I would’ve liked to mount them: UPS, strip, UPS strip, but the UPS sticks down too far in the case so I could only use a 1U at the very bottom… so I decided to mount them like this  which keeps the weight in the center, versus being top-heavy:

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Obviously the top power strip extends the top UPS and the bottom power strip extends the bottom UPS. Similarly, I have TWO long power bars that I have double-sided-tape stuck to the underside of my desk.

power bar

One power bar is connected to each UPS. Meaning, stuck to the under side of my desk, I have two of these power bars, who get their power from different sources – the two UPS’. I then have an additional “regular” power strip plugged into those, and I tried to even out the load between the two. How do you know how much load is on the UPS? Luckily, there is a little indicator on the front panel (notice the “Load” indicator):

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and also in the software:

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That’s pretty much it for the primary setup. In case I’m not here, I also have a setting to shutdown my primary computer when there is only 5 minutes of battery time left – that is the lowest setting, for some reason.

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I’m using a combination of the PowerPanel Personal Edition and the Business Edition because, for some reason, in the year 2015 – they don’t support the concept of being able to connect to TWO UPS’s! So, the Person Edition controls the first UPS and the Business Edition controls the second.

OK, so what is the bottom line? This setup should give me 3-4 hours of battery time on my main computer and it should be pretty much automatic.

The small UPS:
The big UPS setup above covers my main computer, the monitors, and my hyper-v machines. I still have my NAS, hub, router, and phone that need power. So, I have this smaller “desktop” UPS (a CyberPower 1500AVRLCD). What I was hoping for was that I could plug the USB cable from the UPS to my NAS and it would recognize it…. and voila, it does!

When the UPS is unplugged from the wall, and running on battery:

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then, when the UPS is plugged in and being fed by street power:

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Even better, I can click that gear icon and have the NAS shutdown when the UPS is getting down to it’s last 10% of battery for example.

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Also, on the front of the UPS, it has good status as well:

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Bottom line:
What’s the point of this whole thing? Well, instead of trying to sell the UPS’s (shipping costs would be insane), I thought I could use them still. At this point, I should have 3-4 hours of battery backup for my main setup, and 60-70 minutes for my NAS, phone, and router. If I power down the NAS, then I would obviously get a lot more run-time for the phone and router too.

The first major thing is – just cutting the power to computer equipment is very bad. Operating systems where likely in the middle of doing a write to disk, which will be lost. Or, there was a queue or a cache of writes that are lost. Plus, the harsh cut of electricity can also potentially push some hardware over the edge. Perhaps you had a hard drive that was on the verge of failing – many times, a hard cut of power (and the small spike just before) is enough to make the hardware fail.

When I have a power outage where I live, it always seems to be less than an hour. So, in those cases, none of my computer equipment would need to go down. More importantly, none of my computer equipment would have a sharp power down.

In addition, I now have a way to store, handle, and transport the UPS’s. Since I spent some time getting all of this set up this weekend, I thought I’d write down what I did. Do you have a UPS in your office? Do you have any recommendations of how to better set this up?

Posted in Computers and Internet, General, Infrastructure, Uncategorized

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