Power Protection

July 1996

COMPUTER SECURITY GUIDE

Power Protection

Line conditioners and surge suppressors maintain steady electricity.

Mother Nature is capable of wreaking as much havoc on computer networks as hackers and cyberbandits can. Lightning, heat, humidity and extreme cold can place mission-critical data systems in jeopardy. A variety of power-protection devices are available to regulate electrical current and help ensure the reliability of systems.

Sudden increases in electrical line current-known as voltage spikes-are common during high-usage periods, such as heat waves and blizzards, or during electrical thunderstorms. An unexpected current change can cause computers and communications equipment to malfunction.

Spikes can be easily prevented with isolation devices known as surge suppressors, which filter line current within certain frequency ranges. The units, from companies such as SL Waber and Tripp Lite, plug directly into wall or floor outlets.

Another common power problem is voltage fluctuation, which can be prevented with electrical line conditioners that ensure an even flow of power. If electricity is suddenly cut, these battery-generated devices immediately kick in with secondary power.

UPS (uninterruptable power supply) products provide backup power for about 15 minutes-allowing workers time to save data and safely shut down their systems. These devices, from companies such as American Power Conversion, Best Power and Exide Electronics, are used throughout government. The Federal Aviation Administration, for instance, has installed UPS equipment in 26 regional centers and the Air Force uses electrical line conditioners to protect command-and-control systems.

UPS devices enable meteorologists at the National Weather Service to continue recording real-time satellite images during blackouts and brownouts.

And the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration uses UPS equipment aboard research ships, where electricity can be lost when vessels switch between dockside utility power and sea-going generator power.

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