The Power of Backup [Hardware]

June 25, 2011 by Gabe | [mmd] |

I’ve been using rudimentary Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) on my machines for several years. I picked up a few cheap-o UPS units at Costco and just hooked them up. They did their job, as long as I was home. You see, a cheap UPS is basically a big battery hooked up to a surge suppressor. It will protect your hardware and give you 30 minutes of extra power, but when the battery dies, it’s like ripping your computer plug out of the wall.

I recently replaced my old and cheap UPS with a Cyberpower CP1500AVRLCD UPS. It came highly rated on Amazon and wasn’t going to cost more than the iMac it would be connected to.

The Hardware

The Cyberpower unit is nice. It has a solid feel and an attractive design. Then again so did my cheap UPS unit. The big win for a more advanced unit is the direct integration with the Mac power management.

The Cyberpower ships with a USB cable that provides enhanced power management features when connected to a Mac (or PC with the provided software). OSX comes with integrated UPS management so no additional software is needed.

The Software

As shown in the screenshot, the UPS can tell the Mac when power has been lost. It can also tell the Mac how much back-up power remains. The Mac will respond appropriately and cleanly shutdown. The hard drives will spin down and applications will quit.

Screen Shot 20110625 154936


The Mac will even sense when power comes back on and power-up again.

Screen Shot 20110625 154917


Once the UPS is connected and configured, there is an additional menubar item visible that can be used to show the overall charge of the UPS. This status can be displayed as a percentage or as minutes left.



What’s on the UPS

The value of a UPS is to give you a bit extra time to save your work and properly shutdown the computer. If I have a power outage, I seriously doubt that my Internet connection will still be active. That means NO DROPBOX. So I need some quick backups of my data and to put it somewhere I can get it off. I have the following items connected to my UPS unit:

  1. My 27” iMac
  2. 8 port USB-2 hub
  3. WiebeTech USB DriveDock

With this setup, I have a few options to backup my data. I can quickly pop in a small SD card (built into the iMac) to archive a small project. I can also stick in an 8GB USB thumb-drive to get a larger set of files. Depending on where I plan to work, can also connect my iPad to sync files through iTunes. Finally, I can connect a bare 2TB drive to the DriveDock so I can perform a ChronoSync backup of everything.

In all likelihood, I’ll simply grab some working files with a USB thumb drive so I can continue working on my MacBook.