Last week was a double whammy

Last week Storrington (where I live) suffered multiple power cuts. At the same time BT also had widespread broadband outages, which are still ongoing in parts of the country, including email issues too.

Monday, 1st August 2016, 4:02 pm
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 3:19 am
JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin

So let’s start with those power cuts. Power outages are rare, but they can seriously mess with your equipment. So too can power surges and spikes. I am not just talking about a little bit of file corruption here or there, which to be fair can be quite serious in itself (think PCs failing to boot up because important files are corrupt), but fried motherboards and the like. I remember the USB ports on one old PC stopped working completely after a power spike and last week I had a call about a file server that was refusing to come back online after the power cuts (thankfully we got that up and running again).

Power surges are easy to protect against. Just use a surge protector! They aren’t expensive and are worth the investment. However, they won’t keep things running during a power cut. For that you will need a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply), which is a great big battery that you plug your computer equipment into. It also gives you surge protection. They are more expensive to buy, but you can buy a decent UPS that will give you 15 to 20 minutes of uptime (depending on how much you have plugged into it) for well under £100. I would much rather pay that than have to worry about shelling out lots more to fix or replace an entire PC.

It is also important to make sure your data is backed up. In the event that the worst does happen, you want to know that you can recover your photos and important documents. There are many and various ways to backup your data. USB flash drives are cheap and getting bigger all the time, with 256 GB models within most people’s budgets. So finding backup media has never been easier.

You may be one of the millions of people that are using online storage. If you are well done, your data is already backed up (to a point) off site. There are still risks and I do not recommend putting all of your eggs into one basket, so it is still important to make your own backups every now and then.

Most people have got their broadband back this week, but I hear there are still some issues around the country and I have heard reports of people being unable to send or receive emails too. While there isn’t a lot you can do about the broadband (short of switching), there is something you can do about the email. Use a different provider. There are many well supported email services, like Gmail, Outlook and Yahoo. They are free to use, generally give you more storage space than your ISP and do not tie you down to your ISP either. Yes, if you use an email address supplied by your ISP and then decide to change your broadband provider, you will lose that email. You can set up forwards and the like so that your old email arrives at your new address. Your contacts may not even notice, but you can of course tell them to update their contacts list if you think it necessary.