A UPS is a device that provides battery backup when the electrical power fails or drops to an unacceptable voltage level. Small UPS systems provide power for a few minutes; enough to power down the computer in an orderly manner, while larger systems have enough battery for several hours. In mission critical datacenters, UPS systems are used for just a few minutes until electrical generators take over.
UPS systems can be set up to alert file servers to shut down in an orderly manner when an outage has occurred, and the batteries are running out.
A surge protector filters out surges and spikes, and a voltage regulator maintains uniform voltage during a brownout, but a UPS keeps a computer running when there is no electrical power. UPS systems typically provide surge suppression and may provide voltage regulation.
A standby UPS, also called an "offline UPS," is the most common type of UPS found in a computer or office supply store. It draws current from the AC outlet and switches to battery within a few milliseconds after detecting a power failure.
The line interactive UPS "interacts" with the AC power line to smooth out the waveforms and correct the rise and fall of the voltage.
The online UPS is the most advanced and most costly UPS. The inverter is continuously providing clean power from the battery, and the computer equipment is never receiving power directly from the AC outlet. However, online units contain cooling fans, which do make noise and may require some location planning for the home user or small office.
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