‘Tis the season: The lightning and storm season that is, again!

One of the first posts in the blog section was about….you guessed it: Lightning and how it affects your computer equipment. AWESOME Lightning Show! is here to re-read (or read for the first time).

Electronics hate bad power…their reaction to it can be from a flashing screen, to a dead, dead, dead primary computer, with all your data locked inside….

Consider how that just may affect your operations. Seriously, if you’re offline for say, one day, at best, maybe several days to a week or more, while your tech searches for parts to get you running again. Not a pleasant thought, is it? Like mom said “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Here’s some “inside baseball” on what can go wrong, and how it affects the time to return you to normal operations:

  • The power supply is dead. Symptoms are: Nada, nothing, no sound, no lights. Easy enough, right? If this is all it is, you’re lucky, mostly. Why mostly? If you have a generic power supply, it’s a matter of getting one locally, and about 20 minutes to pull the bad one, and replace it. Here’s the not so mostly: If you have a small form factor computer, or a really old HP tower, or some other model that has a very specific power supply, it will be a hunt online, and then the time to ship. The cost is also…generally outrageous. (protecting yourself sound better already?)
  • The motherboard is dead. Symptoms range from the same as the power supply ones (and therefore can give you the “oh, this won’t be so bad” feeling too soon….), to you get some fans in the power supply/case operating, but you never hear the drives spin up. If this is the case, it’s costly, moreso if you bought that Dell, Dude!, or Compaq, or HP, because many times, their motherboards are just special enough that you can’t find one when you need one right away. (side note: sometimes a generic built PC, for a little more upfront cost, or sometimes actually less if you need some higher end items inside you box). If the motherboard is a standard “form factor” then the next challenge is the “socket” type. That is the place where the actual central processing unit (CPU) is mounted on the motherboard. If the board is more than say 4-5 years old, it’s more difficult to get one of them off the shelf. If it’s a few years old, the prices are pretty good, and they are generally available. If it’s a very new system, then the boards are still the high end of the pricing spectrum. The dying of the motherboard injects an entirely new dynamic into the equation, too: You have to match it, to allow you to power up the system and get right back to work. While you can get one with the right socket to fit your CPU, the rest of the chips aren’t what Windows saw itself installed with, and it with require you to also re-install windows, your programs and your data. This, along with the availability of parts, will keep you from your work longer, and, just by it’s nature, cost you more. Ouch (psst! Get your battery back ups!!!!)
  • Dead network interface (the wired kind). The computer comes right on, but you cannot get to the internet is your symptom. The fix is to install a network interface card in a free slot. This is about a 20 minute fix, too. If this happens, the only concern is having an extra interface slot open inside the box. It’s generally easy to get one of these anywhere and get back to work. Name brand ones, link LinkSys and 3Com are best, since even Windows XP detects and installs the drivers in most all cases. It’s always best to note the make and model and version of the card, before it’s installed….and get to another computer and get the drivers. If not, and if Windows doesn’t load drivers, you usually have to take the card out and read those items (in fine print) and do it again)
  • The hard drive electronics and/or motor get whacked. On starting up, you get the manufacturer’s screen, and then some message about no bootable disk found. If you see this, you can cry, loud and long. This is bad, sort of….Really if this happens because your data and programs and operating system are toast. The upside is you have a free paper weight suitable for holding down a stack of paperback novels on the back porch is a mild wind storm. The “sort of” side is somewhat mitigated if you have your data backed up…somewhere besides on another partition of that hard drive. Recovery: Drives aren’t that expensive, but what does make it costly is starting from “bare metal” and putting on your operating system, configuring all the hardware again, downloading all the updates (I’ve seen Windows XP take most of an evening), then reinstalling all your programs (you have the disks, right?) and finally placing your data back in the file structure you had it in. What this means if you may have lost everything, and it will cost quite a bit to rebuild it all.

It can also nuke the CPU itself, which looks just like a dead motherboard in symptoms. Note above there are two sets of casualties that look alike to you and the technicians. How to tell the difference? It takes time in the field to know, and have the right methods to diagnose the problems.

Enough about the techs and their work in your crisis: What about you? Is this enough for you to make sure you’ve protected your equipment from massive power surges brought to Florida by the summer storm activity? I hope so. If not, have replacement cost funds (hardware and software) set aside for the worst case. If you can’t have that buffer financially, then reread AWESOME Lightning Show! once more for how to help you help to protect your business again and get you to the nearest store with battery backups!

Questions? I can certainly survey your systems to assess your readiness for storm season. Call me for an appoitnment.

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