Reliable power in the Yukon is fast becoming an oxymoronic concept. In fact, a steady stream of power outages is now more certain that a constant supply of clean electricity from Yukon Electrical.
For technology users that means trouble.
Here’s are some tips to help make sure your technology (and, hence, your productivity and your sanity) doesn’t go down with the crummy Yukon power grid.
In a nutshell, there are three things you should be doing to protect your precious electronics.
First, make sure all your kit is on one or more hefty power-cleaning battery backups.
Second, make sure all of your data is backed up securely.
Finally, be ready for the distinct possibility that Yukon Electrical will cook a device. By subscribing to an extended warranty plan for your hardware, you’ll be able to have it repaired or replaced.
Really, any technology user should be taking the steps above. But when you’re on the equivalent of a third-world power grid, these efforts become doubly important.
Okay, to start off here, when you’re electricity comes from a dirty, unreliable source, nothing is more important than a UPS — an “uninterruptible power supply”.
Also known as a battery backup, a UPS performs two duties. First, it cleans up your power. So when Yukon Electrical lovingly delivers brown outs and power spikes to you, your UPS will stop them from hitting your precious electronics.
When Yukon Electrical just drops the ball and your power goes out, a UPS contains a battery that will provide enough juice to keep you productive for a while.
I can’t emphasize how important a UPS is on a shoddy power grid like we have in the Yukon. Every electronics owner should have at least one protecting their devices.
Personally, I have four. I have two in my home office protecting my array of computer kit. I have another in the living room protecting my television and stereo. And I have a huge one hidden in the basement to make sure my ADSL and Wifi never go down.
Okay, one more time, just to make sure you get the message: if your electronics gear isn’t on a UPS in the Yukon, you’re crazy.
Next up is data backup.
Again, every computer user should be doing data backup. It’s just another one of those things that’s essential to make sure you protect yourself from a massive loss of productivity. And, speaking from a long-ago experience, data backup can also save you from experiencing severe emotional trauma.
These days, the most cost-effective method of backup is to an external hard drive. These are boxes that sit on your desktop and hook up to your computer and play the same role that the disk inside your computer plays.
I have three 500 GB hard drives protecting my data. I back up to them incrementally every night (so only that changes files for that day are backed up) and fully every weekend.
I currently rely on Leopard’s Time Machine on my Macs, and Acronis True Image for my PCs.
However, if Yukon Electrical cooks your computer, your desktop hard drive is probably on the power grill right beside it. So you need to get your data off site.
There are a slew of internet-based data backup providers. I use a combination of Apple’s .Mac service for my Macs and Mozy for my PCs. I’m pretty happy with both.
The downside to internet-based data backup, however, is that, well, it’s internet based. That means it’s very slow to backup large amounts of data and, with the ridiculous data caps imposed by Northwestel on your ADSL, you could end up paying through the nose to protect your most important information.
A good alternative is another form of network-based backup called Crash Plan, which enables you to securely back your data up to other computers, even ones you don’t own. I haven’t used it yet, so I can’t vouch for it, but it sounds good in concept.
Of course, backing up to physical media like an external hard drive or DVDs and then physically removing them from the power grid and even your home or office is that best option. But that requires a lot more rigour and habit than I’ve found most people (including myself) really have.
Finally, in my experience, Yukon Electrical will burn you eventually. Over the years I’ve lost all form of device to their electric power grill.
Despite all your best efforts to protect your kit at your own home or office, eventually you’ll have to visit a client, friend, or public facility that isn’t as well defended from the local power utility.
That’s when you need to be prepared for your device to cook. And that’s when you need to make sure that you’ve purchased an extended warranty on your equipment.
With my Macs, Apple’s extended AppleCare service has always been a must. Apple provides pretty much the best technical assistance in the industry, and AppleCare has paid for itself ten times over in the form of replaced hardware.
Another good option is the extended service plan from a retailer. Staples’ offerings are very valuable, and I highly recommend purchasing them when you shop there, especially for big ticket items you buy.
Take note, though, that no extended warranty in the world, will get your data back. And data is likewise excluded from all insurance plans.
So once your data is gone, there’s nothing that anybody, other than a counsellor, can do for you there.
We all know that the quality of the power grid in the Yukon drops precipitously during the coldest months. And it’s been anything but reliable over the summer.
Make sure you’re ready for the worst that Yukon Electrical has to throw at you this winter, and follow my advice.
I guarantee that, one cold, dark night when the lights go out and you can feel the winter creep in through your windows, you’ll thank me.
Originally published in the Yukon News on Friday, November 23, 2007.