GENERAL - The Problem with Power : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

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Title: The Problem with Power

Story Filed: Monday, May 08, 2000 5:09 PM EST

Acrra (Accra Mail, May 8, 2000) - There are two unfortunate realities of the electronic age; the utility simply cannot provide the clean, consistent power demanded by sensitive electronics, and the customer is ultimately responsible for the health and safe operation of his equipment.

A study by IBM has shown that a typical computer is subject to more than 120 power problems per month. The effects of power problems range from the subtle keyboard lockups, hardware degradation to the dramatic - complete data loss or burnt motherboards.

According to a survey by the Yankee Group, almost half of the corporations researched put their downtime costs upwards of US$1,000 per hour, with nine percent estimating costs up to or more than US$50,000 per hour. Even though there are no exact figures on Ghanaian corporations yet, it is no doubt they are rocketing.

Clearly, businesses are becoming more and more reliant, on a utility power supply that is pushed beyond its capacity. Despite advances in the capabilities of modern personal computers, a momentary power outage is still all it takes to lose your data.

More dangerous is the loss of previously written files, or even an entire hard disk, which can occur should a power problem strike, while your computer is saving a file. Network file servers constantly writing to disk are particularly susceptible. Unfortunately the situation won't be getting better anytime soon.

It takes approximately a decade to get a new power plant on-line, and concerns about nuclear power and fossil fuels have stifled the construction of new generating facilities, In the United States, for instance spending on utilities has dropped from 2.3% of the Gross National Product in the 1960s to less than 1% today. Sadly, utilities in Ghana are woefully inadequate hence the present focus of the government in rural utility development where technological advancement is irrelevant.

In certain areas of Europe the capacity issue is even more acute, as nuclear power plants which had been supplying power are closed because of safety and modernization concerns.

It has been said that there are two types of computer users: those who have lost data because of a power problem, and those who are going to. Over the past few years, a new class has been created. Those who have recognised the need for protection and taken steps to ensure that they are prepared for the inevitable.


Surges, spikes, blackouts and brownouts.... What really happens to your computer when it experiences an 'out of bounds' power anomaly?' We'll use a nearby lightning strike as an example, although it is just one of countless problems that can strike your system. Lightning strikes a nearby transformer. If the surge is powerful enough, it travels instantaneously through wiring, network, serial and phone lines and more, with the electrical equivalent force of tidal wave. The surge travels into your computer via the outlet or network data lines. The first casualty is usually a modem or motherboard. Chips go next, and data is lost.

The utility responds to overvoltages by disconnecting the grid. This creates brownouts and blackouts. If the voltage drop is low enough, or blackouts, the hard disk may crash, destroying the data stored on the disk. In all cases work-in-process stored in cache is instantly lost. In the worst case, password protection on the hard drive can be jumbled, or the file allocation table may be upset, rendering the hard disk useless.


Power failure/Surge: 45.3%

Storm Damage: 9.4%

Fire or explosion: 8.2%

Hardware/software error: 8.2%

Flood and water damage: 6.7%

Earthquake: 5.5%

Network outage: 4.5%

Human error/sabotage: 3.2%

HVAC failure: 2.3%

Others: 6.7%

Source: Contingency Planning.

Copyright ) 2000 Accra Mail. Distributed via Africa News Online.


-- (, May 08, 2000


There is a new industry emerging called "distributed power". Companies like Ballard Power and Plug Power are players. They are developing residential fuel cell appliances that can supply electic power to a home using fuels such as natural gas.

-- K (, May 08, 2000.

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