This is the time of the year that we give and receive great gifts… and if you’re anywhere near the letters “B” and “H” in your Internet searches, you’ll probably be looking at electronics in some shape or form. Sadly, as great as all those electronic gadgets are, they tend to be hungry for power and you need to give some consideration to protecting them and all the information you cram into them. So, for your consideration, here is some gear to help you prepare for the inevitable storms that can wreak havoc on your electronics.
First up is an obvious thing, but sometimes those are the things we forget about until it’s too late: Batteries. Whether you need to power a radio, flashlight, camera, or GPS, you’ll need batteries. From the ubiquitous AA to small coin to large D-cells, grab a pair or a large multi-pack and keep your gear going when a storm hits or you’re taking a road trip to the grandparents’ home. If you tend to run through batteries quickly, consider rechargeables to save some money and lighten the load on the planet. But of course, there are plenty of other toys that take specialized batteries. We’ve got batteries for laptops, cameras, camcorders, and more. Pick a new battery to keep as a spare if the power goes out, replace one that may not last as long as it used to, or just have spares so you can quickly swap fresh for depleted and keep going without missing a beat.
Of course, if you have a lot of electronics that all need to be charged regularly (looking at you phones, tablets, and laptops), carrying spares for all of them can weigh you down—even on the off chance that you can even remove the battery at all. To keep multiple electronics going, you can pick up external portable battery packs. Available in a variety of capacities and form factors, you can choose the right pack for your needs. Personally, I keep a RAVPower Deluxe in my bag so I can throw a charge into my phone or tablet if I get stuck on a train or I’m traveling and my wife and daughter need to top off their gear, too. Multi-taskers can help as well, like E+Ready Emergency Weather Radio, Nitecore All-in-One Vehicle Gadget. A more beefy solution would be less portable but definitely more powerful: Power Stations. These will run TVs, desktop computers, even small refrigerators for extended periods and are often outfitted inverters with standard 110VAC 2- or 3-prong wall outlets.
Next, we move into protecting your info. As my wife waited for our Genius appointment one day, because her Mac was acting wonky, the lady next to us was quietly having a breakdown because she had just learned that they most likely wouldn’t be able to retrieve the thousands of photos she’d spent years borrowing, scanning, and cataloging from all branches of her family because she had never thought to back up her computer. When the computer failed catastrophically, it was all lost in an instant. Let’s all agree that none of us want to be that lady. External hard drives are an easy solution and can be as portable (or not) as you want them to be, and with capacities from 120GB all the way up to 70 TERAbytes, whether you’re just backing up a phone to keep your music and contacts or you’re backing up a home office, there’s a solution for you. I use a small solid-state drive that I use for a tablet, two phones, and three laptops. When I worked in an editing/production studio, we had a fully networked RAID rack system that allowed us to save everything from all the editing bays and computers to a central point, with universal office access to it all.
There is also a dizzying number of cloud server solutions that you can pay a regular fee to manage your files, or you can create your own personal cloud. Employing similar tech as the giant companies use, a personal cloud behaves exactly the same way, without the need to pay someone else. Dedicated systems work with all operating systems, can be connected to Wi-Fi routers, and even plugged into the Internet. Creating your own cloud and configuring it for wireless and Internet connectivity gives you the ability to upload, retrieve, and even stream your own files inside your home or from just about any web-enabled device, anywhere in the world. If you travel a lot, have kids, and need access to random movies or shows, or are at the grandparents’ and you want to show them ALL the pictures of the kids you’ve ever taken, you have access to them—plus, since it’s in your home or office, it is much more secure from hackers.
Another aspect of personal clouds is that, depending on the type of server you have and how it’s configured, if a major natural disaster occurs (think Hurricane Katrina or the Kincade Fire) you’d be able to pull the drives out of your system, throw them in a bag and be out the door in a few minutes with all your priceless photos, financial information, and other important documents and information intact and retrievable—even if your computers and phones don’t make it out.
Uninterruptible Power Supplies
When Super Storm Sandy hit New York, I was a production supervisor for a production and editing company, doing work for NBC-Universal. We had a spot that needed to get finished and delivered for a show that was airing the night after the storm. As power lines started to fall, the office lost power but, luckily, we had UPSes in every editing bay. Unlike power stations discussed above, UPSes are plugged in between your computer and the grid and offer near-instantaneous backup power to keep you going long enough to get everything saved and safely shut down. Many UPSes will have surge protection built in and resettable breakers, so that if there’s a sudden spike in the current coming into the building, the UPS will be able to absorb it before it feeds into your delicate computer, game console, or other essential equipment and protect them from damage; and there is usually at least one phone jack that will also protect your landline phone, as well.
For those of you wondering, our UPSes were rated for 10 minutes, and that gave the editor working on the spot enough time to save his cut to our network server, where we were able to put it on an external hard drive, which allowed our boss to finish the cut on his laptop. He then drove around for over an hour the next day to find anyplace with a Wi-Fi signal that allowed him to deliver the spot on time.
So there you have it. From keeping your gear charged and powered, to protecting your files and memories, to giving you enough time to save and shut down, there is a slew of solutions for life-proofing and emergency planning.
Did I leave something out? Do you have a solution I missed? Disagree with my list? Drop a comment below and we’ll discuss.