How to Keep Your Internet Up in a Panamanian Blackout

UPS with Modem and Router

UPS with Modem and Router

So now you have your precious electronics protected by surge protectors, but a fat lot of good that does for your entertainment needs when the lights go out and so do the modem and router.  Sometimes you just don’t feel like honing your conversational skills.  Or there’s nobody around to hone them on.

If you are like most of us, you have a laptop and it has a battery, so you could weather a few hours without electricity, no prob. But the modem doesn’t work without juice, and neither does the router.  And, again, most of us are internet addicted these days.  That’s when you’re really glad you bought a battery backup system, otherwise known as a UPS, or Uninterruptible Power Supply.

Originally people bought these babies so whatever file was open on their desktop would not go up in poof with no warning.  But nearly everybody uses laptops or tablets, and that’s not an issue.  But it IS an issue to be snatched without notice from the loving arms of Mother ISP.  As in, “Arrgh!  I was in the last 20 minutes of that movie!”

So, thank St. Cyber there is a fix, and my spoiled first world self has no need for even private tantrums on this subject.

Where to Get One

You can buy a UPS here in Panama.  Most of the major electronics stores will sell you one.  Of course, it will set you back a bit, but hey, they have to pay shipping too.  When I priced the units on, I found a range from $29 to over $1000, with most somewhere between about $50 and about $100.  And of serious interest to us expats, the shipping weight varied from about seven to over fifty pounds.  Either of those would elicit a fairly loud “ouch” at Mailboxes, Etc.

Hence, unless you are Daddy Warbucks, it’s a good idea to buy it locally, even though what’s on offer very likely won’t be one of the latest and greatest models.

What to Look For

Most of them have a number of outlets for you to plug in your toys. One thing you’ll want to check is how many of those outlets are ONLY surge suppression and not battery backup.  And when you actually get around to plugging in the modem and router, you’ll want to be sure to use the backup holes.  As an aside, which I’m  sure I don’t really need to mention, you won’t want to be plugging in things like your printer and using unnecessary power during the temporary crisis.

The idea here is to have your UPS keep your modem and router in business for a couple of hours.  So make sure the one you pick has enough power.

So How Much Power Do You Need?

Unfortunately, there are so many variables to take into account there is no magic formula to calculate this.  You could Google it, but the internet will give you a lot of contradictory information.  One reasonable thing to do is to check the modem and the router for how many watts they consume (probably somewhere around 30, combined) and then compare that against what the salesman says or any runtime chart you can find for whatever UPS you are considering.

Or, just rule-of-thumb it, and figure that if your UPS will carry a 50 watt load for an hour and half, you will probably get at least two hours for 30 watts.

And just to cover all the bases and not end on a cheerful note, please remember that unless your cable company’s remote location ALSO has a either a battery backup system or a generator, your UPS won’t do you any good.  If the patient is dead, life support doesn’t do any good.

Here’s someone who writes well (Joseph Moran) and is a whole lot more technical, if you want more info.