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Protecting your VoIP Phones and IP PBXs from Power Surges and Power Losses

Not too much nor too little, the voltage has to be just right.

VoIP phones and VoIP phone systems are subject to the same rules of electrical engineering as every other gadget. If the power goes out, the electronics turn off. Too much power, on the other hand, can dangerously overload electronics. A blackout or power surge has the potential to cause irreparable damage to IP equipment like phones and phone systems.

Computers are a classic example of what can happen when the power goes out. If there is a power failure while the computer is booting up or processing information, data can become corrupted or inaccessible, and render the computer inoperable. Worst-case scenario: you won’t be able to turn the computer on, ever again.

Phones and phone systems are built on the same basic principles as a computer. In fact, they are computing machines, just designed with specialized tasks. A power failure will stop your business’ telephony in its tracks and, in rare cases, harm the equipment.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have power surges, or too much power being supplied to the electronics. Lightning strikes are a primary cause of power surges, resulting in too much voltage being supplied to devices. A surge protector can either block the extra voltage or ground it.

A power surge will fry power outlets and wiring, either in your walls or in your phone equipment. In dangerous cases, a fire or smoke can occur.

The only way to truly safeguard your VoIP phones and IP phone systems from damage due to power losses or power surges is to unplug them. That’s obviously not practical.

Cisco 8841

Protection from power loss

An uninterruptible power supply, or UPS, is a lifesaver. A UPS receives power and stores it in battery cells. The battery cells then transmit power to the plugged in devices. The benefit is that if the power goes out, the batteries continue to send uninterrupted power to the devices.

A UPS gives you enough time to properly shut down or unplug your IP phone equipment. It’s not a long-term solution. So if you have a long day ahead of you, don’t count on a UPS to keep your telephony afloat.

Backup generators are designed for the long term. Generators are powered by gasoline, natural gas or another fuel. They can be triggered to kick in the second that a power loss is detected. The transition from the power grid to a backup generator is not instantaneous, however. Giving your VoIP phones and phone systems their own UPS is a good failsafe until the generator turns on.

An emergency power system is a permanent solution. The system can be powered by gasoline or gas, made up of many generators, or feature specialized engines and power cells. Just like a generator, however, there is a slight delay between a power loss and backup recovery, so a deployment of UPS solutions is recommended.

Digium D40


Plugging your VoIP phones and IP phone systems into surge protectors and UPS devices is recommended. Devices with combination surge protection and uninterrupted power supplies are available.

Having a long term fix such as a generator or emergency power system is also recommended, especially in regions that are frequent to blackouts or brownouts.

An odd recommendation is to use a power inverter. With a power inverter, DC power from a car battery, for example, can be converted into AC power for VoIP phones and phone systems.

Installing surge protection in the main circuit board is a great way to double-up your IP equipment’s safety. Also, let’s not forget to mention lighting rods and other deterrents of natural phenomenon.

Network Ethernet Cable

Power over Ethernet

So far, we’ve only talked about VoIP phones and phone systems plugged into AC power outlets. Well, a power surge can travel over an Ethernet cable too. If it’s conductive, electricity can create a current.

Unplugging all of your electronics before a storm is the best way to safeguard them. Make sure you aren’t just unplugging your AC power cords through. Every cord or cable must be disconnected.

A number of surge protectors offer Ethernet or RJ45 ports; so all of your equipment’s connections are relatively safe.

VoIP phones with PoE (Power over Ethernet) can be powered via the same Ethernet cable that is providing telephony and network services. A PoE-enabled network switch or PoE injector will provide power in this way. A power loss will have the same effect on PoE power supplies as it will on AC power supplies.

Protecting your VoIP phones, IP phone systems and other investments through surge protection and backup power supplies is essential. A little safeguarding will save you from big losses.