Bloomberg Businessweek had an interesting story last month about the digital currency Bitcoin. It’s a fascinating look at the world of “alternative” currencies, which have no ties to any government entities, bank or any other traditional source of currency.
What most interested me is how Bitcoins are generated. I’m still not quite sure I fully grasp the concept, but here’s how Businessweek explains it:
As with an actual precious metal, Bitcoins are in limited supply—they must be “mined.” Unlike with precious metals, this mining is done purely by computer. Miners set their machines to run a series of complex calculations that tally up and certify all the transactions of other Bitcoin holders around the world. If the miner’s computers complete these calculations and solve a complex mathematical puzzle before anyone else, he earns about 25 Bitcoins as payment. It’s a nice haul: With the price of each Bitcoin nosing up near $1,000, that’s $25,000 for 10 minutes or so of work. For the moment at least, miners are the rare grunts who can also get rich.
The piece tells the story of one Bitcoin miner, Joel Flickinger of Oakland, Calif., who has spent upwards of $20,000 on two computers that do his mining work. As the story says:
They operate continuously, cranking out enough heat to warm the house and racking up $400 a month in electric bills.
There’s also a photo of Flickinger, sitting in what looks to be a rather sparse room, with a plain metal desk and some computing equipment sitting on the floor. But, as I looked closely at the equipment, I saw a familiar sight: an APC by Schneider Electric Smart-UPS uninterruptible power supply. Imagine that: a man, a desk, a server, a network connection and his Smart-UPS.
It makes sense. Here’s a man whose very livelihood depends not only on the availability of his server, but equally as important, his network connection. UPS systems have always been a good idea to protect against brief power interruptions – not exactly uncommon in California – as well as more prolonged outages. But increasingly Smart-UPS are being used to protect network connections as well, which is critical for home office users, perhaps none more so than someone like Flickinger. If he loses his network connection I suspect it could cost him days of work and directly impact his sole source of income. So he installed a UPS to protect both his computing hardware and his network connection – and just happened to pick a very fine brand indeed!
With the growth of colocation and cloud applications, corporations have started to realize the importance of deploying Smart-UPS to maintain access to their off site data. But more and more folks are working out of home offices, whether as sole proprietors or as part of large organizations, and they are dependent on their network connections functioning properly in order for them to be as productive as Flickinger is. But I wonder how many have taken the steps that he has to protect their computers and networks.
If power fails or even flickers for a short time, a computer can be seriously damaged and more importantly the data is houses can be lost. But for many more people today, networking equipment such as routers and switches are even more critical because most, if not all of the data they are trying to access are housed in a remote site. UPS systems ensure a steady, even flow of “clean” power at all times. What’s more, if power does go out, it allows the user to maintain their network connection and protect their computers, which enables them to keep operational.
Home office workers should have the same kind of protection as their counterparts at headquarters because their work is no less valuable to the organization. And that includes a proper UPS like Smart-UPS to protect both computers and networking equipment.
As for you, Joel Flickinger, I wish you great mining success.