LAN Party How To - Part 1: Planning and Power

Closing Thoughts

Now that you've got the power distribution designed and set up for your event, you might think that you're done. But you can still run into problems if you don't establish some rules of the road - or the outlet strip - to ensure a problem-free event.

Nobody wants to deal with rolling blackouts or the dude who keeps popping the breaker on your shared circuit. So here are a few power-related rules that should be mandatory at your event:

No UPSes - A UPS or Uninterruptible Power Supply is a big no-no at a LAN party. The reason is that not only does it consume power to run the attached computer and monitor, but it also consumes power to charge the battery. And on top of that, there is an additional power load over and above the equipment load - even if at full charge!

Don't ask me specifically what does this, but I have tested it with numerous top-tier brands and they all have similar results. You will be tapping the limits of your power gear to start with and don't need this additional load causing problems for others. As long as power is set up correctly to begin with, your attendees will have no problems and can live without battery backup for one weekend.

B.Y.O. Surge Protector - In the unlikely case of a power surge, it's always good to be protected at as many levels as possible. So I recommend that you require each gamer to bring his or her own local power distribution. The term I use for this gear is surge protector, but what I mean is a power strip that includes a circuit breaker (and hopefully some built-in surge protection) - as opposed to a bare-bones outlet strip that has just a cord and multiple outlets.

Having each participant provide their own surge protector is absolutely necessary if you are implementing the suggested power distribution scheme I previously outlined, since there is only one outlet provided per person. The circuit breaker on a surge protector should also keep problems local to each user instead of affecting everyone on the same table box breaker. And any built-in surge protection will help protect the user from other gamers' power problems.

No extra stuff - Many events are very strict about saying "only your computer and monitor" are allowed to be plugged into the Party's power grid. While it may seem harsh, having a stated rule removes any doubt as to whether extra devices are officially allowed to be plugged in. I remember a large Party where I was part of the staff that had to have a rule "no refrigerators, box fans or microwaves allowed" because we had people bringing everything and plugging it in - it was pretty insane!

The truth of the matter is that some people have reasonable needs beyond a computer and monitor such as an external hard drive, or cell phone charger. These are obviously not very big power draws and are probably reasonable to plug in, so you may want to modify the "only computer and monitor" rule accordingly. Another idea is to have gamers state any power requests beyond the stated rules when they check in.

Conclusion

I hope you've learned something about how to organize a smooth-running LAN party and get it powered properly. Part 2 of this How To will focus on the workings of the LAN Party network itself. I'll cover in depth types of Ethernet cabling and hardware, network design / topology, optimizing performance, and more!

Christopher (AlexKidd) Dickens and his partner Dave Wilson own and operate LANrental.com, a LAN rental business serving the Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Southern Illinois, Eastern Missouri, Northern Alabama and Northern Georgia area.