Basics of Stock Trading Computers Part 6
Welcome to the Orbital Computers blog! In this series of articles, I am going to outline some of the most important topics to consider when purchasing a stock trading computer. I’m going to cover hardware reliability, performance, and suitability for day trading. I’ve tried to condense the info as much as possible, but when we’re dealing with a topic so complex it really requires a more thorough explanation. This will be a series of several posts, so look for updates every week until February 2014. If you have any questions about any of the topics covered in this series, or if you’d like Orbital Computers to build a stock trading computer for you, please feel free to contact us here.
A few weeks ago, we began our series of articles on the basics of stock trading computers. We briefly discussed why reliability is the most important specification of any stock trading computer and we introduced a few key components in that ultra-reliable trading PC puzzle. We went over why SSDs make a better storage choice for most traders and we compared and contrasted that with traditional hard disk drives. We then discussed the relative merits of several Power Supplies for trading computers. If you missed the first post, click here to start from the beginning. In this installment, I will be going over trading computer system cooling. I hope you find it informational, and if you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to contact us!
In the final section, we’re going to cover how to make your trading computer system as reliable as possible. You can spend endless amounts of money on top of the line hardware, but if one component in your system fails, it can all be worthless. There are a few easy steps you can take to ensure that your system will be running as reliable as possible and most of them are very inexpensive.
This should really be a no-brainer, but it’s absolutely vital that you keep your computer healthy and free of viruses. There are several powerful antivirus packages available for free on the internet right now – my recommendation would be Microsoft’s Security Essentials. You can download and install it from HERE. Set it up to run a full system scan once a week, but be careful to set it to run while you’re away from the computer. If the scan starts while you’re in the middle of a trade it’ll decrease performance significantly. Follow basic internet safety precautions; don’t open emails from unknown sources and definitely do not download any attachments within those emails. Never open a program ending in ‘.exe’ unless you were specifically expecting a program to run and you received that program from a reputable source.
Reliable Internet Connection
A reliable internet connection is a critical component of any trading computer. I would recommend only using a hardwired Ethernet for trading purposes. Wi-Fi can be spotty at best, so I wouldn’t advise running your trading system off of it. You don’t need to sign up for the most expensive and fastest internet connection your provider offers, but you’ll want to get one with as low of a ping as possible. Ping can be used as a measure of total round-trip time of a message sent across in internet and then returned back to your PC. You can test your ping for free by going to www.speedtest.net. Click on the ‘Begin Test’ button and wait about 30 seconds to receive your results. You’ll get 3 important results: ping, download speed, and upload speed.
You want your ping to be as low as possible for optimal trading performance. Simply put, a lower ping means that the data you send across the internet will reach its destination faster. A ping of under about 15 ms should be great for trading and under 10 ms would be excellent. Download speed is the measured in Mbps, or Megabytes per second. A Megabyte is one million bytes of data, each of which are 8 bits of data. The basic language computers speak is binary which is composed of 1s and 0s, each of which comprise one bit (e.g. 1011 = 4 bits, 10111011 = 8 bits or 1 byte). Luckily, stock trading doesn’t require the download of massive amounts of data all at once. A download speed of over 20 Mbps should be just fine for the average day trader. The upload speed is the rate at which you send data to and across the internet. Again, it isn’t critical to have the fastest upload speed possible, as trading really doesn’t require sending massive amounts of data to the exchange. Basically, all you’ll be sending to the exchange is a small buy/sell order which is only a few kilobytes of data at most. An upload speed of over 5 Mbps or so should be just fine.
Clearly, the most important factor to consider for your internet will be reliability. If your internet fails in the middle of a trade it can be disastrous. If you’re really serious about your day trading, you may wish to consider setting up a backup internet connection for use in emergencies.
Uninterruptible Power Supply
Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS) are large reserve battery packs that you plug your computer into to protect against power outages/voltage spikes. Normally, you’d have your PC plugged into the wall outlet or into a small surge protector strip. If the power went out in your office, your PC would shut off immediately, obviously placing your trade at risk. Uninterruptible Power Supplies pull and store electricity directly from the wall outlet, giving you a failsafe if the power goes out. You’ll have your PC plugged into the UPS which is plugged into the wall. The UPS will have stored several hundred watts (depending on the model) of electricity, which your trading computer will be able to use to briefly continue operation. This will allow you time to realize the power has gone out and place a stop limit or exit your trade before the UPS runs out of power.
A leading UPS manufacturer, APC, has an excellent tool on their website for calculating which UPS is right for your needs: http://www.apc.com/tools/ups_selector/US/en/home/load
Let’s take the Trader X1000 for example. The Trader X1000 comes with a 530W power supply, and we’ll say we want 5 minutes of runtime after the power goes out to allow us just enough time to exit the trade. A 600 W, 1000 VA UPS would give us just over 5 minutes of runtime from the reserve battery power. A quick Google search for UPSes with those specs returns several results in the $100-$200 price range – an excellent value considering how much could be lost if your stop limit gets hit or worse, if you forgot to place a stop order.
And with that, I’ll finally conclude this series of articles on reliable trading computer components. Click here to start from the beginning. I hope you’ve found this series informative, and as always, feel free to contact us if you have any questions at all!