Top 10 tips for ensuring 24/7 power availability

As a home worker or SME, what do you do to protect your IT equipment from mains power fluctuations or failures? Weve all lost workpresentations, documents, emailsto computer crashes, and now more of us are working from home, the riskand varietyof loss increases. For example, say that you are working from a satellite office or home. Youve just logged onto the VPN to participate in VoIP-enabled conference and your PC crashes due to mains loss. Imagine the scene when the other people involved in the call realise youve disappeared from the conference call!

If youre managing a retail outlet and the mains fails you may be left giving goods away to your customers at knock-down prices, or having them left in the aisles or at the checkout.

These scenarios are preventable if you follow our ten easy steps to ensure 24/7 power availability, starting with the purchase of an uninterruptible power supply (UPS). These relatively low-cost devices clean up the raw, dirty mains supplied to your desk power socket and, in addition, provides seamless battery backup in the event of mains failure.

Weve only had the National Grid since the 1930s and it is still only 99.98 per cent reliable. This equates to 9 hours of unplanned down time per year.

It is easy to install a UPSit will take around five minutes of your time. Figure 1 shows how a UPS can support a number of devices for the small office, home office or small business.

Choosing the right UPS for you

So how do you go about choosing the right UPS for your situation? Well, its incredibly straightforward, as the following 10 points demonstrate:

1. Which Type of Power Protection?
There are three different types of UPS available, which we have likened to car insurance!

Passive standby (third party only): This protects retail and home office from spikes, surges and mains loss

Active standby, also known as line-interactive (third party, fire and theft): This protects server racks, security and Power over Ethernet applications from spikes, surges, under/over voltage and mains loss

On-line double conversion (fully comprehensive): This design protects your mission critical IT and telecoms and Power over Ethernet applications from all types of threat to your power availability.

The official classification of power protection is derived from IEC 62040-3 and ENV 50091-3 standards.

2. Plan your power protection
Does it include the periphery equipment, the PABX or video conference equipment and Midspan?

3. Capacity
UPS capacity should suit your needs. Include any future expansion requirement and remember that, typically, networks grow by five to 10 per cent on average. Also remember that spare capacity in the early years of your UPS results in longer runtimes when mains fail.

4. Batteries
The batteries will need to be replaced during the life of the UPS. For entry-level systems this should be able to be carried out by a competent person within your organisation. Make sure that you can order the replacement battery or batteries easily and simply.

5. Runtime
Consider the amount of runtime required for your application. Generally five minutes is OK for XP but how about a retail application? Batteries typically take 10 x backup runtime to recharge to 90 per cent so while an eight hour runtime sounds good it will take longer than 80 hours to recharge just to 90 per centmore likely around three and a half days.

6. Software
Make sure that the UPS comes with a credible software solution from the start. It should be included in the purchase price, and allow pier to pier or network-based monitoring using an agent. A good UPS manufacturer will enable their Midspan to be managed using the same enterprise power manager as the UPS, thereby making power management of the network even easier.

7. Monitoring
UPS monitoring via the web browser for your UPS or UPSs that provide real-time and historical information. In addition Active Standby and low KVA rated on-line UPS solutions should feature programmable sockets, which allow you to remotely switch on and switch off protected loads. Using this method you can reboot crashed hubs or routers without having to send an engineer to site.

8. Static transfer switch
For high-power rated mission critical applications the UPS should be able to be paralleled, or even have a mains one and mains two input as standard. A static transfer switch can also be invaluable when protecting mission critical applications and allows the output of two UPS solutions to be configured as an A and B source. When A needs to be maintained, then B can be used and the transfer of source occurs seamlessly.

9. Maintenance
Maintenance options should suit your requirements whether its extended warranty or four-hour response 24x7x365 with options for remote monitoring and fault reporting via mobile or fixed line diallers.

10. Maintenance bypass
The final point to consider is that the mission critical UPS should have an internal maintenance bypass and an external maintenance bypass, which allows swap out or maintenance of the UPS without having the shutdown the load.

If the UK National Grid and power-generation system is reliable, why are we linking our National Grid to the Norwegian and the Dutch power grid? It is already linked to Ireland and France.

When installing your UPS solution it is vital that you install the UPS shutdown software provided and download the latest software or driver for your network card. Do not forget to tailor the shutdown settings to your individual requirements, after all, shutdown software is the final part of the power protection equation. Network security is assured for your UPS solutions as the passwords should be easily changeable, whether through a peer-to-peer connection or through the browser.

Power protection for the SOHO and SME user is incredibly easy and, on average, takes less then five minutes to install an entry level solutionno time at all compared to having to repair your desk top PC or checkout till because the dirty mains corrupted the hard drive or operating system. And just in case you need it, a good UPS manufacturer will offer their solutions via a network of highly trained local resellers backed up by a national, local charge user helpline.

Mains fluctuations and power loss happen all the time. You may not see it, but your IT and telecom equipment certainly takes a battering from the problems associated with raw mains. Your choice is the relatively low cost of clean power or the risk of having to replace expensive kit.

Finally, lets return to that VoIP conference call. Imagine how much better you will feel when the power fails, knowing that the server can keep going until the conference call ends.


Jason Koffler is MGE UPS Systems UK Channel Sales Manager and heads up its distribution and single phase product strategy in the UK. MGE UPS Systems is a leading provider of UPS solutions in Europe.

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