Uninterruptible power supply becomes uninterruptible profit stream

Uninterruptible power supply (UPS) is high on the agenda in today's commercial environments. The convergence of voice and data systems over one power source and the advent of 24/7 business has created a need for clean, constant and reliable electricity.

But how often do we get it? Hardly ever! This is the view of Robin Koffler, general manager of Riello Galatrek, UK subsidiary of Italian manufacturer Riello UPS. In this article he explains to IT resellers how and why they should give UPS a closer look in an increasingly vulnerable globally converged market.

Computerisation of accounting and finance departments triggered the need for UPS back in the late 1970s. Prior to that power interruption (or corruption) was much less critical. The first office sized UPS systems were transformer-based and either too small to power larger operations or too heavy (due to their iron and copper wound transformers) for distribution. This meant the market, certainly in Europe, was slow to develop.

Market maturity
The UPS market has now matured. Much of the technology that was developed and adopted in North America has crossed over to Europe. The transformer elements of on-line UPS have been replaced by digital technologies that are light weight and more efficient. Solutions are now more functional, sophisticated and yet simpler to use.

UPS is far more than simply protecting against blackouts. This is happening more frequently throughout the world but by comparison to other electrical problems it happens little.

Electricity consists of a wave form, normally a sinewave with little distortion, characterised by voltage, current and frequency. Between the power source and the "load" (piece or pieces of equipment that are attached) the waveform can be polluted by various disturbances. Most equipment is designed to withstand fluctuations in voltage but only to within small parameters (10 to 20 per cent of the normal mains voltage). Pollution can cause system downtime but, more importantly, wear and tear on critical business equipment. In a huge company this can be costly, cause blowouts, system failures and data corruption leading to downtime and disruptive maintenance.

Money maker
From the reseller perspective, there is plenty of opportunity to make money from UPS and it's not all about volume sales! As business systems expand and are upgraded companies are looking to invest in even more power protection. As well as the actual specification and installation of a system, maintenance contracts can be lucrative as can the sale of add-ons, such as battery packs and replacement battery programmes in the years to come. For resellers UPS could equate to Uninterruptible Profit Stream!

Specifying and installing UPS is not straight forward. Misunderstanding exists about what systems are available and what their application should be. Resellers should only work with suppliers that understand and can deliver on these important points.

The current method for classifying the three main UPS types is described in BS EN 62040-3. The three types do the same thing but in different ways.

1. On-line or double-conversion UPS
This type is voltage and frequency independent. The output power is maintained irrespective of fluctuations in the main supply by the constantly running inverter. It can also operate as a frequency converter and is ideal for networked installations, large servers, PBX switches and other critical networks processes.

This type of UPS has a built-in automatic bypass in case of overload or a UPS fault condition. Unlike the other systems below it will fail safely to mains. As the inverter is rated for constant running additional battery packs can be added to extend the runtime to several hours.

2. Line interactive
This type has a built-in electronic regulation device which stabilises and regulates voltage fluctuation. The inverter is off-line and only switches on when the mains fails or fluctuates wildly. There is therefore a break in supply of a few milliseconds which may not suit every piece of hardware. It is designed for small or confined installations: desktop PCs, point-of sale (PoS), small servers and PBXs systems.

3. Off line
This type of UPS tracks the mains power supply for voltage and frequency variations. The off line inverter only activates when the mains fails or fluctuates wildly. It is suitable for equipment that requires a minimal standby time and no mains conditioning.

Another key factor for resellers is what to look for in a supplier. Firstly, the site survey is critical. A wrong or inaccurate specification can cause as many problems as it aims to solve. Suppliers like Riello Galatrek offer free site surveys because we understand the importance.

Channel support
Similarly, a supplier focused on customer service will ensure the reseller gets the support they need to progress the sale through every stage. This can include technical training and documentation. Longevity and low staff turnover are signs of a good company. UPS is not often a one-off sale, it's a long-term relationship.

The issue of compliance is perhaps the most important aspect in which the right supplier can play a crucial role. More and more companies are demanding equipment, and those that supply it, conform to accepted industry standards. It's a supplier's duty to ensure they do so that resellers (who may not yet have achieved the desired status) can comply.

Look for a supplier with award-winning products, good discount and incentive
schemes and e-commerce initiatives that help pull business in to the reseller as well as push it out. This way, resellers are best placed to maximise the potential of a growing market.


 Robin Koffler is general manager of Riello UPS. He is a UPS specialist who has been in the business since 1983. He became general manager of the company in 2003 and grew the company by 30 per cent in two years. He has an MBA from the Open University, a graduate diploma from CIM (The Chartered Institute of Marketing) and was one of the UKs first registered Chartered Marketers.

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