Your UPS Power Protection Checklist

Here’s a topic you probably never gave much thought to: Making sure the uninterruptible power supply (or UPS, not to be confused with the famous cargo carrier) you’re running is up to snuff. If you just bought a UPS – a good move, from our perspective – you most likely were under the impression that the job was done, and that’s all you needed to do.

Well, not so fast.

In this article, we’re going to answer three questions that should be on your “UPS Power Protection Checklist,” including:

  • Is Your Network Management Cabling Hooked Up and Configured?
  • Do You Know Your Current Load, Runtime, Age of Your Unit, How Old the Batteries Are?
  • Do You Regularly (Yearly/Quarterly) Test Your UPS Shutdown Scripts to Ensure They’re Doing What’s Expected?

If you haven’t already looked into or otherwise purchased a UPS for your operation’s computer systems, here are some basics you should be aware of: First and foremost, it must be understood that sudden loss of power and power surges are two of the principle causes of damage when it comes to computers and other sensitive electronics. At the very least, everyone should have all their valuable electronics plugged into one of those “power strips” or “surge protector bars,” which do a basic job of protecting against power surges.

These aren’t effective, however, against drops in line voltage, brownouts, blackouts and other power supply issues – for those tasks involving protecting a computer system against power supply interruptions, a battery backup is required. Like power strips that contain a big battery inside, UPS units provide a buffer against power supply interruptions, a delay that can range from a few minutes to an hour or more depending on the size of the unit.

In the world of networks, where multiple computer operating systems are at play – such as the ones used by businesses of all sizes – things, naturally, get a bit more complex. In these situations, the UPS temporarily provides power to key components of a network if a general power failure occurs. UPS units for computer networking equipment are often available in both “standalone” and “rack-mountable” versions, and are generally rated according to two values:

  • Volt-amperes (VA) or kilovolt-amperes (kVA), which represents the overall ability of the UPS unit to support connected equipment.
  • The amount of time that the unit can sustain maximum power generation (for network UPS units, typical times range from five to 15 minutes).

Let’s now get into answering those aforementioned questions we feel should be on your “UPS Checklist.”

Is Your Network Management Cabling Hooked Up and Configured?

There are many different UPS units on the market. Typically the lower end units won’t have the features of a higher end or enterprise level UPS. In the case that a UPS has network management capabilities, it’s important to ensure things are properly configured.

In nearly 80-percent of the examples we have been witness to, the cabling was actually lost and never even installed, or it was only plugged in at one end. We have even spoken to techs who have visited clients’ IT departments only to discover the device was plugged in but no management software was ever installed or configured.

If you’re going out of your way to install a UPS unit, ensure your connections are made and that the device itself is up to snuff with regard to configuration. Should you need assistance with such matters, you can always reach out to DMS iTech.

Do You Know Your Unit’s Current Load and Runtime? What About its Age or Condition of its Batteries?

You should at least know whether your UPS unit is less than, say, six years old and if its batteries are under three years old. When it comes to loads, it’s important for us to point out that when loads are added to UPS units, users need to account for the decrease in runtime – in other words, you shouldn’t think that your 10 minutes of runtime at a 200w load is going to provide 10 minutes of runtime at a 1200w load.

Again, this is something we can help you make sense of if you contact us.

Do You Regularly (Yearly/Quarterly) Test Your UPS Shutdown Scripts to Ensure They’re Doing What is Expected?

When a loss of power is detected, a UPS’ “shutdown scripts” kick in to handle the situation. If no such monitoring or management solution like this is in place, all you’ve done is delay the abrupt and proverbial “kicking out of the cable” for a few minutes – and the power loss still occurs when the batteries eventually die. The bottom line here is simple: Faux protection is not better than no protection.

DMS iTech: Not Just Another IT Management Service Provider

Dubbed by our vast client base as “The IT Experts,” DMS iTech offers end-to-end managed, technology and expert consulting professionals that help solve all day-to-day business issues. If you are in need of any assistance as it relates to UPS systems, contact us for expert advice.