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How do I keep my business going when the power fails?

As we are experiencing unusual weather across the country it is timely to answer the question of how do I keep my business going when the power fails?

The obvious answer is with a battery backup or Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS).

Protecting your IT equipment and entertainment devices at work and at home with a UPS is always recommended. In most cases, blackouts last for less than one hour but sags or brownouts can be just as damaging by exposing equipment to abnormally low and unstable voltages.So, how do you pick the right UPS for your requirements as obviously a UPS for the office will have different requirements to one for home.

For both situations the four things you need to consider are:

Sizing
Runtime
Management
Energy Efficiency
Surge Protection

Online tools can assist with the sizing and runtime while the third one rests upon the ease of UPS setup and the management software provided by the manufacturer.

Sizing: In order to determine how how large the UPS needs to be you need to consider what devices you want to connect to it. You can use the online tool at the manufacturers website or calculate it manually.

The power rating for the devices that you want to protect is normally marked on a sticker on the device. If not, consult the users manual. Then, add up the power draw (in Watts) to determine what size UPS you require.

Bear in mind that the equipment can be power factor corrected (PFC) so there may be a disparity between the real power - measured in Watts - and the apparent power measured in Volt Amps (VA). Most UPS's are marked with both ratings and the more expensive the unit the closer the two figures are.

Runtime: You should allow enough runtime to keep your equipment running through the shorter outages but depending on the frequency and duration of local power outages you may want to consider a longer runtime. Note that a more advanced UPS can also provide stable power during periods of low or high voltage which can be just as damaging to equipment as a complete loss of power.

Management
Some of the more advanced UPS's allows non-critical devices to be connected to a separate output circuit so they may be turned off to ensure that the maximum run time is available for the critical devices. The management software supplied with the UPS will enable control of this switching. If it appears the blackout will exceed the available runtime of the UPS, this management software allows the UPS to signal the connected devices to shut down gracefully so that work and data are not lost or corrupted.

Energy Efficiency
Most mid-range line-interactive UPS's work more efficiently when they have a decent load on them. The efficiency of a 3000VA unit is considerably less than a 1000VA unit of equivalent topology when the 1000VA unit is at half load. The trade-off here is that the greater the load, the shorter the run time so it may be necessary to purchase a UPS that allows additional batteries to be connected. Double converse models can be run in a high efficiency mode that sacrifices some of the advantages of double conversion topology but maybe important for a particular situation.

Surge protection
Many people are not aware that surges come not only through the power supply but also through the backdoor through Ethernet cable, coaxial cable or phone line. Ensure that you select a UPS that provides for data line surge protection and matches how your Internet connects to your computer and/or networking device. Also consider the surge protection provided on the mains input. In more rural areas it may be worthwhile adding an external surge protector as a sacrifice to protect the UPS.

With a UPS that can be managed over the network it would be worth considering additional functionality such as network addressable power rails. These allow individual sockets to be power cycled if a server freezes for example and may save a technician attending site - very valuable if the site is remote.

ICS Technologies offer UPS's from most of the major manufacturers to site a variety of requirements. Contact us to discuss.

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