Before buying a UPS, answer these 4 questions

uninterruptible-power-supplyWhen was your last time downtime incident? If you’re like the respondents in a recent IHS survey, you’ve seen five downtime events in the past month.

That adds up to millions of dollars in lost revenue and productivity – midsize companies reported one downtime event cost approximately $1 million — and possible equipment repairs or replacements. Lost or damaged data is an unquantifiable cost.

If you don’t already have a proper battery backup and power protection plan in place, it’s time to do so. An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) system that costs a few hundred dollars will pay for itself many times over if it gets your organization through even a single power failure.

The trick is choosing the right systems for your organization: ones that will help you weather unplanned shutdowns without straining budgets. Answer these four questions to select the UPS systems that fit your needs.

1. What equipment is critical, and how much power is needed? Make a list of every essential device, and determine your collective power consumption requirements (typically in watts). This number represents the maximum amount of power you need.

(A helpful tip: If a device’s power requirement is in amps, calculate its watts value by multiplying amp consumption by the voltage of your utility power. For example, a device drawing 0.35 amps of power, using 120 volt U.S. household AC power, consumes 42 watts.)

Because electronic devices seldom consume all the power for which they’re rated, this total will leave some wiggle room. If total power demand exceeds what one UPS can provide, group similar devices, or machines in close proximity, and determine the UPS needed for that cluster. Brush up on UPS topology, too.

2. How long does it take to shut down your system? Most UPS systems are designed to power your hardware while you shut down. They’ll give you time to prevent data loss or damaged machines, but won’t keep your systems up for extended periods until power returns.

Use a timer to calculate which essential component takes the longest to shut down safely. That’s your recommended minimum runtime. This estimated runtime, along with your power requirements, will go a long way in determining which UPS your environment needs.

3. Where will the UPS unit be placed? UPS units come in three form factors: compact, tower or mini-tower, and rack mount. The first two can be placed on or under desks, workstations, and test benches. Rack mounted units are designed for networking and server closets. The right form factor depends on your needs:

  • A compact UPS fits where space is limited and runtime requirements are short – a kiosk or tablet, for example. Some models have digital displays that show current status, and automatic voltage regulation (AVR) to compensate for minor power fluctuations without switching to the backup battery.
  • A tower or mini-tower UPS can support a workstation, including a computer, monitor, and external drive. Some tower units feature sine wave output for compatibility with equipment that uses active power factor correction (Active PFC). Ignore some devices, such as laser printers, because they draw too much power to be effectively supported by a UPS.
  • A rack-mounted UPS interfaces with server CPUs, power distribution units, networking hardware, and other critical infrastructure. Some units can accept expansion batteries for extended runtimes.

4. Do you need additional features? Beyond required capacity, runtime, and the appropriate topology, you may need additional capabilities for your UPS systems. The following list includes some of the most popular added features:

Monitoring and management

Detailed status information display
Remote management software
Factory installed or optional SNMP card
Automated shutdown

Energy-saving features

ENERGY STAR® qualification
Transformer bypass when AC power is stable
Automatic switching based on computer power status

Flexible battery options

Expansion batteries for extended runtime
User replaceable batteries

Advanced capabilities

Sine wave output
Switchable output voltage

UPS provides loss prevention—and more

UPS systems are insurance against power problems; they become a worthwhile investment as soon as recovering from a power failure costs one dollar more than a UPS does. But that’s a loss prevention mindset, and we suggest looking at the issue another way.

You have a significant competitive advantage if you can maintain normal operations, regardless of utility power problems. By maximizing uptime, you make the most efficient use of your staff and technical resources. Using UPS to minimize losses will make you more productive and competitive, and prevents the loss of important data or critical hardware.

About the author

Jonah Cagley of CyberPowerJonah Cagley is the Vice President of Marketing for Cyber Power Systems (USA), Inc., and has been with the company since 2009. Over his career, he has led marketing and communication initiatives for multiple consumer- and business-focused technology companies. Jonah is a graduate of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and lives in Maple Grove, Minn.

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