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Weathering the Storms of UPS Season

Prevent downtime during power outages by maintaining a reliable UPS unit.

As winter turns to spring and soon thereafter summer, businesses should be thinking about power. UPS (Uninterruptable Power Supply) units can be the difference between a power outage that causes no business interruption or an outage that causes a large period of downtime for your business. Thunderstorms, heat waves, and demands on the power grid are the typical culprits for causing issues for businesses and Managed Services Providers alike.  

Battery backup or UPS is the natural answer to prevent downtime, but almost everyone forgets that just because you have one doesn’t mean it will always do what you need it to do. Businesses often have specific needs or desires for how long they expect their UPS/ Battery Backup units to maintain their equipment availability. Clients typically request around 15 minutes of sustained power delivery for their equipment; however, we have had a client request 8 hours of uptime for their equipment. Luckily, solutions are available for whatever scenario you need. 

Now, the only way that any UPS can provide uptime is through rechargeable batteries. A UPS will come with a control screen of some kind and then be filled with batteries. These batteries are Sealed Lead Acid (SLA) Leak Proof/ Maintenance-free. The size of the UPS and the number/size of batteries partially determines the total amount of uptime a UPS can deliver. The other determining factor is the load from the equipment plugged into the UPS. Typically, each UPS manufacturer has a calculator that can be used to “right size” the UPS unit and potential number of additional batteries needed to achieve the desired uptime in minutes should a power failure occur. 

UPS manufacturers suggest that their units will last between 3 and 5 years but, what does “last” really mean? Each year the internal batteries will lose some of their ability to sustain the desired uptime even though the electronics say the UPS is fully charged. What we typically see in this scenario is that when the power fluctuates or goes out and the UPS is needed to support the equipment, it shuts down well before its expected lifespan if not immediately. But no need to worry. This scenario is both predictable and preventable with proper testing. 

Once you’ve got your UPS unit in place and you believe it’s right sized and functioning properly, it needs to be tested and checked at minimum annually to ensure it will function properly when a power outage or brown out occurs. Battery life is the main failure point for UPS units that do not provide the expected uptime. Occasionally the electronics in a UPS fail, but more often than not the internal batteries fail 

A good MSP will schedule annual or bi-annual testing of UPS equipment to confirm it is functioning as expected and providing the expected amount of uptime. Batteries are easily replaced if found to be not performing properly. Some manufacturers make it so easy that they include shipping labels and cover the costs for returning the batteries that are no longer holding a charge.  

For the small amount of time necessary to test the reliability of the UPS units, the savings in aggravation and downtime are large enough to merit the testing of the UPS equipment. Ask your MSP to do it before the clouds gather, the lightning comes, and the lights begin to flicker. If you have any questions about UPS, contact PEI today and we can make sure you are covered if a storm blows your way. 

Darrin LeBlanc, PEI

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