Airport NL 0415, Tech tips

Tech Tips

A few important overriding principles to keep in mind while reading our Tech Tips and reviewing / planning your particular solution are Designing for Failure, Safety and Regularly Testing Your design.
Know when to utilize your in house resources and when to utilize a subcontractor.  With regard to Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS) and generator backups, good electrical safety habits and policies must be put into place.  Using a licensed electrician for installation, testing and servicing is also recommended (depending upon the complexity of the project).
Whether your power backup plan for your servers is a battery backup (UPS) plan, generators or a fail over to a redundant server or data center, it is critical that you size your solution to fit your needs.  You should know how long your batteries will last given the load on them.  You should work with the manufacturer of your solution regarding an estimated battery life.  Your generator must also be sized properly.  With regard to generators, the provider should know the application and it is worthwhile to have the solution tested and maintained by the provider to ensure it works when you need it and as you expect.  
Our focus in this Tech Tip is UPS solutions.  Generator backups are very specialized and typically are outsourced to a solution provider.
Whether used for a server or with an individual desk top PC, process PC or WorkStation a UPS solution should be sized properly for the application and tested regularly.  Knowing and designing to your needs is an important part of this.  Is your purpose to give you enough power to shut down safely?  Or are you trying to run for XX hours on battery power as it is a critical device / server?  
At least an annual test of any power back up solution is recommended.  This should entail a simulation of a power failure and applicable measurement of the performance of the solution.  This should be planned, scheduled and documented.  A properly designed solution should not cause the devices to shutdown / reboot during switchover to the backup solution.  There should be a smooth, seamless transition to battery or generator power.  Output of the power backup devices should be measured and documented as should the life of applicable batteries.  (A licensed electrician or your solution provider should be contracted to properly perform and document these measurements).
A planned replacement (budgetary and timing) of the batteries and UPS’s themselves should also be put together as part of any site Power Backup Plan.  Typically today’s UPS batteries last between 2-5 years.  There are other common failure points of any UPS.  Most manufacturers or solution providers can assist in putting together proactive maintenance plans and replacement strategies.  Modern UPS’s are usually also equipped with sensors and alarms to notify users when batteries are going bad, automated self-tests and integrated monitoring software.
There are a number of solution providers and resources on line to assist in sizing battery backup / UPS solutions and properly maintaining them.  One of these is  APC also has a series of white papers to assist with planning and servicing solutions.  One of these: “Single Phase UPS Management, Maintenance, and Lifecycle” is particularly useful.
To summarize – any critical system should have a power backup plan.  At a minimum this plan should include:

  • A written electrical safety plan.
  • Design for Failure.
  • Regularly test your solution.
  • Ensure your solution is sized for your power backup requirements.
  • Plan and budget for battery replacement.

Next quarter’s newsletter discussion will be focused on data backups, design and testing!  My team and I are looking forward to discussing this with you then.
The author Bill Herman is SKIDATA's Service Manager with over 20 years of experience in Information Technology, Project and Service Management fields.

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