Many computer users install an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) unit and never give it a second thought. However, the lowly UPS is one of the most important devices in the IT environment. You must select the right unit and give it proper care in order to ensure protection against electrical fluctuations.
As the name implies, the UPS provides a source of electrical power should the utility grid go down. The unit should be able to keep your computer up and running for several minutes — long enough to close files and applications and initiate a controlled shutdown of the system. If the battery is large enough, the UPS may be able to support your system for a longer period of time, preventing you from experiencing any downtime during relatively short outages.
It’s important to understand, however, that your UPS isn’t just for electrical interruptions. It’s really designed to protect your equipment from variances in the electricity supply, including both power surges and drops in voltage. The unit will be factory-set to switch to battery power should the voltage go above or below a certain range. Many units allow the user to change the upper and lower limits of this range, as well as the sensitivity to electrical noise.
Assuming you have the right size unit, the default settings are probably adequate for most environments. However, if your electrical supply is particularly rough, or if you’re on generator power during an outage, you may find that the UPS switches to battery power frequently. This will take its toll on the battery and cause you to have inadequate reserves. To protect the battery, you’ll want to change the settings so that the unit is less sensitive to fluctuations. Keep in mind, however, that this will expose your equipment to more interference.
Here are three more tips for getting the most from your UPS:
- Get the right size. Look at each piece of equipment you want to plug into the UPS and find the nameplate listing the voltage and amperage. Multiply those two numbers together to get the volt amps (VA) rating. (If the equipment is rated in watts, look online for a conversion calculator.) Add up all the VA ratings of your equipment, and buy a UPS with at least 15 percent more capacity than the total.
- Don’t overload it. UPSs typically come with two sets of outlets — one set gets battery power, the other just surge suppression. Limit what you plug into the battery backup outlets to the equipment you’ve identified in step 1. If the unit is overloaded, it may not switch to battery power when needed.
- Keep an eye on it. Many UPSs now come with software that allows you to monitor the status of the unit. The software should tell you how long the battery is capable of supporting your equipment. Put a recurring entry in your calendar to check the status periodically. If the runtime of the battery drops below eight minutes, you should look at replacing the UPS.
By the way, if UPSs are important for individual computer users, they are absolutely critical for servers and other equipment in the data center. According to the Cost of Data Center Outages study published every three years by the Ponemon Institute, UPS failure is the No. 1 cause of data center downtime, responsible for a quarter of all outages. If you need guidance on selecting, configuring and maintaining the UPSs in your data center, contact SSD for assistance.