Poof! The monitors abruptly retired and simultaneously the whole floor was blanketed in darkness. As I surveyed my desk, initial reaction was to try turning the computer back on. The attempt was in vain as the realization of power outage quickly set in. My peers gradually periscoped from their desks seeking validation from others as well. Shortly, we were informed that the whole building has lost power and were not sure on when it would be back up.
The sudden and unexpected midday power outage took many by surprise (including myself). While our facility team were caught off guard and struggled to restore power, the whole operation came to a halt that day. Obviously the SLA (Service Level Agreement) was impacted and the surge (no pun intended) of customer complaints poured in throughout the day. Consequently, the power loss triggered a wake-up call for our division and became a valuable learning experience many years ago.
Aforementioned experience garnered a valuable insight of electricity reliance (that a business uses on daily basis). Today, as more businesses move toward digital and electronic dependency, it’s easy to forget that electricity can be taken for granted (until there is a power failure). The back-up power supply inadequacy is prominent across majority of smaller businesses. Rarely do we see smaller businesses with ample UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) available to assist in the event of blackout or power surges.
The lack of interest may be driven by overconfidence in electricity supply and infrequent outages. However, recent biblical hurricane episodes in Texas and Florida has cause much havoc and power outages. Even California has experienced rolling black out due to high energy demand during the summer heat wave. As power interruption and outages gain headlines, more businesses are seriously looking into reassessing their back up power supply. Although not all business necessarily need UPS, it should be a key element for the business contingency or disaster recovery plan if business deals with data or expensive electronic equipment – as discussed in another article (Don’t Wait On Disaster)
To clarify, UPS is not a long term solution (compared to fuel powered generators), rather UPS is designed to supply continuous power in the event of an outage or power surge so that you can save, backup, and move data accordingly. In addition, UPS protects your critical electronic equipment from electric surges that can potentially damage components. There are wide range of UPS available depending on the industry including medical facilities, manufacturing, computers/IT, and even military. For the sake of this article, we will focus on computers and IT associated UPS type.
Types of UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply)
Standby UPS is probably the most common and familiar type that many of us may have seen or heard about. Standby UPS system kicks in only when power fails hence the name “Standby.” This type of UPS system provides a high degree of efficiency, small size, and relatively low costs, making it a common option for personal computing and some small businesses.
Line Interactive UPS
Line Interactive UPS is most popular with small businesses, web servers, and business servers. The design of Line Interactive uses an inverter that is always on and connected to the output. Thus, this design provides additional filtering and quicker power continuation when compared with the Standby UPS.
Standby On-Line Hybrid
Standby On-Line Hybrid is similar design to Standby UPS but that uses DC to DC converter from the battery that is switched on when an AC power failure is detected. Due the integration of capacitors in the DC combiner, the Standby On-line UPS will exhibit no transfer time during an AC power failure. This design is sometimes fitted with an additional transfer switch for to increase reliability and managing electrical overload.
Online/Double Conversion UPS
Online/Double Conversion UPS is commonly used for larger back up deployment. The batteries are always connected to the inverter so there is no transfer time required. In other words, when there is a blackout, the system automatically switches to battery for steady power and unchanged. This type of UPS is attractive for environment that requires steady flow of power where there is high fluctuation of electricity.
In summary, there are various types of UPS available ranging in affordability, load capacity, interval and durability. Some UPS can power equipment for 10 to 30 minutes whereas more powerful UPS can even haul an office for a full day. But it’s important to understand that UPS device is not just for back-up power (although it is the primary function). A more discreet yet valuable function of UPS is the ability to protect electronics from unwanted power surges. This protection may prevent premature or permanent damage to electronic equipments. Ultimately, UPS investment will be reliant on business environment and needs. But there is no doubt that UPS serves as an invaluable resource in the event of unwanted power interruption. To make the simplest determination for UPS solution, ask yourself, if power were to go out at this moment, how would your business be impacted and for how long? This should be the driving force for consideration.