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Power Protection White Paper Discusses UPSs: What They Are and Why You Need Them


Power Protection White Paper Discusses UPSs: What They Are and Why You Need Them

August 25, 2011

  By David Sims, TMCnet Contributing Editor

Minuteman UPS/Para Systems (News - Alert), a leading provider of power protection technologies, has put together a white paper titled “Powering Your Business Disaster Planning: The Case for Extended Runtime UPSs with External Battery Backup.” It has many good points to consider for those unsure of the benefits of external battery backup – for example, those who don’t mind losing business operations during power outages.

Those companies can stop reading now.

For the rest of us who understand that since power failures can strike at any time businesses must be ready, the paper is a worthwhile examination of how to avert a power-related disaster with “a variety of uninterruptible power supply (UPS) options and approaches, including extended runtime battery backup power on all mission-critical devices.”

The paper cites research from Frost and Sullivan finding that “every year 72 percent of businesses in the US are affected by power cuts that interrupt critical operations... International Data Corporation estimates that companies lose an average of $84,000 for every hour of downtime.”

So what exactly are we talking about here? Power protection, in the form of an uninterruptible power supplies(UPS), has been around for several decades. But, according to the white paper, “surveys find that up to 60 percent of small business networks do not have any power protection.”

UPSs are designed to protect against such power issues as sudden spikes or surges, brownouts, and “electrical noise that all hold the potential to damage or disrupt important equipment.” But its main function is to provide power when the grid is down.

There are three types of UPSs: standby, line-interactive and on-line.  The differences are elucidated in the paper, but online UPSs provide the highest level of power protection, the paper explains, “by using a double-conversion technique,” taking the incoming A/C power and recreating it by converting the voltage to D/C, and converting the power back to A/C before it exits the UPS. Evidently this means “there is no transfer or switching time to battery mode in the event of a blackout.”

Some of you might say, what about combining a UPS with a generator? Well, that has its own considerations and issues, which the paper does a good job explaining. And, if you boil it down, “the drawback from this configuration is that many UPSs cannot tolerate the sometimes dirty power that generators provide. Generators typically do not provide a clean sine wave signal at the proper frequency.”

Overall the paper provides three reasons why an extended runtime product provided by external battery packs is at least an option you should seriously consider: Mechanical generators are not fail-safe. External battery packs aren’t perfectly fail-safe either, but they are much more reliable.  

A UPS with battery packs can actually provide another level of reliability even when a generator is used. The safest way would be to use a UPS with additional battery packs as a bridge until the generator kicks in: “When planning for disaster, a system with redundancy and contingencies is the best option.”

Long run times can be achieved at a fraction of the overall cost of a UPS and generator combination. While UPS batteries need to be replaced every three to five years, and testing should be performed periodically, there is still a large difference between the amount of maintenance required for a UPS versus a generator.

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David Sims is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of David’s articles, please visit his columnist page. He also blogs for TMCnet here.

Edited by Carrie Schmelkin
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