Top 10 Tips For Selecting A UPS

By Ed Spears, Eaton Corporation

Tips For Selecting A UPS
Top 10 Tips For Selecting A UPS

Every day, an interruption to electrical service in homes, businesses and public sector organizations occurs, and the losses from these power outages can be extensive and of great consequence. For a business, the recovery time is significant and the costs are high. According to Price Waterhouse research, after a power outage disrupts information technology (IT) systems more than 33 per cent of companies take more than a day to recover and 10 per cent take more than a week. In addition, it can take up to 48 hours to reconfigure a network and days or weeks to re-enter lost data.

Power outages can cause substantial losses for the companies affected. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, when a power failure disrupts IT systems, 33 percent of companies lose $20,000 to $500,000, 20 percent lose $500,000 to $2 million and 15 percent lose more than $2 million. In fact, 90 per cent of companies that experience a computer disaster and don’t have a survival plan go out of business within 18 months.

In general, an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) protects IT equipment and other electrical loads from problems that plague our electrical supply. It prevents hardware damage typically caused by surges and spikes, prevents data loss and corruption, and provides availability for networks and other applications while preventing downtime. In some cases, a UPS provides enough battery runtime to ride through brief outages; in other cases, they provide hours of runtime to ride through extended power outages.

Here are the top tips to help you find and maintain a UPS system. 

TIP #1
Understand Existing Power Infrastructure

This is a critical first stop in the qualification and sales process of choosing a UPS. While you may focus on larger, three-phase power systems, the majority of IT managers are dealing primarily with single-phase equipment, often at the rack level. Many existing computer room and small to mid-sized data centers have single-phase loads at the rack level. Ground-up designs are increasingly moving three-phase power to the point of utilization to gain efficiencies and reduce costs, creating great opportunity for three-phase solutions in new construction.

TIP #2
Consider The Installation Environment

It’s imperative to understand how a prospective UPS will be deployed. Since most environments support several different solutions, you may need to evaluate these options.

TIP #3
Determine The Power Load

The VA or watt rating of your power loads is one of the most important factors in identifying the right UPS. After identifying the power environment (if the UPS needs to be single- or three-phase), the size of the UPS further narrows the selection. In single-phase deployments especially, it often makes sense to select a UPS that exceeds current power requirements but offers greater runtimes and allows for future growth.

TIP #4
Determine Availability Requirements

This is where you need to determine your true runtime requirements. During an outage, you need enough battery runtime to gracefully shut down systems or switch to backup generators. While runtime may seem like a simple thing to quantify, understanding the facts behind the numbers help contribute to the development of end-to-end solutions. Generally, the amount of runtime required can significantly affect the solution cost, but many Eaton solutions are actually more cost-effective in extended runtime applications.

TIP #5
Determine Scalability Needs

It’s always important to consider your future expansion needs when evaluating UPS solutions. For cost-conscious or budgetconstrained customers, a UPS with inherent scalability often proves to be the best value in the long run, allowing you to increase capacity without purchasing additional hardware. A simple kVA upgrade is all that’s needed to enable a UPS with inherent scalability to operate at full capacity. You may want to service the UPS yourself. If that’s the case, look for a unit that allows you to add capacity with power and/or battery modules. While modular solutions—including multiple, paralleled systems—are often a more affordable option initially, they can be a more expensive solution over the long term due to added hardware and installation costs. Depending on your needs, a larger, centralized, non-modular system with inherent scalability might ultimately be the most cost-effective solution.

TIP #6
Consider Power Distribution

It is important for you to consider how power will be delivered to your critical equipment. In some cases, you may simply plug loads directly into the UPS. In others, you may need large PDUs to distribute power. You may also incorporate rack-based power strips or ePDU units into your design.

TIP #7
Research Manageability Software

While a UPS protects the attached load during a power outage, power management software is required to ensure that all work-in-progress is saved and that sensitive electronic equipment is gracefully shut down if the power outage exceeds the battery runtime of the UPS. Without software, the UPS simply runs until its batteries are depleted and then drops the load. Most power management software is shipped with the UPS and is usually available as a free download online as well.

TIP #8
Consider Monitoring Capabilities

In addition to this basic functionality of UPS software, you should consider the implementation of monitoring and manageability capabilities. These capabilities include: power event notifications, including emails, pop-up alerts and text messages to pre-designated recipients; logging of power events; advanced capabilities in virtual environments, including integration into VMware’s ESXi and vSphere and Microsoft’s Hyper-V; dedicated battery monitoring and advanced service notifications; and remote monitoring by service personnel from the UPS manufacturer.

TIP #9
Access In-House Technical Capabilities

While you may value the ability to service your own equipment, the vast majority of IT and facility management professionals prefer the peace of mind that comes with full factory support through on-site service or an advanced UPS exchange agreement. To make an informed decision on service support, you must accurately assess your own technical and service capabilities. You should also look at the various UPS product designs to gauge how easy it is to swap out battery and power modules.

TIP #10
Prioritize To Maximize Budgets

Although the latest performance features of a UPS may fit nicely with what you are looking for, budget constraints may force you to make trade-off decisions. Be prepared to prioritize your needs for redundancy, scalability, efficiency, software management, modularity and serviceability.

From: Power Quality, Grounding & UPS Handbook, Vol 12, The Electricity Forum