UPS?!… No, I’m not talking about shipping!

badpcWhen you mention UPS to non-technical people you often get a quizzical look followed by, “what has shipping got to do with my PC performance?” The answer is nothing what-so-ever, but Uninterrupted Power Supply has a lot to do with it. In this article I will discuss UPS needs, and what requirements should be considered when planning a UPS installation.

When considering whether or not your organization should consider a UPS infrastructure you should consider the following:

  • Business requirements
  • Electrical infrastructure, and
  • Weather

Business requirements – if your staff is working on files that are relatively small and can be redone with minimum disruption, and most workstations are stand-alone, UPS is probably not worth the expense. On the other hand, if people work on files that are large and rebuilding the file could mean significant lost productivity. Also, if the workstations are linked together in a LAN/WAN or internet network, having at least a marginal UPS strategy can save you huge difficulties.

Electrical infrastructure – if you facilities have a solid electrical infrastructure with good grounding and line conditioning, power outages and surges will be minimized, and so will the need for UPS protection. If the electrical infrastructure is just meeting building codes, you may want to consider protection.

Weather – if you physical location has calm weather most of the time, the need for UPS is minimized, on the other hand if you live in a climate that has many thunderstorms, or other inclement weather occurrences, power outages can pose serious problems to your operations.

The bottom line is that the need for UPS protection is a function of business operations and environment, and consideration of these variables determines whether the investment is required.

Once you decide that you do need protection, the following questions arise:

  • Does everyone need protection or just certain job functions?
  • How long should the protection last?
  • How much budget do I have to spend on this solution?

In most cases you will just provide key staff members with UPS protection, of course if you are in a business critical environment such as a call center, medical center, and sales floor everyone is a key staff member. You also need to consider how long you will need protection. In many cases, just providing 10 minutes of protection in a power outage will allow everyone to gracefully save their work and shut down their PC. However, in an environment where the business cannot be transferred to another location, a generator or a room of UPS batteries may be needed.

Often it comes down to ‘how much budget do I have’, since once a person is convinced of the need for UPS, they can never have too much back-up power.

A couple rules of thumb:

Non business critical staff can save what their working on with about 10 minutes worth of UPS

Business critical staff will need either a UPS large enough to get them through ‘routine outages’ – outages that happen often enough to be planned for. This can be addressed either through a UPS that can provide 10 minutes back-up while a backup generator is starting up, or a large UPS – i.e. battery farm on site.

OK, so now I put my UPS solution in place so I’m good to go, right? Well not exactly, batteries will usually need to be replaced every 2 – 3 years and generators will need routine maintenance and testing. If that sounds kind of expensive, it is, but your alternative may be going out of business.

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