Prepare for summer - APC's checklist against power-outs

Alan Morgan, District Manager, East Africa at American Power Conversion, submits his list of preventative measures designed to ensure operations do not come unstuck through electricity shortages. With the summer season already upon us in the southern hemisphere, with its peak electricity demand and concurrent increase in power outages, businesses need to think about how they will protect themselves from the related blackouts and the lightning strikes so prevalent at this time of year. This is especially true for individuals and small/medium businesses that may not have the time - or have not taken the time - to prepare a disaster plan to combat this type of issue. Power problems have a significant impact. For example, a small service firm working on multiple projects under deadline could stand to lose its work and communications in progress (files, e-mails and so on). That same firm also needs to worry about what will happen when the power comes back, protecting t heir equipment from surges and spikes that often occur. APC has is a top-ten protection checklist for those who want to prepare for the next outage.


1) Start with AC line surge protection


At the very least, any 'critical' electronics should be protected from harmful high voltage (surges or spikes). Regular outlet strips are not helpful unless they contain a surge suppression capability. Look for surge protectors with low let-through voltage ratings. How does this help during a blackout? When the utility restores power, it can sometimes fluctuate (causing surges, spikes, and sags) until it returns to normal.


2) Bullet-proof


Surges can enter electronic equipment by any connection leading into the unit, ie, by either electrical cord, telephone cord, data line or coaxial cable. Be sure to close off any possible entrance to equipment by selecting surge protectors with telephone/data line/coax protection (whatever your particular application calls for).


3) Think 'Runtime'


In addition to basic surge protection, electronics users should consider those devices they think would benefit from continued operation in case of an outage. An uninterruptible power supply (UPS, also known as battery backup) provides battery-supplied backup power during a blackout. These units can be sized to the anticipated application according to the amount of VA/watts consumed by the connected devices and the amount of runtime required (visit for details).


4) Monitor and manage


Computer users can benefit from use of a power management software utility. In tandem with a serial/USB connection to a UPS, power management software can monitor the quality of power coming into the user's building, keep a log of any power events, and notify the user (via pager or e-mail) if any pre-set threshold has been reached. In addition, most power management soft ware provides the ability to automatically and safely shut down operating systems and certain running applications, as well as save any data 'in progress.'


5) Mobility


In addition to any stationary computer or electronic devices, users should consider availability solutions for mobile equipment as well, including laptops, PDAs and cell phones. Notebook computers alone require power accessories such as removable batteries, power adapters mobile and surge protectors. New solutions include cables to recharge PDAs and cell phones via a laptop's USB port.


6) Compatibility


Information technology continues to grow, as does the number of vendors bringing products to the marketplace. Compatibility is especially important when trying to keep everything up and running. Your chosen availability solutions vendor should be able to integrate not only with a wide array of desktop operating systems, network management tools and popular software applications, but also with the wide array of device plug types, data line connectors and voltage requirements. Look for a worldwide leader to ensure the perfect fit for your electronics.


7) Shutdown not an option?


Should your particular application require constant runtime, safe system shutdown may not be the best option. In such instances, customers should size their UPS according to the required runtime should the power go out. Battery backup units range from a few hundred VA (appropriate for desktop electronics protection) to the millions (for entire facility protection). For such larger-sized applications, customers have options as to whether single-phase or three-phase UPSs are the best fit for their power needs.


8) Need an extension?


Many UPS models have the means to add extra batteries to increase power capacity. This option is available for battery backup units suitable for desktop, server, networking/telecom equipment and environments where power is considered at the rack, row, or room level.


9) No obsolescence


Users should have multiple options (both in and out of warranty) for update or replacement of older power protection solutions. UPS batteries do eventually wear out, but this occurrence should not mean the end of the unit's usefulness. Choices vary from easy battery replacement (handled by the vendor, including return shipment of the used battery for proper, environmentally friendly disposal), battery replacement with warranty renewal, or trading an existing unit (even competitive brands) towards purchase of a new one (visit for more details).


10) General integrator


During the initial moments of a blackout, many business users anticipate the kick-in of an onsite generator and imagine this to be sufficient for the normal, continuous operation of their sensitive IT equipment. Battery backup is still considered a wise investment for several reasons. Most large onsite generators take time to start up, requiring a crossover solution until they reach the appropriate power level. A quality UPS can handle this transition. What is more, the operation of motor-driven generators is typically accompanied by voltage transients. A quality UPS helps to filter the sags and surges that can harm sensitive electronic components. The same advice is applicable to smaller generators meant for home applications.


* Founded in 1981, APC provides global, end-to-end infrastructure availability solutions. Its products and services are designed for both home and corporate environments and to improves the availability, manageability and performance of sensitive electronic, network, communication and industrial equipment of all sizes.

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