Network Communications News Feature: The Right Choice

In today’s data driven society it is vital to choose the right UPS in order to adequately protect your infrastructure. Leo Craig,  looks at some of the key considerations when selecting a UPS for the cloud generation.

Some say the 1970s and 1980s were the era of electronics development and the 1990s the age of software development. So what do we call the 2000s and beyond? Many believe this is the era of cloud data as we live in a world with vast amounts of information being stored, managed and processed in ‘the cloud’.

Consumers are becoming more information hungry than ever – devouring social media applications, shopping, banking and working online. More and more businesses are also adopting cloud services – indeed, research from the Cloud Industry Forum (CIF) showed that the number of organisations using cloud services is likely to increase from 78 per cent this year to 85 per cent by 2018. With the growth of the digital economy showing no signs of slowing, it is essential that this data is protected.

To this effect, having an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) in place is now a must for businesses who can’t afford to lose vital information in the event of a power outage. The UPS forms a key part of any IT infrastructure ensuring continuous power supply even in the event of a critical power failure.

UPS systems have evolved greatly over the past decade, and it’s an evolution that has been driven by the rise of the data centre, in which the need to use power more effectively and to control lifetime costs of equipment is as important as the need for mission-critical power protection. So what are the key considerations when choosing a UPS in today’s data driven society?

1: Confirm the amount of power the UPS is required to back-up

In order to determine which type of UPS is suited to your business, it is important to confirm the amount of power the UPS is required to back up. There are calculation tools out there to do this but it is recommended that a site survey is carried out for an accurate reading. Consideration should also be taken for future expansion plans in order to avoid the UPS running out of capacity. Many UPS products manufactured by Riello UPS have the ability to be paralleled for capacity or redundancy, but this will be of little use if the electrical infrastructure has not been designed with expansion in mind. Expansion plans therefore need to be implemented at low voltage design/build stage to make sure the infrastructure is in place to ensure additional UPS can be installed without having to power down live equipment. This forward planning can avoid oversizing the UPS which in turn carries a higher capital outlay.

2: Choose the best operating mode

Different sites require varied UPS running modes. A critical load such as a data centre for example would usually run its UPS in ‘online’ mode – the safest and most resilient mode a UPS can operate in. Online mode sees the UPS unit convert the incoming mains from AC to DC and then back to AC – this is often known as ‘online double conversion’ and results in clean and stable power. A UPS installed on the same site to work on more resilient mechanical equipment could be run in ‘Smart’ or ‘Eco’ mode. In this instance, the UPS typically runs in a ‘line interactive’ mode unless mains disturbances are present and then the unit switches automatically to ‘online’ mode. Typically, this can offer a 99 per cent efficient running cost compared to typically 96.5 per cent for a fully online system. Smart and Eco modes are suitable for equipment which is able to handle a momentary dip in power when the UPS unit switches from mains powered offline/line interactive mode to online mode. Although this switch over is typically no more than six milliseconds, some sensitive equipment can see this short break as a power outage and restart/reset etc.

3: Choose an open maintenance protocol

UPS maintenance should be routine and carried out by the manufacturer or an approved third party provider. Many UPS manufacturers have chosen to tackle the problem of unauthorised maintenance by instigating ‘closed protocol’ systems where the units are ‘locked out’ to anyone other than the manufacturer itself. While this would appear to solve the problem of ‘rogue traders’, it is in reality a breach of European Law and could prove costly by tying customers into only one available maintenance option. Riello UPS for example chooses not to lock down its software within its UPS as it doesn’t believe in controlling who you choose to maintain your equipment. But it is essential to ensure that whoever maintains your equipment is fully trained. Riello UPS also runs a Certified Engineer initiative which allows customers to check if their chosen engineers are fully trained and competent to carry out the work. It is best to avoid manufacturers who instigate a ‘closed protocol’ system because this ties you into them for any repairs needed which can prove a costly experience.

4: Consider your environmental requirements

A UPS is a device which is not just there to protect from power outages, it is also there to continuously clean the power. Riello UPS is continuously developing its products in line with developments in component technology which allows the UPS products to be either market leading or very close to this position when it comes to the running costs or efficiency of the UPS. There is currently a great deal of confusion regarding efficiency figures as the figures often published are actually when the UPS is operating in a more basic mode such as line interactive. As the load does not undertake double conversion, the losses are less but the quality of power received is worse.

5: Think about installation

Depending on the requirement and the applied load, businesses can easily buy an ‘off-the-shelf’ UPS to install themselves. But for large systems, the assistance of experts is vital as they can help in selecting the right location for the system and ensure it is installed correctly. For bigger systems, as mentioned above, thought must be given to how the system will be expanded over time. Construction work is expensive but it is the one area in which oversizing to future proof requirements could be cost effective in the long run. 

Consideration also needs to be given to the physical layout of the UPS and batteries. If possible, the UPS and batteries should be housed in separate rooms so the running costs for cooling the equipment can be kept to a minimum. For example, the battery room needs to be kept at an ambient temperature of 20°C to ensure the battery lifespan remains at its best. The UPS however will work without issue in a temperature of up to 35˚C. In this instance, the battery room would require mechanical cooling whereas the UPS room may be more suited to a more traditional forced air approach. The physical reduction in cubic meterage and emitted heat from the UPS would see a dramatic reduction in running costs of the air conditioning system.

6: Consider Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)

Research should be carried out into the cost of maintenance on an ongoing/ yearly basis. Always request a price from the UPS supplier for a fi xed price fi ve year maintenance plan. Be aware that in some cases, the manufacturer’s maintenance plan pricing can rise sharply after the UPS warranty expires. These costs then need to be reviewed alongside the initial outlay/ effi ciency of the UPS in order to ensure that the package has a transparent TCO.

7: Consider your supplier – and provision for spares

Reputation is important when choosing a supplier but it is also important to consider if they have good availability of spares and equipment. It’s a fact that a UPS will at some point in its working life require parts due to component failure/need for replacement. You should ensure that the supplier of choice has a complete spare parts store as well as an ex-stock holding of their current UPS.

Click here to read the latest issue of NCN magazine.