Why have UPS?
45% of all unexplained computer problems can be
attributed to power input problems.
By Jorma Mannerkoski,
July 09 - 15, 2001
Is UPS an unnecessary expenditure or a vital
component in your IT strategy?
We are increasingly dependent on electrical and
electronic equipment in our everyday lives. In turn the proper
functioning of this equipment depends on a good supply of electricity.
Yet many companies still fail to protect their network with a
uninterruptible power supply (UPS).
Many people wrongly assume that the only time to
worry about the effect of power on computer and other electronic
equipment is when there is a total power cut, which in most countries is
not frequent. However, what has the greatest impact are the fluctuations
and disturbances in mains power which are unseen but can affect the
performance of equipment. According to OFFER, the UK power industry
regulator, some 88% of all UK electricity users were affected by power
interruptions in 1997/98 with an average time loss of 88 minutes*.
Overall, 89 per cent of interruptions were restored within three hours
and over 99 per cent within 24 hours. Over the last nine months there
have been several power outages and disruptions in the UK due to freak
weather conditions. For example, Perpetual plc, one the UK's Ieading
financial services companies and a Powerware customer based in
Henley-on-Thames has been plagued by a number of power cuts. Building
services manager at Perpetual, Ron Hanson commented: "Given the
frequency of power cuts in Henley, we wanted to make sure that vital
data and expensive computer equipment would be protected in the event of
a power outage. We have up to 230 computers and 54 servers in a
building, as well as normal electrical services, so the (UPS) system
installed had to be extremely robust with a large capacity".
It has been estimated that as much as 45% of all
unexplained computer problems such as data loss, network crashes,
mysterious error messages, damaged files and so forth can be attributed
to power input problems. Many people assume that the electricity coming
from the mains is 'pure' but it is not. For instance, the utility input
voltage can fluctuate widely over a period of time. Then there are a
multitude of other power problems such as sags, spikes, brownouts,
surges and so forth. Many factors can affect the quality of the power.
For example, using the lifts in the building or even switching on the
photocopier can cause fluctuations in the supply. Sensitive electronic
equipment like computers, hubs and routers is susceptible to power
variations. Most PCs nowadays can ride out power outages of a few
milliseconds but no more.
Ideally UPS should be considered when an IT
installation is being planned or a building is first being constructed.
Power protection specialists can advise on what equipment is needed to
protect the load and any special considerations which need to be taken
into account. For example, networks running a Unix operating system need
to be shutdown in a specific order otherwise it could take IT staff days
to reboot the system and recover files once power is restored. Likewise,
where computers are using cache memory technology a power interruption
can play havoc with data storage and retrieval. Sophisticated
multi-tasking operating systems such as Windows NT have brought greater
power and flexibility to users but ironically leave organisations wide
open to the threat of power problems. Operating systems such as Windows
NT cannot cope with sudden shutdown as there a number of procedures
which must be performed in the background to ensure data, files and
applications are closed properly. Having a UPS with appropriate shutdown
software can help ensure that data is not lost or corrupted through
What a UPS does is not only provide backup power in
the event of a complete power failure but also take the input
electricity, clean it up and output what is called 'pure sinewave' .
The need for UPS relates directly to how critical
computer uptime is to your organisation. A supermarket for example,
relies on electronic terminals and computers to process customer sales.
If the system goes down then customers will walk out and business is
lost. Likewise a bank dealing room which is processing millions of
pounds worth of customer business every hour cannot afford a minute's
downtime due to power problems. Moreover, as electronic commerce becomes
more prevalent companies will be even more dependent on computer
networks for the survival of their businesses. If a network is not
shutdown in an orderly fashion it can take many hours to reconfigure
systems and get it up and running again. Fortunately there is UPS
monitoring and shutdown software available which gives the user complete
control over the operation of the UPS in a networked environment which
can warn of impending power problems and initiate a controlled shutdown
of the network giving users ample time to save data and close
applications. In the meantime, the business is losing revenue. Although
currently some 80% of UPS applications are in the IT sector UPS applies
wherever there is a need for continuous and clean power including
medical, industrial, telecommunications, security and surveillance
Although power cuts are fairly rare when they do
happen the results can be devastating. Fortunately, power cuts in most
countries are a rare occurrence but they do happen and when they happen
they can have a devastating effect. For example, on 8th December 1998
approximately l m people in San Francisco and San Mateo in California
found themselves without electricity. The cut caused chaos in Silicon
Valley as businesses, transport and public amenities ground to a halt
for over seven hours. Those businesses without UPS not only found
themselves paralysed but many had lost valuable data. The cause of the
power cut was human error at a substation in San Mateo. More recently
Dubai was plunged into darkness in May when the country experienced a
six-hour power cut. Again, those organisations without UPS suffered the
consequences. In July 1999 the entire island of Taiwan suffered a
blackout lasting several hours due to severe weather conditions. This
affected the Hsinchu Science Park, home of the Taiwanese electronics
industry, which had to destroy around 4,000 wafers.
Purchasing UPS is like taking out an insurance
policy, it is protection against something you do not want to happen.
Like insurance it is important to have adequate levels of protection.
Market research carried out by Powerware in Europe has revealed that the
key criteria for businesses choosing UPS is product reliability closely
followed by customer support, warranty, brand and battery life/runtime.
In other words, apart from features and functionality, organisations
want to be sure that their UPS will perform when it comes to the crunch.
The level of UPS protection varies with the size of
organisation and the criticality of systems. Some companies have one
large UPS in the basement of the building which protects the power
supply for the whole building, often backed up by a generator which can
provide longer term uptime. Other companies may just protect the network
server or individual workstations where the data is vital to their
business. However, the sad fact is that far too many organisations have
no protection at all.
Powerware Corporation: Powerware is a part of
Invensys Power Systems, a global provider of premier power systems,
integrating a full line of uninterruptible power systems (UPS), telecom
power systems, software, turnkey integration and 24/7 maintenance
services. Customer applications include critical network and
communications facilities requiring maximum availability such as IT
networks, data centres, fixed line and wireless telephony and other
critical applications. Powerware products are used in networking, PC,
financial, medical, industrial, voice and data communications, military
and aerospace applications — wherever continuous power is essential to
Invensys Power Systems, headquartered in Raleigh,
North Carolina, USA, is a US$2.6 billion leader in total power solutions
for the IT, telecom and industrial markets. The parent company Invensys
plc, headquartered in London, is a US$ 12 billion global leader in
intelligent automation, controls, power systems and drive systems.
Invensys Power Systems leads the world in power control and energy
storage products for IT, telecommunications and industrial applications.
Comprised of five product groups — Energy Systems, Energy Storage,
Power Conversion, Distributed Solutions and Teccor — Invensys Power
Systems provides customers with a single source for critical elements of
their power systems.
GemNet: GemNet is the authorized distributor for
Powerware Corporation (formerly Exide Electronics), and offers a large
range of specialized power related products and services. The company
has local offices in Pakistan (GemNet Private Limited) and Jebel Ali,
Dubai, U.A.E. (GemNet Gulf). GemNet offers Powerware's entire range of
products including technical and after sales support.
GemNet's target markets are the emerging markets, and
it's activities are currently focused in South Asia, and the Middle
East. Since inception, it has been GemNet's goal to be a leading
supplier of it's power protection product range in the markets in which
it is present. To this end, GemNet has been focused on getting a
detailed understanding of these markets, building relationships, and
setting up the required infrastructure to support such an operation.
Service and Support:
• Qualified team of engineers provide quality installation and
after sales service.
• Service contracts that provide for loaner equipment if repair time
is to be more than 24 hours.
• Custom tailored service plans to fit the clients needs, including
plans that cover the client's existing UPS equipment.
• Services also include: Needs Analysis, Comparative Product Analysis,
Cost Justification, Consulting, End-User Training, Maintenance and After
• Hardware Audits: Audit of existing UPS,
Recommendation of a Power Solution.
• Quality Analysis: Analysis of the quality of power feeding your
systems, Improvements in the powertrain system.
• Solutions Consulting: Inspection of your complete facility,
Identification of the solution, Correction of the Problem.