Is UPS an unnecessary expenditure or a vital component in your IT strategy?

Director of Product Marketing, Powerware EMEA

Feb 13 - 19, 2006

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 leading 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 power failure.

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 equipment.

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 1m 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.


A globally recognized industry leader for more than 40 years, Powerware designs and manufactures a full line of Uninterruptible Power Systems (UPS), DC power systems, power management software/connectivity products. Powerware products are typically used in networking, PC, financial, medical, industrial, voice and data communications, military and aerospace applications - wherever continuous power is essential to daily operations. Powerware is headquartered in Raleigh, NC, and is part of Eaton Corporation.

The company offers a full range of UPSs ranging in size from 300 volt-amperes (VA) for personal computers to greater than 1,000 kilovolt-amperes (kVA) for mission-critical applications including data centers, Internet service providers, and server farms. Network-connectivity devices, extended battery cabinets, power distribution modules and other power-related devices further enhance Powerware UPS hardware offerings. The Powerware product portfolio also includes a full line of DC Power Systems ranging in size from mini systems for roadside cabinets or customer premises equipment to large systems for major switching installations. Power management software and IT infrastructure management software complete the company's product line. Basic power management software provides industry-standard monitoring, alarm and shutdown capabilities. More advanced software packages offer expansive data archiving, trending and regression analysis tools with predictive capabilities. With innovative software that can predict the type and timing of possible future events, Powerware is leading an industry shift from reactive power protection to proactive power management.


Eaton Corporation is a diversified industrial manufacturer with 2003 sales of $8.1 billion. Eaton is a global leader in fluid power systems and services for industrial, mobile and aircraft equipment; electrical systems and components for power quality, distribution and control; automotive engine air management systems and powertrain controls for fuel economy; and intelligent drivetrain systems for fuel economy and safety in trucks. Today, the company classifies its business into four distinct segments, which are, by size: Fluid Power, Electrical, Automotive and Truck. Eaton has 51,000 employees, 207 manufacturing sites and sells products to customers in more than 100 countries.


GemNet is a power solutions company, providing quality power products and services. Our philosophy has always been to combine its local expertise and commitment with quality products, technical competence and the support of its principal. Since inception, it has been our goal to build deep and long lasting relationships with our customers and alliance partners by providing them top-quality power products and services. This has been the single most important success factor for GemNet, earning it the reputation as one of the leading and most professional power products and solutions companies. Today, GemNet enjoys an established track record of excellence with its customers in Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates. GemNet is the authorized distributor for Eaton Powerware's range of AC and DC Uninterruptible Power Systems, and offers a large range of specialized power related products and services. The company has local offices in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad (GemNet Pvt. Limited) and Dubai, United Arab Emirates (GemNet Gulf).


* Service plans to fit the clients needs, including plans that cover the client's existing Power Systems and UPSs.

* Services also include: Needs Analysis, Comparative Product Analysis, Cost Justification, End-User Training, Maintenance, After Sales Support, Data/telecom center electrical contracting and site preparation

* Power Consulting & Critical Environment Site Audit (CESA): Audit of existing UPS and recommendation of a power solution. Analysis of the quality of power feeding the systems. Facility/Site inspection, identification and correction of the problem.