Planning Power Protection: What SMBS Need to Know

By Lauren Simonds | Posted October 28, 2008

In this tight economy, you literally can't afford to let anything disrupt your business, even for a short period of time. But too many small businesses remain vulnerable, as we discovered when we spoke with Emerson Network Power about its online study showing that 61 percent of small businesses do not have backup power systems in place.

No power, no computers, no phones, no business. If you've seen the light about protecting your business against a power failure, and now you're wondering where to start, Matt Kightlinger, director of solutions marketing at Emerson Network Power, offers these tips for planning the proper universal power supply (UPS) solution for your business.

Capacity Requirements

Kightlinger noted that this includes both your company’s present and future needs. It starts with ascertaining the power requirements for all of the IT equipment (PCs, servers, printers, etc.) including the watts, voltage and plug types. Determine which hardware runs the business…what can't you afford to lose?

"Future requirements are important because your business will grow and evolve and almost certainly continue to rely more and more on IT functions for critical business activities," said Kightlinger. "This will only increase the importance of adequate power protection. Choose a UPS that is scalable and can adjust to the changing demands of your business."

Redundancy Level

Determine how much redundant power you need. Kightlinger said to base this on how important an IT device and the application(s) it runs is for the business. "Critical IT equipment often uses redundant power supplies that can be powered from two separate UPS systems to provide critical power feeds to ensure additional reliability," he said.

Battery Runtime

A typical UPS system battery provides five to 15 minutes of power but can be longer depending on specific needs. "Understand the entire critical power path including generator protection for longer duration outages," he said. "If you need extended backup, choose a UPS that is compatible with a generator. The UPS can provide power [and data protection] while the electrical load transitions from the grid to the battery and to generator."

Real-time Event Monitoring

"An SMB business owner can’t have an eye on the UPS at all times, so it’s important to have reliable monitoring, alarm, notification and management capabilities," he said. "Make sure your UPS is compatible with monitoring and shutdown software."

Centralized UPS or Multiple Rack-based UPS

"Understand the differences and benefits of one larger UPS that provides power to all IT equipment versus many smaller UPS units that provide power to fewer IT devices or individual [server] racks," said Kightlinger.

Power Distribution

Power distribution is extremely important to the critical power infrastructure. Each server rack has different capacity needs, and the power distribution unit (PDU) that plays an integral role. The PDU [essentially a power strip for each server rack] is located inside the server rack and provides power directly to IT equipment from the UPS, said Kightlinger. "The rack PDU also has the ability to allow for remote power management and monitoring at the rack level."

Service and Warranty

Be sure the service and warranty agreements meet your needs. Kightlinger advised that delays in service or replacement could be devastating to a business. "The typical warranty on UPS and power distribution equipment is one to two years depending on size and manufacturer," he said. "Warranty service and on-site preventative maintenance support and repair capabilities are important aspects to consider when choosing an equipment manufacturer."

Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com

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