Today, a typical organisation’s performance is only as good as its ICT resource – which depends in turn on the quality and continuity of its power supply. Accordingly, data facilities of all sizes invariably protect their data processing and communications equipment with a UPS system. This provides protection from short-term blackouts as well as other mains-born electrical disturbances.
However, simply sourcing a UPS of suitable capacity isn’t necessarily enough to provide appropriate protection. What happens if an extended blackout of several hours or more occurs? Below, we look at the factors to consider when accurately matching a power backup system to your particular data facility’s real needs.
We can start by recognising that power supply issues divide into long-term blackouts of extended duration, or short-term problems such as transients, noise, brownouts and brief-duration blackouts.
The long-term blackouts need special consideration because a UPS alone is never sufficient to handle them; no matter how much the battery autonomy, a blackout of longer duration is always possible. Some facilities can tolerate this provided they can shut down safely, but most – especially if the system is processing on-line transactions – must continue running under all circumstances.
If the facility is ‘shut-down tolerant’, it can survive with a UPS alone. During short-term blackouts, the UPS simply switches its inverter to battery power on detection of utility failure. If power is restored well within the battery autonomy, the inverter is switched back to the incoming mains supply. The load has enjoyed uninterrupted operation, with complete protection from the temporary problem.
However if the blackout period starts to threaten the battery autonomy, the UPS must signal the load, allowing it to shut down gracefully in the remaining battery time. System hardware and data has been protected from damage, although the organisation loses its ICT resource.
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