Guest Column | June 2, 2009

Extended Runtime UPSs: Viable, Cost-effective Solutions For Longer Battery Backup Times

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Written by: Bill Allen, director of marketing, Minuteman Power Technologies, Para Systems

Managers of security, telephone and IT systems are seeking longer battery backup times for mission-critical applications. According to a Frost and Sullivan survey, there is a definite trend toward keeping systems up and running for longer periods of time. “Having a longer time to react when power outages occur has moved from a luxury to a requirement as IT managers handle an increasing number of mission-critical systems and applications,” said Vishal Sapru, energy and power industry analyst for Frost and Sullivan. “SMBs continue to tell us that they want UPS solutions that offer more battery backup time.”
One solution for achieving longer runtimes and maintaining system uptime is to combine a UPS with a generator, but even this seemingly logical choice brings with it issues that resellers must take into account. The UPS can be utilized to keep critical equipment up and running while the generator starts up because it can take several minutes for a generator to begin supplying a usable electrical signal.

The drawback resellers may face from this configuration is that many UPSs cannot tolerate the sometimes “dirty” power generators provide, especially when it comes to frequency and the purity of the sine wave signal. Unless the UPS has a wide tolerance for this type of electrical signal, it will sense there is a power problem and automatically go to battery backup. If the generator is able to come back into tolerance in terms of a clean signal, the UPS will then allow the signal to pass through. However, when the window of tolerance is exceeded, the UPS will again go to battery mode. Low-end UPSs do not possess a large enough window of tolerance to keep from switching back and forth, which causes the UPS to cycle on and off battery mode. However, there are higher-end UPSs that have more tolerance for the type of electrical signal a generator provides.

Other considerations resellers must take into account for their customers include the expense of maintaining a fuel supply to the generator, emissions, and ventilation, along with ongoing maintenance. Since generators are mechanical devices, they require regular maintenance. If a power problem does occur, the user must make sure the generator is in optimum running condition. When it comes to mission-critical applications, it would be disastrous for an outage to occur and the generator not able to provide reliable power. A reseller may have thought he had installed a reliable backup solution, only to find the plan did not work.

Also, in some buildings and facilities, generator-supplied power is only available for emergency lighting, fire alarms, and a few other systems. Many times, managers of IT, security, and telephone systems are left to fend for themselves when it comes to backup power. When this is the case, extended runtime UPSs can supply the necessary emergency power required to keep these mission-critical applications up and running.

There are essentially three solid reasons why an extended runtime solution provided by external battery packs can give your customers the peace of mind they are seeking.

The first justification is based on the fact that generators are not fail-safe, whereas, a UPS with external battery packs is much more reliable. Yes, a UPS with battery packs does require some periodic testing and maintenance, but the level required when compared to a generator is miniscule.

The second reason is that a UPS with battery packs can actually provide another level of reliability, even when a generator is used. The safest solution would be to use a UPS with additional battery packs as a bridge until the generator kicks in. This scenario would provide an added layer of system uptime assurance in case the generator does fail to provide clean, adequate power. When planning for disaster, a system with redundancy and contingencies is always the best solution. Rule number one for emergency preparedness: Never have a single point of failure.

The third reason why external battery packs are an excellent choice is that long runtimes can be achieved at a fraction of the overall cost of a UPS and generator combination. Once again, resellers must consider initial cost coupled with on-going maintenance for their customers. Yes, the batteries must be replaced every three to five years, and testing the UPS should be performed periodically, but there is still a large difference between the amount of maintenance required for a UPS vs. a generator. An extended runtime UPS is a much more cost-effective solution and can provide the long runtimes that are required for mission-critical applications. For a few hundred dollars, runtime can be extended from minutes to hours with external battery packs.

There is no valid argument against the use of a UPS when it comes to protecting vital equipment like servers, telephone systems, and security systems. A UPS ensures that these hardware devices are available and fully functional to support crucial applications, even during an extended power outage. It truly is a no-brainer. Too much is at stake for a business, and the cost of protection is at an all-time low. Assets must be protected. A company’s employees must be protected. Resellers that recommend and push power protection are doing their customers a huge favor.

Every business experiences power problems, and when an extended power outage does occur, a UPS with external battery packs provides the most reliable, most cost-effective and most maintenance-free solution for extended power outages. For more information on extended runtime solutions and the Forst and Sullivan survey, visit www.minutemanups.com/extrun.

Bill Allen is director of marketing for Minuteman Power Technologies. In this role, he is responsible for development and execution of all marketing and communications functions for Minuteman’s power protection product portfolio. Prior to joining Minuteman, Bill Allen was director of strategic alliances and marketing programs for Texas Instruments RFID Systems. In this position, Bill drove the strategy and development of key business, channel and technology relationships, and defined and managed core marketing programs for the groups.
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