The majority of South Africa’s private and public enterprises are at risk of losing mission-critical equipment to power surges and outages, despite having installed standard surge protection equipment.

And they risk having their claims for the repair or replacement of damaged equipment repudiated by their insurance companies.
That’s the warning from Inus Dreckmeyr, MD of Proudly South African electronic research and development house, Netshield SA who says the standard surge protection methodologies adopted by most organisations often provide a false sense of security.
He points out that merely protecting against electrical surges is insufficient to protect expensive equipment.
“Protection is required against induced surging from switching loads on power grids that can be just as devastating as lightening strikes.  These can be carried into the building via electrical wiring, telecommunications lines and wireless antenna.  Where surge protection is applied, it usually involves placing a protection device on a line. The device will simply clamp the line to prevent the surge from passing through to the equipment being protected.
“This works well – once and possibly twice.  Most of these units are designed to absorb a certain amount of energy. Once that level is reached, the unit fails.  The problem is that no one knows when or if a unit has failed.
“How often does the electricity in a building trip as a result of a power surge and someone simply flips the trip switch, power is restored and everything is back to normal – or so it seems.  But if the power protection unit has failed, the next surge comes that along could pass right through the ‘clamp’ and destroy vital equipment,” Dreckmeyr explains.
And that’s when an organisation might find that, having already suffered downtime while servers and other equipment is repaired or replaced, the insurance claim for the equipment is repudiated because the insurance policy demands that equipment be protected by surge protection equipment.  If the surge protection unit wasn’t working at the time of the surge, then the conditions for insurance cover might not have been met.
Netshield, therefore, has long taken a different approach to surge protection.  “What many regard as the most important defence against surges is just a first line of defence for us.  We apply a second defence and in 10 years, not a single failure jump has been reported,” he says.
Now Netshield has released a new third-generation managed and isolated surge protection unit that replaces mechanical circuit breakers and incorporates power condition monitoring and SNMP management.
The 2U rack-mountable Netshield Equipment Surge Protection unit is locally designed and manufactured to protect equipment cabinets from surges on incoming Telkom lines and power grids.
The unit is equipped with a rear-mounted South African standard 3-pin socket for feeding and protecting the entire equipment cabinet, as well as extremely fast reacting, high-power absorbing and thermally-monitored surge protection devices.  The rack itself has four slots, giving it the ability to protect a combination of interfaces for electricity, wireless, telco and PC equipment, in one unit.
The front panel-mounted 16Amps main power isolation switch automatically disconnects cabinets from the power-grid following excessive surge detection.
Embedded microprocessor circuitry monitors and controls power and interface-related protection mechanisms. The processor has access to non-volatile memory for storage of user-defined information such as circuit numbers and location. Should an element on the unit fail, this is indicated via a warning light on the unit.  In addition, a fault message is recorded on the  consol configuration port.  
“For enhanced protection, the unit can be combined with medium and coarse externally mounted devices, including a medium protection NLVALEPLUG. This hot swappable electrical sub-distribution board DIN-rail mounted device absorbs nominal discharge surge currents of up to 20KA. These boards are normally installed on each floor of larger buildings while a single distribution board is usually sufficient for smaller buildings,” Dreckmeyr concludes.