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Is your UPS talking to you?

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As computer technology has become more advanced, it has also become more sensitive to fluctuations in the voltage and supply of electricity, writes Marco Da Silva, MD of Power Solutions at The Jasco Group .
Ongoing power issues continue to be a major cause of computer and server downtime, and can have long-term repercussions on the reliability of equipment and the availability and integrity of data.  An Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) has thus become an essential component of any end-to-end technology or computing solution.
As a critical component of these systems, it is essential to ensure the UPS is optimally maintained, operational and ready to take over or bridge power supply at all times. There are many components of a UPS that need to be looked after to deliver effective functionality.
However, without some form of monitoring, this becomes a challenging task, and organisations often only detect problems after the fact, when it is too late. Ensuring your UPS is able to effectively communicate its status at all times, both on location and remotely, is critical to ensuring that power supply truly does remain uninterrupted through outages and load shedding.
The current power challenges in South Africa have highlighted the need for a UPS backup solution – something which in the past has typically been a grudge purchase conducted only after a disastrous event such as data loss. Many organisations now see this equipment as critical, and a standard part of equipment.
However, what the majority of enterprises fail to realise is that without the ability to communicate with the UPS to determine its status, there are many things that can go wrong. If the UPS cannot communicate effectively with connected equipment, it will be unable to perform one of its primary functions, namely the ability to ensure a graceful shutdown of equipment when mains power supply is unavailable. While many UPS solutions provide battery backup power, this runs only for a limited time, and before battery life is depleted the UPS should ensure that equipment is shut down safely.
Further to this, the ability to proactively monitor and maintain a UPS is essential for optimum functionality and ensuring the UPS is operating at maximum efficiency. The UPS is a critical piece of equipment, but itself is also technology that includes a number of components that may potentially fail if they are not managed and maintained effectively.
Simple preventative maintenance should be performed regularly, however, without the ability to communicate with the UPS it is difficult to test and monitor functionality. If a UPS is in fault mode or at risk of failing, and organisations are unaware of this, they may be left in a tight spot should the power fails and the UPS fails to start up and perform its primary function.
Organisations today require simple yet advanced ways of monitoring the status of the UPS and all of its components. This can easily be achieved with the addition of a basic, web-based Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) card, which delivers a simple and easy to operate monitoring interface. The SNMP card allows businesses to connect into their UPS solution to view the UPS and its various components and functions from anywhere in the world via a static IP address.
This in turn allows for proactive monitoring and maintenance and the swift resolution of problems. The solution provides a web interface as well as email communications and added on SMS functionality, so that alerts can be sent out if any components mail fail or any customised thresholds are met.
Utilising this type of SNMP card, organisations can remotely monitor the status of their UPS, including voltage, current, bypass, utility power and more, and can take advantage of web-based network monitoring. In addition, utilising IP-based power software, organisations can also leverage centralised monitoring, unified management and graceful shutdown of equipment.
Alerts can be sent out via a number of channels including SMS and email with warnings for configured alerts such as power failure, low voltage battery, UPS fault alarm, input power, output power and more. These problems can then be dealt with, to ensure functionality remains optimal. The solution also delivers a variety of reports to ensure that maintenance can be schedule timeously.
Having a reliable, powerful web-based interface solution that is integrated with the multi-network communication protocols can enable comprehensive easy-to-understand remote monitoring and management of UPS systems. This allows organisations to proactively prevent downtime on their UPS and ensure this critical backup tool is available whenever it is required.