The critical power situation in South Africa is forcing many companies to re-evaluate how they do business and, more importantly, how they can keep doing business without electricity.

While a generator’s probably the only viable option for the corner café, Christelle Larkins, area manager: South Africa, East Africa and Indian Ocean, MGE Office Protection Systems, says that the latest UPSes and data centre power management tools now available could not have come at a more opportune time.
“The power supply shortage has caused two main areas of concern for local businesses, namely those of power outages and power surges. Businesses need to protect their equipment and data from both of these equally damaging happenings. They need to become self-sufficient when it comes to power,” says Larkins.
“Power management is thus no longer an option for companies in internet enabled and data centre environments – it’s a pre-requisite. This makes it vital that companies understand what their UPSes and surge suppressors do and how they work. They also need to look beyond this winter and choose products that will serve them well into the future.”
Larkins explains that while there are a number of products available on the local market, both vendors and clients need to pay attention to the “solution” offered by the manufacturer, “Issues of cost, scalability, space and professional support all need to be taken into consideration, as well as the actual features of the specific product itself.”
Take the issue of scalability alone. As companies grow, so too will their power requirements in terms of protecting additional servers, blades and telecommunications systems.
Before looking at any other features then, companies should be looking for a solution with a modular, redundant architecture; able to scale power and runtime as demand increases or when higher levels of availability are required. This in turn will lead the company to the issue of size – is the system compact enough to fit in the allocated space in the office?
As for specific features, Larkins mentions that products are getting more and more sophisticated all the time. “Take the Pulsar MX Frame (which accommodates MGE’s new Pulsar MX 5000 RT power and battery modules) one of the latest systems available from MGE Office Protection Systems for example.
"It offers the SME market everything: hot-swappable battery and power sub-modules, auto battery-test, switched outlets, multilingual LCD display and intuitive power management software, compatible with all popular operating systems – including Microsoft’s Vista. To prolong battery life, it also features a wide input voltage and frequency range to avoid using the batteries unnecessarily.”
ecause of the variety of products like these on the market, Larkins suggests clients look at their best and worst case scenario, as well as consult with their staff before investing in a solution, “It’s important you know exactly what you expect from your solution – especially in a worst case scenario where you will potentially be without power for hours. Which machines absolutely have to keep working and functioning during these times? What data must remain available to mobile staff and your remote offices? Who can go home and who can’t?”
This is the approach you should take regardless of the size of your business, “Comprehensive solutions are available no matter how large or small the company, or the type of need – whether it be just enough power to save and shut down or to enable users to continue working as they would with electricity available.”
Larkins’ final word of advice is about choice of brand, “A UPS or surge suppression product is like any other piece of equipment and infrastructure you invest in. Go with an established brand – one that has proven itself in the market and can offer you the expertise and support you need.”
Despite the power outlook in our country seeming rather bleak, with a UPS in the office it’s possible for companies, no matter their sector, to become completely self-sufficient – ensuring South Africa’s future remains bright.