Man checking tablet pc as he is plugging cables into server in data center

Consistent power has always been an important requirement for IT systems. In the past few years business have seen a significant threat to consistent power. Physical threats such as wind, floods, wildfires, and storms have threatened millions of businesses across the United States. For some business like those in California reliable power has become a serious concern.

Several steps come to mind during a power event:

  1. How to safely shutdown equipment.
  2. How to operate during an unreliable power event.
  3. How to recover from an unreliable power event.

This article will discuss strategies to safely shutdown equipment via a universal power supply.

Unreliable Power Can Cause Significant Hardware Failure

Outages and surges can have a significant impact on hardware. Hardware can be destroyed by surges or important data can be corrupted/loss during outages. Most businesses provide their electronic gear with a surge protector to prevent damage to electronic systems. A less known or understood technology is Universal Power Supplies (UPS).

APC Surge Protector

What is a UPS?

A UPS is a device whose primary function is to operate as a battery backup for electronic systems. Typically, UPS devices are used to protect high priority systems like servers. The server’s power cables plug directly into the UPS (rather than a power outlet), and in the event of a power outage the UPS provides a continuous and uninterrupted source of power. Servers are very intricate and are very sensitive to sudden voltage changes. Not only can server hardware be damaged by loss of power, but problems like data corruption are common when servers are shut off without warning.

What other benefits does a UPS provide?

Protection against power surges – Along with protection against sudden outages, a UPS provides protection against voltage surges and dips. The UPS is connected to the wall power outlet, which charges its batteries, but the devices connected to the UPS are powered through the battery rather than getting power from the wall. This means that connected devices are protected against sudden changes or “brown-outs”.

Electric cord with electricity sparkls as symbol of power

Scheduled “graceful” shutdown – Most modern UPS systems are now “managed”, meaning they can be accessed and maintained remotely. They also offer advanced features like automated “graceful” shutdowns. UPS devices are, at their most basic, batteries. This means that there is a limit to how long they can provide power after their charge source has been shut off.

In the event of long power outages, a UPS can run out of charge. In the past that meant that once a power outage occurred, someone would need to manually shut down servers to ensure that if the UPS ran out of charge before the power was back on, the server would not suddenly be left without power. However, with today’s UPS devices, we can configure automatic shutdown of connected devices. For example, Ubeo Managed IT can configure automatic shutdown of a device once the UPS reaches less than 20% of it’s battery supply. This ensures that regardless of how long the power is off, your servers will never be suddenly left without power. If the threshold is reached, the UPS will send a signal to the server to have it gracefully shut down.

Bottom Line

Servers represent an enormous investment for any organization. Protecting that investment and mitigating the risk of downtime should be a priority. Power outages are not everyday occurrences, but power infrastructure is aging, and outages are expected to be more frequent. A UPS is something that every organization should have.