Importance of monitoring your UPS

An Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS) forms an incredibly vital function, but just as it protects valuable data, so should you ensure the UPS itself is protected as well. This is done in the form of UPS monitoring which communicates any potential failure so that action can be taken.

What is a UPS?

Starting with the basics, your UPS is a backup power source that is designed to activate when there is a power failure from the main source (Eskom). The UPS consists of power inputs, power outputs, backup batteries and a control system which switches the system onto backup power when needed. The nature of this equipment – as can be deduced from ‘uninterruptable’ in the title – is that it’s incredibly quick-activating, so there’s no drop in power.

Importance of protecting your UPS

As a critical data- and equipment-saving device in the instance of power failure, a UPS needs to be effectively monitored to ensure there’s no chance of it malfunctioning and thereby becoming completely redundant. By monitoring and protecting your UPS, you’re able to ensure you’ve backed up the backup!

How to protect the security of UPS

When considering the various elements of the UPS, the most important aspect for ongoing functionality is operational batteries. Monitoring your batteries will require you to track various facets of the battery.

–        Monitor UPS battery voltage readings

Any UPS battery monitoring system will have to keep you constantly updated on the voltage readings so that no problem is allowed to persist and impact the integrity of the batteries. That’s why real-time monitoring, as well as sampling at intervals, will provide assurance of the battery voltage. Deep discharge is probably one of the most critical voltage-related issues you would contend with because this could damage the batteries over time. It’s also important to remember that batteries come in different types with different orientations, connectors and voltage ranges. This requires effective monitoring of voltages dependent on the battery types.

–        Monitor UPS battery temperature

Another incredibly important indicator of your UPS battery health is the temperature, which needs to be constantly monitored. A good monitoring device will check the threshold values from high- to low-temperature alerts. It’s not unlikely to get a minor temperature spike and, while this would need to be monitored, a major spike should trigger your emergency response or you could risk thermal failures and equipment damage.

–        Other UPS factors to monitor

In addition to the battery temperature and voltage, here are some of the other UPS factors that need to be monitored to protect the device. These include:

  • Charge: The percentage of battery available.
  • Status: The status of the UPS batteries.
  • Humidity: The humidity level in the UPS.
  • Current: The battery current as reported by the UPS metering – positive when discharging, and negative when recharging the battery.
  • Time remaining: The battery run time before low battery prompts UPS shutdown.
  • Capacitors: Any potential degradation and need for replacement.

UPS monitoring systems

Because the effective functioning of the device is so vital in the protection of data and valuable equipment, you need to maintain the security of your UPS communications through monitoring systems.

1. UPS web interface

The uninterruptable power supply can be fitted with a web browser interface that allows for remote UPS control and the provision of monitoring tools. This means that you’re able to manage the UPS device remotely. However, if the UPS suffers from complete failure, then the monitoring interface will also shut down, leaving you with a potential disaster.

2. Network-based approach

Some organisations prefer to use network strategies for the monitoring of UPS operations. This allows a network manager to monitor a vast number of UPS systems across various sites.

–        Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP)

SNMP software that works with your UPS can send alerts directly to your network manager. When you have a UPS with SNMP capability, you’re benefitting from a much more ‘intelligent’ device. The SNMP will allow several UPS devices to be monitored at a central point on the network. Using SNMP monitoring, you should be empowered to:

•                              Re-boot UPS-protected devices remotely.

•                              Access real-time notifications via email, phone or SMS.

•                              SSL and SSH data encryption and authentication.

•                              Have access to activity and alarm logging.

 

3. Remote Terminal Units (RTUs)

This is a form of UPS power management software that comes with a monitoring device that collects vital information from the backup system. It can alert you to any critical changes as well as gathering battery trending and performance data. This lets you know when it’s time to replace cells or an entire battery string, preventing costly and unnecessary damage.

4. Third-party monitoring

UPS monitoring and control can be performed by a network manager, however, you also have the option of giving your supplier power to monitor the UPS from their control centre. They can manage remotely or visit the site if needed.

What to consider when choosing UPS monitoring system

There are obviously many ways to monitor your UPS operations, but it often comes down to these three factors:

1. Cost of monitoring: If the cost of your UPS monitoring system exceeds replacement costs, it’s not worth investing in. However, if your business cannot absorb the costs related to equipment failure and downtime, then it’s money well spent.

2. Cost of connectivity: If you have stable network connectivity, then you’re likely to benefit from a top-end monitoring system. But if you are in a remote location where connectivity is costly, then that will need to be factored in.

3. Technical support: You need to be assured of comprehensive manufacturer support with your monitoring system. The company should be using top engineers and have a quick response time so that there is no hassle for you.

Perform regular maintenance

An important aspect of protecting the security of your UPS is the performance of regular maintenance to ensure that your UPS is fully functional. By checking that the batteries and other components are in top condition, you’re benefitting from peace of mind while also drastically extending the lifespan of your valuable UPS.

When you work with a reputable UPS supplier, you’re likely to receive all the necessary support in terms of ongoing maintenance and protecting the security of your UPS communications where required.

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