Choosing a UPS partner that delivers for your data centre

UPS sytems have by now become critical within large data centres that must protect their sensitive ICT equipment from incoming power supply problems. The loss of data and possible damage to equipment and – perhaps more importantly – reputation arising from a sudden power blackout or aberration are completely unacceptable in today’s pressurised, competitive business environment.

Large data centre operators are mostly consistent in their expectations of the UPS solutions they install. Extremely high availability is the top priority, while best-possible energy efficiency, competitive cost of UPS ownership, good scalability and a minimal footprint are also essential.  However there are other considerations that are less immediately obvious, yet just as important to the success or even viability of a UPS installation. This reality highlights the importance of engaging with the right UPS supplier – one with the experience to recognise and address all these factors, backed by the resources to supply, install and maintain a UPS solution that satisfies them. Let’s look at these factors, and at how good suppliers of UPS systems should respond.

Initial supplier evaluation can start with a conversation about the UPS technology they offer. Kohler Uninterruptible Power Ltd., for example could explain their modular, transformerless approach – offering very high availability through true modular N+1 redundancy and hot swappability, true dual conversion to protect from mains power disturbances, high efficiency and easy scalability over wide power ranges.

Given that the UPS technology is right, how helpful is the supplier in assessing the load requirement and sizing the UPS accordingly? How much current does the load draw at times of maximum demand? If the UPS equipment is three-phase, is the load balanced between the phases, what is the power factor, and is it leading or lagging? Although aggregating information from equipment labels approximately reveals expected load, it does not provide an accurate load profile, the load’s true size and its variation over time. UPS suppliers can help by performing a site survey that collects the information necessary for accurate UPS sizing, design, and purchasing decisions. They can also advise on problem loads such as motors, compressors or air-conditioning equipment that could temporarily overload the UPS on start-up.

Advice and help on integrating the UPS system into its target environment is also essential, for example in matching it to circuit protective devices and isolators along the path to the load components. Additionally, if a stand by generator is to provide longer-term backup for periods of extended power loss or problems, expertise on integrating the UPS and generator is essential – from setting up communications between the systems, to ensuring that the generator’s voltage output and frequency control meet the UPS’s input requirements.

Your UPS supplier can also advise on relevant environmental issues; air-conditioning must be capable of handling the UPS’s heat output and meeting battery requirements, whilst humidity must be controlled to avoid corrosion of cabinets and internal parts. Audible noise from any UPS systems must be kept within limits appropriate and acceptable to its location.

Once the UPS’s topology, capacity and environment have been organised, your UPS supplier can provide help and advice with delivery, installation, cabling, and switchgear arrangements. The UPS installation strategy should make adequate provision for future growth in power demand.

The relationship with your supplier should not end when UPS installation and commissioning is complete; usually they are the logical choice for maintaining the UPS system throughout its operational life. They will be able to offer a contract that includes scheduled, preventative, UPS maintenance, together with an appropriate level of response to any emergency that may arise. It should also cover battery care, from online monitoring, onsite maintenance and load bank testing to end-of-life UPS battery disposal.

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