The Power of UPS Communication in 2018

Don’t get left in the dark this New Year – make sure you know the importance of communicating with your UPS!

Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS) are used to provide instant battery backup in the event of a mains power disturbance or system failure.

More often than not, the purpose of a UPS is to buy some time for the load to shut down safely, or to switch over to a generator, if available. Without the ability to communicate their own status and battery condition, a UPS is less effective.

If a UPS is unable to alert its critical load that a power blackout is likely to exceed the UPSs battery autonomy period, a system crash would simply be delayed rather than prevented. When the load in question includes ICT equipment, the consequences of such an outage may result in permanently damaged or even lost data. 

Simple Communications:

Due to their simplicity, volt-free contacts can be very attractive for use in obtaining UPS information. In some cases, mainly when the load is not considered to be critical, simplicity is valued much more than highly-detailed data.

Simple volt-free contacts may be suitable, as they provide ‘True / Not True’ alarms and messages for situations like Mains Failure or Battery Low. Volt-free contacts can be connected to remote, but on site, alarm panels and UPS monitoring systems such as Remote Status Panel (RSP) or Building Management Systems (BMS). Such contacts can also initiate network software running on the critical load computers to begin a graceful shutdown.

The software uses the contact signals, alongside timers, to decide if or when a system shutdown should start. Installing the software onto a computer network server enables you to select that server as a controller. This will then be used in relaying UPS alarms to other network devices, which can also be organised to respond suitably.

A serial communications port can offer a little more information if needed, by monitoring and exchanging analogue data rather than just ‘True / Not True’ signals.

Network Based Solutions:

 For certain systems, some type of UPS communications ability is all that is necessary. However, for larger, more complicated or multi-site systems, a more sophisticated, network-based strategy becomes crucial.

 The System Network Management Protocol (SNMP), part of the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) suite, is a largely embraced and successful solution. It allows a network manager to oversee and manage many devices across an enterprise network from a central location.

A UPS with SNMP capability can turn out to be an extremely intelligent device that can…

-       Log events

-       Continuously monitor power quality

-       Report on battery status load and temperature

-       Perform self-diagnostics 

Whether volt-free contact, serial or networked, communication is absolutely vital in aiding smooth system shutdown during a power failure. Not only this, but also for UPS monitoring and to spark preventative UPS maintenance, making 2018 about resolving faults before they even have a chance to develop into system failures.

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