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To UPS hire or not to UPS hire?

Adem Kemal BEng (Hons) MSc MIET, service director at Levant UPS Ltd, explores the benefits (and pitfalls) of hiring your UPS equipment.

As demand for global round the clock IT services increases in the form of multi-billion-pound web-based businesses, so does our reliance on uninterrupted power in order to access these services 24-7 from anywhere in the world.

With changing customer demand and unwillingness to commit to high capital expenditure during these turbulent economic times, UPS hire is becoming an increasingly popular choice for those clients who are wanting to exploit the flexibility and non-committal aspect of leasing UPS systems, either on a short or long-term basis.

UPS failures, whilst less common on reliable well-maintained equipment, can and do occur. As with anything else in life, the likelihood is greatly increased with age. For those clients who need immediate access to reliable power protection systems whilst they assess their requirements for either repair or replacement of the failed equipment, a hire UPS makes perfect sense.

Costly repairs of ageing equipment can often lead to a waste of resources, whilst valuable time to assess the requirements and needs for future equipment can ensure that the wrong decision is not taken when selecting the appropriate replacement machines. All diligent companies will understand that their UPS choice is one of the most important decisions that they will ever make when it comes to guaranteeing and protecting the seamless operation of their business-critical processes.

As with most other aspects of any business, the majority of corporate decisions come down to cost versus necessity. Of course, cost cannot just be evaluated in terms of initial outlay, but also in terms of the cost to the business should equipment failure occur and the potential for this to disrupt business activities. The ability to hire a self-contained complete UPS setup means minimum downtime during connection and commissioning versus the high costs of complicated repairs with no guarantee of a first-time fix on the stricken UPS. Or even worse, a loss of customer confidence in your company.

In recent years, we have seen the widespread and damaging effects of catastrophic failure of IT infrastructure such as that experienced by British Airways and TSB bank. In both cases, severe damage was caused to the brand, not to mention the loss of revenue and huge fines imposed by industry regulators. In the case of BA, the outage was estimated to cost the airline £58 million in passenger compensation claims alone. Whilst TSB has revealed that their massive IT failure cost the bank £330m, with 80,000 customers switching their account to a competitor. Both cases highlight the ramifications of critical equipment downtime to a heavily IT dependent business.

Furthermore, hiring your UPS means that you are able to operate your power protection system according to market demand. How many times have you seen a site running a high capacity UPS on as little as 5% load? This signifies a vast waste of capital as predicated future expansion can often fail to materialise in quite the way that earlier business predictions may have indicated. Running such large capacity machines on little load is extremely inefficient and having the option to off-hire such a system and replace it with a smaller machine is particularly advantageous. The ability to expand and contract with market conditions is a huge benefit of hiring your UPS system, with extremely low capital expenditure costs in order to do so.

Whilst hiring a UPS has many advantages, there are of course several factors to consider in choosing a suitable vendor. Selecting a supplier with a proven brand of UPS and extensive experience of connecting their hire sets into pre-existing electrical networks (which are unlikely to have given any prior design consideration to this eventuality) is crucial. A competent vendor will be able to identify a suitable point of entry into your existing on-site distribution network with little or no negative impact. The provider should demonstrate that they are able to understand in detail your business requirements and how you require the equipment to perform. This may be in the form of output voltage, frequency, battery autonomy or any other relevant factors.

A good hire company will offer a comprehensive witness testing procedure for your engineering management and consultants, to prove correct and adequate operation of the hire system under simulated load bank tests with mains failure.

The pitfalls of UPS hire mainly centre on clients being able to identify a specific set of criteria for which they want the UPS to conform to. In some instances, non-technical individuals are assigned to source a hire provision, only to be completely out of their depth in ensuring with the provider that the equipment can operate as needed on-site. This can be mitigated with effective communication, cooperation between the provider and client and a conscientious approach by the installer to ensuring that all relevant matters are discussed before any equipment is delivered to site.

While hire UPS systems have long been the choice of clients looking to bridge downtime created by failure of their own UPS assets, many clients are now looking to hire UPS systems with a long-term lease approach which affords them flexibility, low capital outlay and peace of mind to mould their power protection system according to their business needs. This reduces the need to make far-off predictions about future capacity and the potential waste of funds should these expectations not be realised further down the line.

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