UPS maintenance: Prevention over cure

UPS maintenance: Prevention over cure

A reliable UPS system is your first line of defence against the surges, sags and power outages that could have potentially devastating effects to your organisation, reliable being the operative word. The importance of UPS maintenance cannot be underestimated, and should the worst happen, can your business afford to have any chinks in its uninterruptable armour?

Estimates suggest that data centre downtime can cost more than £5,000 per minute – the equivalent of a painful £300,000 per hour or £7.2 million a day. 

According to Centrica’s October 2017 ‘UK Resilience Report’, an enormous 81% of UK businesses had experienced at least one harmful power-related failure in the past year. Given the potential consequences of a power failure, it is staggering that more than two thirds of these incidents could have been prevented in the first place, with poorly planned maintenance cited as one of the principal causes.

With the stakes so high, it’s comforting to know that mitigating the risk of such seemingly avoidable downtime (before it occurs) is relatively simple with some preventative maintenance in the form of a solid UPS maintenance plan.

What should be included in an effective maintenance plan?

There are no guarantees that a data centre UPS will never experience a failure. But having a comprehensive maintenance plan in place will boost your system’s resilience and reliability. Not only does this minimise the risk of a critical issue occurring, it maximises the overall efficiency and ongoing performance of your equipment, and also helps to increase its lifespan. And if the worst does ever happen, it can ensure you overcome downtime as quickly and as pain-free as possible.

Emergency response

A solid UPS maintenance plan should give you greater coverage than a standard product warranty provides, with priority access to support from trusted technical experts. Most importantly it should clearly spell-out response times in cases of emergency.

Most service organisations will provide an eight-hour onsite response guarantee, but may offer a four-hour or even two-hour onsite response. Since time is lost revenue when it comes to downtime, ensure that your service partner is dedicated to getting you back online as quickly as possible.

Before the emergency technician is even onsite, your service provider should have provided phone support to help diagnose what happened, and find out if there are immediate steps that can be taken to keep your facility online and safe.

Preventative maintenance

According to a study by the Ponemon Institute, the number of preventative maintenance inspections completed annually drastically reduces downtime as a result of power loss.

Most UPS manufacturers recommend that a UPS and battery system should have a minimum of two preventative maintenance inspections annually. But it is important to find out what is right for your data centre, as requirements vary from facility to facility. Consider your UPS environment, as well as the criticality of the load supported. As a bench mark, quarterly inspections seem to be relatively commonplace.

Maintenance agreements should also include regular firmware updates, so your system is always running the most up-to-date software. Some of the most comprehensive UPS maintenance plans will even feature a remote monitoring service where trained and qualified technicians off-site are continually keeping tabs on your UPS and battery performance. This means potential problems can be identified and solved way before they become a business-critical issue, which could cause your data centre to go offline.

Spare and replacement parts

Another crucial point to cover in a data centre UPS maintenance agreement is the availability of spare and replacement parts.

Your uninterruptible power supply system is a complex and highly technical piece of electronic equipment. Certain components, such as capacitors and batteries, have a very specific shelf life and will undoubtedly need replaced from time to time.

Most UPS service level agreements will include some form of parts and labour as part of the emergency response they offer. But beware, as this coverage may actually exclude components such as batteries and capacitors, so be sure to thoroughly check what is covered.

Professional advice and expertise

A good maintenance plan provider should keep you up to date on maintenance items, repairs and manufacturer changes as routine procedure.

As systems inevitably reach end of life, assistance should be provided in reviewing the replacement options that are best for your business. It is also worth trying to avoid tying your organisation to a specific UPS manufacturer, as this will help ensure your best interests remain a priority, matching you with equipment that best suits your needs, not whatever the manufacturer happens to be pushing.

The benefits of a solid maintenance plan

Although unforeseeable equipment failures, malicious attacks and service provider failures are sometimes unavoidable, mitigating the risks that come with a potential power issue are for the majority of organisations, absolutely preventable. There is no question the benefits of a maintenance plan make it an essential investment for any facility.

Minimised downtime

Downtime can never be 100% eliminated, but regular maintenance checks and generally keeping a close professional eye on your UPS system, will help you spot problems before they become major issues and save you any painful loss in revenue.

Improved energy efficiency

Much like a car, a poorly maintained system will not run as efficiently as a regularly serviced system running at optimum performance. A UPS that has been proactively well maintained also requires less power to run, saving on energy waste and reducing critical running costs. 

Better budgeting

As every data centre manager knows, planning for the future is key to the success of a facility. The last thing you want unexpectedly denting your budget is the need to replace your entire UPS. By deploying a proactive maintenance approach, you can avoid unanticipated failures and better plan for the future. Part replacements and overhauls can be predicted, which allows you to forecast costs and build them into budgets.

Conclusion

It is clear to see that a proper maintenance plan will ultimately end up paying for itself, and having the right preventative measures in place for your facility is almost (if not just) as important as the UPS system itself.

By employing a proactive, planned service approach, you can not only promote uptime, ensure peak performance and optimise energy efficiency, but also bolster the bottom line and enhance your tools for future planning.