On a typical Thursday afternoon back in November 2014, a storm hit Brisbane.
However, this wasn’t an ordinary story, but a roiling black mass with gusts of over 140km/hr, 6,000 lightning strikes, and hailstones as big as tennis balls. Flash floods occurred, while 22,000 homes were damaged along with 50,000 cars. Planes at Archerfield Airport were flipped by the cyclonic force of the winds.
All up, the supercell storm left Brisbane with a $1 billion clean-up and repair bill… and businesses who weren’t protecting their technology numbered among the casualties.
It was a timely reminder of what storm season in Brisbane can be like. But even when South-East Queensland is lucky enough to dodge “super storms”, Summer is still a time when lightning strikes or floods bring blackouts, spikes, and surges.
It’s the big reason why smart businesses use an Uninterruptible Power Supply (or UPS) to protect their technology during a dangerous time of the year.
What is an Uninterruptible Power Supply?
The simplest definition of an Uninterruptible Power Supply is that it’s a piece of hardware that protects your technology—and by extension, your data and business—from spikes, surges, blackouts, or brownouts. It also gives you a backup power supply to work off if your business is hit by a power failure.
While only a fraction of businesses have them, a UPS is a non-negotiable when it comes to servers, switches, firewalls, and any mission-critical technology your business uses. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use smaller UPS units to also protect your PCs and other user technology from the damage a lightning strike may cause.
So how do you spot a UPS? Most people are familiar with the compact, black box often seen around PCs. But depending on your infrastructure
and power needs, a UPS may stand as tall as a storage cabinet (and weigh a couple of tonnes to boot).
How Does A UPS Work?
There’s no single answer for this, because there are three main types of UPS technology you can use.
The most basic type of UPS technology
A standby UPS does what it says: stays on “standby” until a power problem occurs
When a blackout, power surge, or voltage sag hits, the UPS instantly kicks over to battery power to keep connected technology running
2. Line Interactive
A line interactive UPS monitors incoming power and regulates it if a high voltage condition (like a surge) or low voltage condition (like a brownout) occurs
Since it doesn’t need to constantly switch over to a battery, a line interactive UPS preserves battery life
Like the standby UPS, a line interactive UPS protects from surges or spikes, but also filters out Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) as well as Electromagnetic Interference (EMI)
Both Line Interactive and Standby UPS units are reasonably inexpensive and good choices for an office environment
3. Double Conversion
Provides clean and uninterrupted power, regardless of the condition of incoming power (i.e. whether it’s surging, sagging, or spiking)
Uses an inverter to convert incoming AC power to DC power, then back to “good” AC power to pass onto any connected hardware
Is always online and providing power with zero transfer time, which makes it ideal for protecting mission critical equipment like high-end servers or data centres
Benefits Of Having a UPS In Your Business
While the name gives away the obvious benefit, an Uninterruptible Power Supply does more than just “keep the lights on” for your infrastructure.
Protects your tech during power surges
A single lightning strike can send millions of volts through nearby wires and cables, which will fry anything connected to the grid. When this happens, your run-of-the-mill surge protector usually isn’t enough to stop hardware being damaged.
When you have a UPS, the voltage from the main electrical lines can be stabilised and smoothed out. If a surge hits—whether from lightning or another source—the UPS can switch over to battery power and shield anything connected from the erratic voltage. A double conversion UPS goes so far as to “clean” power so it doesn’t overload any equipment running off it.
FUN FACT: While we often link surges with lightning, high-powered electrical devices like elevators or industrial air conditioners are a more common cause of power surges. Turning these off and on can create short but sudden demands on the power load, which then disrupts voltage flow. And while these surges may not be as catastrophic as lightning strikes, they can still be strong enough to damage devices hooked up to a building’s electrical system.
Maintains business continuity during brownouts or blackouts
While we said it's more than a "keep the lights on" technology, a UPS still performs this role admirably well.
Blackouts or brownouts may seem less threatening to your hardware or data than a million volts streaking through the mains, but both can still wreak damage. More importantly, they can bring your business to a sudden, grinding halt. In today’s world, practically no business operates without some dependence on computers and technology… which makes a power failure a particularly painful event.
A UPS lets a business keep operating even when the power goes out in their neighbourhood. At best, they’re able to rely on backup batteries
to keep operating until mains power is restored. At worst, a business can ensure data is saved and critical processes completed before
gracefully shutting down their systems.
Normalises your power supply
Keeping your equipment safe from surges, spikes, or brownouts, during the next big thunderstorm or flood is important. But it doesn’t take a natural disaster; accidents or even just power works can trigger voltage fluctuations that shorten the life of your technology or disable them altogether.
A UPS can act as a kind of filter to normalise the power your computers get. This keeps them and any other electrical equipment your
business relies on safe from dips or surges, no matter the source of the flux.
Does Your Business Need a UPS?
If you have an existing server with PCs or are looking to buy them, a UPS is a must-have, especially during SEQ’s storm season. However, it’s important to know what kind of UPS you need and the power load it will need to support.
If you already have a UPS, be mindful to get the batteries checked and maintenance done on the UPS unit itself. Batteries need to be changed every few years… and having the computers flick off during a storm is not the best way to find out they’re dead!
Find out how affordable a UPS can be for your business and how quickly you can have a unit installed by calling us on 1300 778 078 today.