Battery Backup – The Power to Keep Going

I am excited and more than looking forward to the arrival of summer weather, but an individual calling my office recently reminded me that along with summer comes the summer storm season.  Summer storms that blow in in the spring and summer can be unpredictable, ranging from a light sprinkle to raging torrents that bring lightning, wind, and destruction in their wake.  This destruction can also bring power outages.  Storms aren’t the only cause of power outages in the summer though.  Air-conditioning draws huge amounts of power which coupled with high temperatures can put a lot of stress on the power grid.  This stress can manifest in outages or just as damaging to electronic components, sags, also known as brown-outs.

No doubt you have taken steps to protect your network equipment like your servers, switches, and routers from these power conditions.  Maybe you have even taken steps to protect your computers.  This protection I am talking about of course is battery backup.  A good battery backup will protect you from both spikes and sags as well as provide you with time to properly shut off your equipment when power is lost completely.  This extra time is crucial in protecting data and system files from corruption that can occur when devices on your network just shut down.  A battery backup however is only as good as the battery inside the UPS.  If the battery is bad your battery backup might not provide you with the protection you expect.

The batteries inside a UPS are basically car batteries, and similar to car batteries they are being fed a charge almost constantly.  We want this because we want the greatest charge possible on our batteries when disaster strikes.  This constant flow of incoming charge along with the natural chemistry of a battery can cause it to become weak over time. Eventually, just like your car battery, they need to be replaced.  Many UPS manufacturers have special charge circuits they have developed that can improve the life of a battery as well as detect when it begins to get weak.  The UPS manufacturers like APC still recommend you test and service you battery backup regularly.

Most UPS batteries last anywhere from 3-5 years before they show signs of getting weak.  It is a good idea to test your backup annually, much like your backup strategy.  Most modern UPS that fall into a range I would consider “smart” have a test button that will test the health of the battery.  I think though the best test is to stage a test outage where you evaluate if the battery backup is able to provide the expected amount of uptime and if it is sufficient to shut down your systems safely in a real power outage scenario.

Before I conclude I just want to remind you that a battery only runs for so long.  If you need to continue working past the time, a battery backup solution that can provide a generator is a perfect addition to an IT disaster recovery plan.  Your battery backup in this scenario provides you a bridge of power until you are able to get the generator running or it kicks in automatically.  The batteries also help to smooth out the power from the generator which can fluctuate quite a bit.  A new season of potentially drastic weather is coming, and your business should be prepared.

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