The importance of a UPS for SoHos and SMEs

By Elrica Quick, APC Specialist at Drive Control Corporation (DCC)

Small businesses face the same IT challenges and frustrations as their larger counterparts, yet they don’t have the resources a larger organisation may have to resolve these issues. When it comes to vital protection of your equipment, an Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) should be on the top of your list. The technology is not difficult to understand or implement, and the cost is negligible compared to loosing or damaging equipment or possible data loss due to power- failures, surges and dips.

The primary role of a UPS is to protect equipment from power dips and surges, and to give the user or equipment enough time (typically five to ten minutes) to save their work and conduct a safe shut down of the equipment. However, depending on the company or user’s requirements, a UPS can be selected that provides more up-time to perhaps complete a task before a safe shutdown is done. As user requirements differ, there are key technologies and features to look out for when selecting a UPS.

There are typically three types of UPS’ for the SOHO market:

  • A backup UPS is designed for PC’s and small entry level equipment. Depending on the UPS size, it can typically handle loads from 325VA to 1500VA typically. To put this in context, a laptop or single desktop’s power consumption is approximately 150 – 250 Watts so a 1500VA (1050W) UPS could provide backup and protection for up to seven PCs.
  • A Line interactive UPS’ range between 750VA and 5kVA. These UPS’ are typically used on entry level servers and PC’s.
  • The next range of UPS’ are online UPS’ – these units are true online and are typically used for sensitive equipment like your high-end servers and small data centres but not restricted to this alone. These units range between 1kVA to 10kVA on single phase applications.

It’s relatively easy to determine what capacity UPS you need. Simply turn over the equipment and look at the power usage (wattage on the devices you would like to connect the UPS). Add this up and you have the load that you would like to connect to the UPS. Look for a UPS that can sustain the load. Of course there are some devices you may not want to connect to your UPS, for example a laser printer, it draws so much power on start-up it will overload the UPS. Similarly there are limits to how much time you can add onto a UPS. To obtain maximum uptime where the load is approximately 30% of total capacity i.e., a load of 300VA on a 1kVA UPS would offer maximum uptime.

There are other considerations, however. One of the advantages of a UPS is the surge protection it offers. This is the responsibility of the Automatic Voltage Regulator (AVR) built into every UPS. The AVR corrects low and high voltages to safe levels.

Other features to look out for include: audible and visual signals and alarms to provide notification of changing utility power and UPS conditions; manual or automatic self-testing functionality; safety agency approval (e.g., SABS rating), and ease of use – plug and play.

The bottom line: given the benefits of using a UPS, the reasonable cost and low technology demands, can you afford not to have a UPS protecting your equipment and your data?

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The importance of a UPS for SoHos and SMEs