UPS Battery Backups: Making Sure They'll Work When You Need Them

A UPS Battery Backup is an uninterruptible power supply that provides a seamless backup power in the event that primary power, normally AC, is lost at your site. It is considered "uninterruptible" in that it comes online quickly enough to prevent interruption of activities at your site when primary power fails. Users relying on equipment at the site should be unable to detect any difference in network activities when a UPS switches on.

In keeping the power on at your sites, battery backups prevent:

  • Network Outages/Downtime.
  • Hard-shutdowns that can result in equipment failure.
  • Data loss from unexpected shutdown.

A Battery Backup consists of many things. There are power inputs to charge the backup. There are outputs to discharge power to protected equipment. There's also a control mechanism (switching on the backup when input power is not detected). Finally, you have the battery, which stores a charge until needed. Smaller battery backups (ex. home office) typically allow for only a few minutes of backup time. That's only long enough for the system to save data and shutdown. In industrial applications, a battery backup may be expected to fully power equipment for hours on end.

Unfortunately, batteries also fail. In fact, over 90% of UPS failures are due to battery faults. And your battery strings may not be load-tested terribly often. So your UPS Battery Backup may not always be in shape to take over primary power in the event of a failure. Battery strength wanes with time. If the backup system employs a string of batteries, even a single battery falling outside its normal range can damage the entire string. If this is the case, when primary power fails, your backup may not be there to keep your site online.

Making Sure Your Backup Is There to Back You Up.

To ensure that your UPS Battery Backup is always ready to take over in the event that your site loses primary power, your UPS Battery Backup system should always be fully monitored. In many cases, battery backups provide their own performance monitoring systems, however, if the backup fails, so do these. Therefore, your battery backup's internal monitoring systems cannot be trusted to notify you when a serious backup-related problem occurs.

You'll need to employ an external backup system. Small Remote Telemetry Units (RTUs) are available specifically to measure battery voltages at relatively little cost. With a small RTU, like the BVM from DPS Telecom, you'll set threshold alarms for each individual battery in the backup string. If a voltage goes over or under its desired range, the BVM will set an alarm. If any battery in the string should fall outside its normal range by a percentage you define, the BVM will also set an alarm.

the BVM, monitoring up to 24 strings
The BVM from DPS Telecom is equipped to monitor and trend batteries. It alerts yous when any one battery is in danger of harming the string.

Of course, your entire site may well benefit from network monitoring systems. You don't necessarily have to employ a monitoring system strictly for your battery strings. Monitoring devices are available that support all of the equipment at your site, including your UPS Battery Backups. So, what do you look for in a monitoring device to support your battery backup? You should find a device that will give you visibility for all the equipment at the site.

the BVM from DPS Telecom
The BVM from DPS Telecom is equipped to monitor up to 24 batteries. It also provides additional temperature and analog monitoring at your site.

You could choose a full-featured RTU or something specific for battery voltage monitoring. In any case, once you connect your monitoring device to your UPS, you will configure the unit to send an alert when a battery sets an alarm. Units like the BVM are capable of sending email notification, so when an alarm occurs, you won't have to be in your NOC to know about it. You can get notification from wherever you are, so you can respond quickly to potential battery issues.

Battery trends help tell you when you can expect battery troubles.
Battery trending helps you determine when to replace your batteries. You don't have to wait until a problem develops.

Or you can have your UPS Battery Backup monitoring systems report directly to your alarm master. You can then have the master send you alerts. A good alarm master will offer a progressive notification system. That way, the NOC makes sure that the right people find out about alarms at the right times. Any technician the notification reaches can essentially "claim" the alarm by acknowledging it.

Your UPS Battery Backup monitoring device can also gather battery trending and performance data by issuing periodic SNMP Get requests. These trends will help you decide when it's time to replace individual cells or an entire string before you have a full-blown outage on your hands.

Your UPS Battery Backup exists to provide backup power to your sites. However, you can't trust your backup solution unconditionally. Proper monitoring will help you ensure that your batteries are prepared to work for you when you need them to.

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