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How to Buy a Remote Power Switch for Telecom Environments

By Andrew Erickson

September 25, 2022


One of the most important pieces of equipment in any telecom environment is the remote power switch. Also called PDUs (power distribution units), remote power switches provide a way to remotely control and monitor the power to telecom equipment from anywhere in the world.

PDUs are available in a variety of configurations and can be used for both AC and DC remote power control applications. Let's take a look at some of the things you need to consider when purchasing remote power switches for your telecom environment.

This isn't as simple as choosing a household power strip, after all...

You must consider these power, connectorization, and monitoring options

  1. What voltage and amperage requirements does your telecom equipment have?
  2. How many devices will you be powering with the remote power switch?
  3. Do you need remote monitoring capabilities?
  4. What type of connectors do you prefer? Do you have a mandated standard connector?

Each of these factors plays a role in determining which PDU you need. Let's pick them apart one by one...

Choose the correct voltage and adequate current (amps)

Most AC remote power switches are available in both 120V and 208V models. Choose the right one for your region.

There are also DC remote power switches with voltages including -48V, +24V, and +12V. The voltage you need is dependent on the equipment you're powering. -48 VDC is very common in telecom, and you'll sometimes see +24 VDC. +12 VDC is the standard at solar sites.

As for current, make sure your remote power switch can provide enough to power all of your devices. You'll see remote power switches with different amp ratings like 10A, 20A, 30A, and 40A.

The number of devices you'll be powering and the power consumption of those devices play a role in determining the remote power switch's current rating.

As an example, at DPS I'm always careful to explain to my clients the difference between the amps the can be accepted by an input and the amps that can be handled by an output. As one example, you might have an input rated for 20A feeding four identical outputs with 10A maximums.

The logic here is that you can connect a device up to 10A to a single output, but that only leaves 10A remaining to divide among the other 3 outputs. Beyond that, you'll overload your 20A maximum on your power input.

Choose the right quantity of power outputs to match the devices you must power

The remote power switch you purchase should have enough outputs to handle all of the devices you need to power. You'll see remote power switches with 4, 8, 12, or 16 outputs.

If you're unsure how many devices you need to power, it's always a good idea to err on the side of caution and choose a remote power switch with more outputs than you need. That way, you have room to grow in the future without having to purchase an entirely new PDU.

Some remote power switches also have daisy-chain capability, which allows you to connect multiple remote power switches together to create even more outputs.

Remote monitoring is often a great choice for any PDU

Having remote monitoring capability built into your remote power switch is a great way to keep an eye on things without being on-site. That way, if something does go wrong, you'll be alerted right away and can take appropriate action.

Some remote power switches even have the ability to send alerts via email or text message, which is incredibly handy.

It's also nice (although not that common) to have built-in intelligence that allows for automatic reboot when a network device stops responding to automated pings.

You'll also want to make sure that the remote power switch you choose has a web browser interface that is easy to use. After all, you want even your newest employees to be able to use your PDUs effectively. A clean web interface is something that your staff (especially newer staff) tend to understand intuitively.

Beyond built-in monitoring interfaces and alerts, it's also important to have something with protocol output if you have 10 or more remote sites. A common solution for this is an SNMP PDU, which can be monitored and controlled via the standard SNMP protocol.

SNMP is also useful for controlling the power outputs on your PDU when it's time to remotely reboot, power-cycle, turn power on, or turn power off to a device.

Choose the right connectors when purchasing

The type of connectors your remote power switch uses is important, as you need to make sure it's compatible with the devices you're powering (that usually only applies for AC power).

There are a few different types of connectors you'll see on remote power switches, including IEC 320 C13, IEC 320 C19, NEMA 5-15R, RIA plugs, and barrel connectors.

As one interesting example, I had a recent project where my client wanted Anderson Power Products (APP) connectors. They're actually pretty good connectors, and I expect we'll use them on other off-the-shelf products in the future.

For this client, we took our Remote Power Switch AB6 and ported it to our new G6 processor platform. This is a government project with high security requirements. The use of Anderson Power Products connectors was the clear choice for them to make the installation as efficient as possible. They already use these APP connectors in their systems.

Get expert help before making a purchasing decision

When in doubt, it's always a good idea to talk to an expert before making a purchasing decision. That way, you can be sure you're choosing the best remote power switch for your needs.

As I've mentioned before, this is something I've done a lot. About 80% of my client projects can be completed purely with off-the-shelf DPS equipment. That's the nature of general-purpose remote monitoring/control devices.

Sometimes, we have to "borrow" something from another RTU/PDU and port it to a different model. That's common as security requirements evolve or when you have a specific connector requirement.

We have engineers on staff at our headquarters for precisely this reason. We want to turn out a first-article prototype within 6-8 weeks whenever you need something different.

Give me a call now to get started

I can connect you with a team of experts who are happy to answer any questions you may have about choosing the right PDU for your unique goals for remote monitoring and control.

Call me a 1-800-693-0351 or email me a sales@dpstele.com to get started today. We do this all the time, and we won't let you fail.

Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson is an Application Engineer at DPS Telecom, a manufacturer of semi-custom remote alarm monitoring systems based in Fresno, California. Andrew brings more than 17 years of experience building site monitoring solutions, developing intuitive user interfaces and documentation, and opt...