UPS Powers IT At a Moment's Notice

Your clients might not need it at this very moment, but the day may come when they'll be glad they listened to you about making that uninterruptible power supply purchase.

We don't often consider how much power we use to run our businesses, so the power we need to keep the servers on after a disastrous event usually boils down to an afterthought. That is, we'll look into what it'll cost us to purchase a solid uninterruptible power supply once we know how much we're spending on everything else.

UPS as an afterthought might have something to do with the fact that they're not sexy, like high-availability storage or mobile devices. Or maybe it has to do with hubris and a UPS acts more like insurance: We need it only when the need arises.

But when the need arises -- most often in their simplest form, like a power outage or surges from an electric storm -- we're all about making sure we have enough power to run our systems so we can, in most cases, power down without losing data or communication. UPS can then become one of those critical components that can save our business from imminent disaster. Still, when we're line-iteming the budget on hardware, let's not overspend and then cross our fingers that we have exactly the UPS we need.

Let's look at five companies that offer power management products and services for the small and medium business: American Power Conversion, Eaton, Falcon, Minuteman and TrippLite.

American Power Conversion
Power is APC's middle name and the company has been at it since 1981. Company founders came from MIT with the idea of tapping into solar power, but the company took a practical turn by introducing power protection products in 1984.

Today, APC is known for its BackUPS line of UPS power packs for home and small offices, and its SmartUPS for powering networks and servers in SMB and enteprise environments. The APC SmartUPS 750VA is an entry-level unit that can provide up to 500 watts of power for nearly two hours via a rechargeable lead-acid battery. It's priced at $319, and units that provide longer running times and other features, such inclusion of a transformer or configured for rackmounting, are priced upward and accordingly.

APC also offers power management for data centers and mission-critical applications, as well as network power management and automated system shutdown software. Its UPS units are sold on the shelf and through the channel. Details here.

Eaton is diversified power management company that's been around since 1911. If you've ever seen a Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning take off and land, you're seeing Eaton power management -- Eaton's technology manages the hydraulics powering the fighter's VTOL capabilities.

Well, this is the part where we tell you how some of that tech made it into the company's UPS products, but that'd be a lie. Instead, Eaton acquired the Powerware family of UPS products from Invensys back in 2004. (Eaton once owned the Best Power UPS line, but it's been discontinued). The Powerware products adds up to a just a tiny slice of Eaton's $11 billion generated by the company yearly, but it's an important piece of the power picture.

The Eaton 5115 is the entry-level backup power unit in the Powerware line that can provide surge protection and backup power for basic servers, desktops and other networked appliances. The units aren't as powerful as the APC units, running only about 5 to 15 minutes, based on power draw, but the units also start at a lower price point -- around $150 for the most basic unit. The Eaton 5115 comes in a basic tower configuration, but higher-end Powerware products are available in other tower as well as rackmount configs and with enough backup power to keep up data centers and manufacturing facilities.

Eaton sells its UPS systems mainly through resellers and solution provider network. Find out more here.

Falcon Electric
Falcon Electric has been providing power management, mainly in military applications, for more than two decades. If you look at most of the products on their site, you'll notice that most of their devices have been ruggedized -- some of those devices help maintain power on tanks ambling through rough terrain, which means it has to take a beating.

Falcon's SSG Series lineup is what the company is known for, but these configs might be overkill in lots of applications, where servers are likely installed in racks in the typical server room. The SG Series in tower and rackmount units still provide backup power without the built-tough armor.

Power is centrally managed on any platform through the company's propietary UPSilon monitoring software.

Minuteman Power Technologies
Para Systems has been in the UPS business since 1982. The company, through its Minuteman Power Technologies division, has several UPS lines, including three-phase, sinewave, and more familiar standby boxes. Its Minuteman Pro500E is a 500VA/350W 120 VAC line-interactive entry-level unit, at $179. Typical runtime is more than 6 minutes at full load and about 17 minutes at half load. Power is managed via the company's SentryII management and diagnostic software.

Para Systems also offers a full line of UPS that can accommodate backup power for systems as large as data centers with its Endeavor family. Para Systems also offers its products through resellers and its distributor network.

The unusual-sounding company name comes from the founder's roots in headlight innovation -- way back in the early 1920s. It wasn't until the 1970s that TrippLite diversified and began developing onboard AC power units for autos and RVs, which led to UPS and power surge protection for PCs and computing in the 1980s. TrippLite also manufactures

TrippLite's entry-level rackmountable SmartPro line of UPS appliances retail at $179 for the Smart500RT1U unit that can keep systems on for 3 minutes at full draw, with higher runtime units available to handle more servers. TrippLite also offers configs that can handle data centers and high availability applications. All of the units can be managed from its PowerAlert power monitoring software.

TrippLite distributes its products directly and through a reseller program.

(Editor's note: Read a lab review of UPS systems at our sister site, Government Computer News, here.)

About the Author

Michael Domingo has held several positions at 1105 Media, and is currently the editor in chief of Visual Studio Magazine.


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