We’ve recently had a client come to us with concerns with about his UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) unit that could benefit others. The client took notice of his UPS unit after it began sounding a regular alarm. In addition to the alarm, the device would throw up conflicting messages as to the nature of the problem. There were a number of things that could have caused the problem, but in this case, the culprit was time itself.
A UPS has a limited lifetime. Generally, a UPS is built to last for at least three years, but that life cycle can be cut short by any number of factors that are difficult to control. Power surges, brown outs, battery chemistry and even ambient room temperature can all decrease the reliability or overall longevity of the device. When a UPS reports a problem, the purpose is to let you know that something is wrong; the actual culprit might vary from what is stated. In this way, it’s best to think of the warning as a check engine light in your car; it’s time to have the problem looked at and interpreted.
Once a problem has been detected there are three routes you can take:
Eliminate the UPS altogether: This is the simplest and least advisable solution. If you remove your UPS, you leave your systems vulnerable to power outages as well as low and high voltage spikes from your power company. This is no recommended.
Test the battery: The battery within the UPS is frequently the first component to fail and any IT provider should be able to test this for you. Replacement batteries are sold for UPS’s but they are usually not protected under the same warrantees. Additionally, many manufactures do not recommend replacing batteries because quite often, the rest of the electronics have also taken damage and are either failing already, or will be soon. After years of experience, we’ve found that battery replacements only work in a small percentage of cases.
Trade-in the defective hardware: UPS manufactures such as APC offer trade-in programs where they will sell you a new UPS at a discount if you give the old one back. For most businesses, this is the cheapest and most efficient solution to the problem of a failed UPS.
Of course, before you do any of these things, it’s not a bad idea to have your systems checked out by an IT professional first. There is always a chance that your UPS problems could be fixed with an easy solution that you have simply overlooked.
– Richard Keene
IT Computer Support of New York
Webmaster and Lead Designer