Keeping The Power On When Downtime Strikes

An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) is the ultimate insurance that helps keep vital services and infrastructure running when damaging power disruptions strike. Leo Craig of Riello UPS outlines why prevention is better than cure when it comes to maintaining the health of your crucial power protection systems.

Virtually every aspect of public service provision depends on a clean, consistent, and continuous power supply. Whether it’s something relatively straightforward such as keeping the lights on at a local school, ensuring day-to-day access to council, social, or care services, or safely storing terabytes of confidential information in vast datacentres, they all depend on uninterrupted electricity.

But what happens if the power goes down? Unpredictable weather, mechanical or ICT failure, unintentional human error, or even malicious interference can cause unexpected electrical outages that have the potential to bring systems crashing down. A staggering 81% of organisations experience at least one serious power-related failure every year, so don’t think it won’t happen to you. On the balance of probability, it’s already has.

An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) is your organisation’s first and best defence against such damaging downtime, providing immediate battery backup power during an outage to enable computers and servers to save information and safely shut down. It gives you invaluable insurance until the backup generators kick-in.

A modern UPS can even be configured to deal with power fluctuations like spikes, sags, and surges to provide clean power supply in mission-critical arenas such as operating theatres or laboratories, where even the tiniest of inconsistencies can sometimes mean the difference between life and death.

But no safeguard is ever 100% infallible, particularly a complex piece of electrical machinery like a UPS. Over time parts will fail or components will need replacing. And when that time comes, you need a reliable UPS maintenance plan to fall back on. One that will even alert you to potential risks before they can develop into serious, service-threatening problems.

How will UPS maintenance benefit your organisation?

“Prevention is better than cure” – it’s one of oldest proverbs around but it still rings true today, particularly when you’re providing essential public services or overseeing indispensable infrastructure. Inaction shouldn’t ever be acceptable in the public sector, especially in the case of ICT equipment where two-thirds of downtime is preventable in the first place.

Taking a proactive approach to UPS maintenance will preserve your critical power protection asset and provide several additional benefits too.

First and foremost, it will help reduce the risk of downtime and promote uptime, which as service providers is your ultimate objective. Regular UPS maintenance also increases efficiency by helping your system operate at peak performance, which will reduce energy consumption and cut costly electricity bills.

Finally, it encourages improved future-planning and more accurate budgeting, which with one eye on the public purse-strings, is always welcome. Actively keeping tabs on your UPS enables the proactive scheduling of replacement consumables such as batteries or capacitors well before they have chance to develop into an unexpected and expensive critical failure. The lifespan of many UPS components can even be extended by as much as 50% through appropriate maintenance. Every little helps in this age of ongoing austerity!

Questions you should ask to get the best UPS maintenance

Not all UPS maintenance providers, or contracts for that matter, are equal though. Before you sign on the dotted line you need to know you’re getting the most appropriate support for your circumstances. The power protection needs of the intelligence or emergency services obviously differ tremendously to those of a local school, social housing provider, or recycling centre.

Here are some key questions you should put to any prospective UPS maintenance provider to ensure they’re offering you the expertise, reliability, and value for money you really need.

My UPS is under warranty so do I need a maintenance plan?

New UPS units will have a one or two-year warranty that covers manufacturer faults and defects. On certain Riello UPS models we even offer a five-year warranty as standard. But that certainly doesn’t mean you shouldn’t add the additional insurance of a comprehensive maintenance plan though. Warranties only offer a “best endeavour” response, not a guarantee, so if the worst was to happen you could be left waiting for days until your system is up and running again.

A maintenance contract will provide the peace of mind of guaranteed emergency response times. And more importantly, it will even reduce the risk of that emergency happening in the first place. With complex electrical equipment such as a UPS, proactive upkeep can have a positive impact on both the reliability and overall lifespan of your system.

What’s your emergency response time?

Unfortunately you can’t predict when downtime will occur – it’s not as simple as having technical support on hand 9-5 Monday to Friday.

So when disaster strikes, how quickly will you get help? And just as important, what does a ‘response’ actually mean? Is it a simply an automated message, a phone call from technical support, or a certified UPS field engineer on-site fixing the fault.

Maybe you are promised a prompt ‘response’ within a few hours, but in reality your faulty UPS won’t be repaired for several days, crucial time your staff and services simply can’t afford to be offline.

Most maintenance providers will provide a range of response times, from 12 working hours down to 4 clock hours, while an even quicker response is possible for critical environments, where ‘crash kits’ of replacement parts are stored on-site ready for an engineer to use. In addition to response times, Riello UPS is the first UK maintenance provider to guarantee clients a fix time. Our new Diamond coverage commits to a 4 clock hours response with a fix inside a further 8 hours.

Are your engineers fully-certified?

A UPS is a piece of extremely complicated electrical equipment, so you need to know the people installing, servicing, and repairing it know what they’re doing. You’d never consider undergoing a medical operation by an unqualified surgeon, and the same principle applies here – competence is key. We’ve heard some horror stories where a plumber has been sent to service a UPS system!

We’ve introduced a Certified Engineer Programme for both in-house technicians and our nationwide network of authorised UPS service partners. Each engineer must successfully complete rigorous training on the commissioning, maintenance, and servicing of Riello UPS products, and undergo regular re-assessment to retain their approved status.
When they prove their proficiency, they’re given their own unique ID number which can be cross-referenced online so you’ve got the peace of mind that they’re up to the task. Always check the credentials of the engineer working on your unit.

How fast will I get spare parts?

In a UPS emergency, every hour – or even every minute or second – counts. It’s critical your maintenance provider not only has replacement parts available, but they can get them to you as soon as possible. It’s little consolation if they have plentiful spares but they’re hundreds of miles away.

Unlike most maintenance providers, Riello UPS stores spares not just at our own warehouse but at several strategically-placed hubs throughout the UK. This means replacements can be dispatched and delivered within 24 hours. In many cases spares are on-site the same day or even within hours of a fault first being flagged up.

Regarding spares, it’s also essential to establish what’s included in a maintenance plan and what isn’t. Consumables like batteries and capacitors don’t tend to be covered, but with other parts it’s worth clarifying. Replacement fans, another common consumable, are included as standard in Riello UPS maintenance agreements, however this isn’t the case with other providers, so it’s worth double-checking.

How many Preventative Maintenance Visits (PMVs) are included?

A PMV is one of the most important elements to include in a robust UPS maintenance agreement and we’d recommend an annual inspection at the least. Certified UPS engineers will visit your site and review your system for potential problems, both with the unit and whether consumables such as batteries may need replacing.

Regular PMVs also provide the perfect opportunity to install firmware updates that optimise performance by ensuring your system is running on the latest software. It’s the essential health-check for your UPS that flags up faults before they become a critical failure.

Does your UPS maintenance plan include remote monitoring?

If the answer is ‘yes’ then it’s pretty reasonable proof your service provider is keeping up with the latest industry technologies. Remote monitoring, such as our Riello Connect service, sees performance data from your facility’s UPS analysed off-site in real-time by fully-qualified technicians. This round-the-clock scrutiny enables potential glitches to be spotted and fixed before they grow into something serious.

A similar question could be: ‘Do you use thermal imaging?’. Most problems with a UPS and its electrical components are preceded by an increase in heat. For example, connection points that aren’t properly tightened will overheat and fail over time.

Thermal imaging is included as standard during all Riello UPS PMVs as it is far more effective than the human eye or hand at identifying these “hotspots”, which makes it rather surprising that all UPS maintenance providers aren’t making the most of such technology.

Getting clear answers to these questions will help you make an informed decision about choosing the best UPS maintenance provider for your circumstances. It will give you priceless peace of mind that if the worst happens, you have the reliable power protection that’ll minimise any disruption to essential service provision.

Riello UPS is a leader in the design, manufacture, installation, and maintenance of UPS and standby power systems that minimise downtime in sectors as diverse as data centres, manufacturing, healthcare, transportation, education, and emergency services.

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