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How to Choose the Right UPS Service Approach

When a network outage happens and a facility’s uninterruptible power system (UPS) falters, the costly equipment designed to maintain uptime has failed to perform its primary function. While the UPS is engineered to protect mission-critical equipment in the case of an emergency, it’s important to give these systems appropriate maintenance to avoid any potential breakdowns in critical power equipment.

According to a 2014 report from IDC, network downtime costs 80% of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) at least $20,000 per hour. For 20% of SMBs, a single hour of downtime can cost at least $100,000. To help mitigate the risks associated with costly downtime and enhance power management, executing an appropriate UPS service approach helps to ensure proper upkeep of these critical systems.

While different strategies have their unique benefits, a preventive maintenance scheme for UPS is important for any enterprise’s savings potential. When determining a strategy to ensure power systems stays up-and-running, there are four primary choices to maintain a UPS or series of UPS systems.

UPS manufacturer’s internal service organization

Establishing a service contract with your UPS manufacturer presents several benefits. Operators receive extensive knowledge and proficiencies from factory-trained field technicians who provide ongoing, detailed training on specific UPS products. The internal service organization’s maintenance plan provides technicians who are armed with the latest information pertaining to your specific UPS, and they also have access to the latest firmware and upgrade kits that help the UPS maintain its highest level of performance. The UPS manufacturer’s factory trained field technicians possess the most experience and advanced tools resulting in faster repair times.

Independent service provider

Independent service providers are third-party organizations that provide a variety of UPS or power quality equipment maintenance, consulting, start-up and installation services. While independent service providers are normally less expensive than what UPS manufacturers offer, they tend to have fewer resources available and might not have completed the training necessary to address your particular UPS model. Independent service providers do not offer factory warranties unless it has been contracted by a manufacturer.

Self-maintenance

Some organizations are equipped with internal resources that possess the appropriate level of electrical and safety skills to create an economically feasible option to perform maintenance on a UPS. The most significant facet of self-maintenance is to have a reliable plan in place that includes routine scheduled maintenance on common wear items like batteries and capacitors.

Skilled operators can undergo first responder training to understand the operational, safety and environmental concerns and basics of preventive maintenance on specific UPSs. Electrical arc flash hazards are of primary concern among safety issues in addressing UPS maintenance. The person appointed as your internal maintenance professional must understand the various alarm conditions and responses required for specific power events, along with the steps to start and stop a UPS correctly throughout various applications.

Spare parts kits are available from UPS manufacturers for those who choose to internally maintain their UPS equipment. Professional service providers can also be utilized for more critical repairs, upgrades or routine maintenance that is required.

Time and Material (T&M)

For very old UPS models where no service contract is available, some enterprises like to pay as they go to address their UPS maintenance approach. However, paying as you go does not make good sense economically for complex, multi-module or redundant UPS configurations. Time and Materials (T&M) services typically charge per hour of labor, often with a minimum number of hours required. If a power event happens during after-hours or on weekends, the hourly charges get more expensive. T&M response times are typically “best effort” with no guarantees of arrival times, since customers with existing service agreements take priority over T&M customers.

Taking the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach isn’t appropriate for UPS maintenance and neglecting to service these systems can have costly consequences. A regular preventive maintenance plan is crucial for enterprises hoping to avoid downtime. Regardless of the preventive maintenance strategy you select to address UPS upkeep, active involvement with the health of your UPS components will help minimize business interruption and maintain uptime.

Arthur Mulligan is a product line manager for Eaton's U.S. power quality service organization.

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