UPS Maintenance: A Critical Component to Infrastructure Stability & Longevity

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In a previous post, we highlighted it “may be a surprise to some business owners, business telephone systems are not immortal.”, and if business owners take the “out of sight – out of mind” approach with their telecommunications infrastructure, the Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS), aka a Battery Backup System, running that infrastructure is even further down on the list of perceived importance.

At Face-2-Face Telecommunications, about half of our business is working for out-of-state vendors with their own customers in our region (Ohio, Indiana, & Kentucky).  These are the locations at which we encounter unfortunate and interesting customer predicaments.

Recently a vendor requested our assistance with one of their customers (a hospital). Their entire communication system had been down for over a day already.   

Once onsite, we were told the UPS had failed, and they simply moved the power cable to plug the system directly into the building’s power (bypassing the failed UPS).  Although this is a standard troubleshooting method for smaller systems, they failed to confirm the power plugs were the same specifications. The UPS ran on 240v, and the business telephone system ran on 120v.  The system was receiving double the power it was designed to handle and by the time we were finished diagnosing all the damage, 5 out of 16 power supplies were destroyed. With some creative shuffling, we were able to restore about 85% functionality to the hospital’s communication system until replacement parts were delivered. However, the complete outage time was 1-2 days. Can you imagine your business being down for that time, much less a hospital.

Unfortunately one cannot simply dismiss this situation as a reactive and poor decision during a high-stress critical outage.  The customer was aware that the UPS had previously been compromised, as 5 years earlier, they had activated the UPS’s bypass function due to battery failure – but the customer never replaced the batteries, leaving the communication system (and everyone who relies on the communication system) exposed. A UPS with working batteries does keep systems online during a power outage, but more critically it protects system during a low voltage or brown-out situation, which can be as devastating to sensitive electronic equipment as a lighting strike. 

Within our 25 years in business at Face-2-Face Telecommunications, we have rarely lost equipment due to lighting strikes, power outages, or brown-outs by following these two simple best practices:  Whenever possible, plug a UPS into a lighting protector, ideally one with insurance.  The low cost lighting protector protects the more expensive UPS and the UPS protects the critical equipment from brown-outs and outages…and the UPS’s will typically tell you when the batteries are bad.  When it does, replace them.  Resist the temptation to bypass, ignore, or silence the alarms in an effort to “save money” – it rarely works out that way. 

For any vendors that need us to support their customers, Face-2-Face Telecommunications will go wherever & whenever you need us for a critical system outage at competitive rates. We simply ask that you cover our time to support your customers.  For our own internal customers, no matter the reason for a critical outage (fire, flood, etc.), we are always there when you need us with parts in stock.

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