The Most Common Power Protection Mistakes

We see a lot of environments and a lot of power cords, surge protectors, and UPS devices.  We also see a lot of incorrectly installed devices.   Here are a few examples for you to review your own situation.

  1. Undersized or wrong type of UPS devices.  This is by far the most common mistake we see.  Adequate UPS devices can seem expensive, so people will buy a less expensive model.  Normally, that less expensive model is underpowered and, as a result, is a waste of money.  Also, for most workstation UPS devices, once the device trips over to the battery it does not trip back automatically, even if the power is restored.  As a result, an unattended device, such as a server, plugged into a BackUPS device will crash in a power outage the same as if it were not plugged into a UPS at all, it will just do it a couple of minutes later.  The point is not to have a UPS, it is to protect your equipment and data plugged into the UPS.
  2. Plugging a surge strip into a UPS.  This is the second most common mistake we see and one of the most potentially damaging.  Voltage regulation may trip the surge strip causing it to direct all power back through the ground plug.  The UPS is not designed to handle this back load and will fail.  This will also void the warranty for most UPS devices.
  3. Long extension cords.  We often see 50-foot extension cords coiled up in server closets.  Extension cords are meant for short-term use only.  A coiled extension cord will heat up and causes a potential fire risk.  Longer extension cords, particularly undersized home cords, cause additional resistance also affecting power and battery life.
  4. Plugging a laser printer, scanner, all-in-one printer or copy machine into a UPS.  Anything that needs to “warm up” draws significantly more power during its warm up.  This puts a significant strain on the batteries and will cause the UPS to fail and potentially damage the computer.   It will also cause an early demise to battery life.
  5. Surge strips connected with adapters to non-grounded extension cords.  This completely defeats the purpose of the surge strip and is a fire hazard.
  6. Worn out surge strips or UPS batteries.  We often see surge strips that have been tripped often enough that their indicator light is off, meaning they no longer are providing surge protection.  We also servers plugged into UPS devices that haven’t had new batteries in 3 years which fail immediately upon power loss.
  7. Devices plugged into the wrong outlet ports on a workstation UPS.  Many workstation grade UPS devices have 6 ports, 3 on battery and 3 surge only.  The surge only ports are for the printer or scanner or other devices with power converters.  Often people don’t pay attention and plug the computer into the surge port.
  8. Uninstalled or problems with the UPS management software.  This software manages the server’s ability to shut down properly if the UPS is engaged. However, we have seen situations where the software was not installed, incorrectly installed or configured, corrupted by other updates or installs, or the proper cords to communicate between the UPS and the server was not in place or unplugged.

To avoid these problems, MSP IT Partners recommends these 4 basic steps:

  1. If you are going to invest in power management, invest in the right level of device.  Even though it will likely be more expensive, at least it will provide the security you are expecting instead of being a waste of money.
  2. Have a test schedule in place to physically inspect UPS and surge devices throughout your office.  After reviewing that they work, test them.  Plan to replace your UPS batteries every 12 to 18 months.
  3. Every time you buy a new computer, replace the surge strip or workstation UPS.  Yes, it is tempting to use the surge strip that has been in the utility closet since 1973, but why take the risk?
  4. Finally, this is something to take seriously.  Power issues are the number one non-user related cause of problems with all electronic devices.  They are also one of the few causes of unpredictable outages.  When your staff shows up for work and your server won’t turn on, the runtime cost of the outage escalates into the thousands of dollars very quickly.  Also, proper power conditioning will not only protect from outages but will extend the life of your equipment.

If you have questions or would like help, MSP IT Partners professionals will do a walk through with you and help you identify issues.  We are not in the business of selling UPS or surge devices and do not represent any lines or products.  Our goal is to help provide you with the information you need to identify if you have the protection that you might believe is in place and to manage the protection of your technology investment into the future.

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