Downtime can be disastrous

Eaton Industries Pty Ltd

By Alexander Hanoumis, Large Systems Product Marketing & Support Manager, Eaton
Tuesday, 03 April, 2018


Downtime can be disastrous

Downtime carries an enormous price tag, so it is critical to minimise interruption to your operations and to your customers’ businesses. That’s why it’s so important to ensure continuity of electric power supply, and that means having suitable and capable backup uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs). But it’s not enough to buy a UPS, stick it in the corner and hope that it works when needed — preventive maintenance is crucial to achieve optimal performance.

Systematic inspections, testing and cleaning by trained technicians will ensure the various electronic and mechanical components of a UPS are functioning to their maximum potential. When problems are detected and repaired before they evolve into significant — and often costly — issues, your UPS will be able to deliver the level of performance you expect.

Lost or corrupted files, hardware malfunctions and the inability to access the critical systems. All of these unpleasant circumstances, and more, can significantly impact the ability to conduct business. Add to that the potential for lost revenue and damaged reputation in the event that customer service mechanisms such as online ordering, phone systems or other sales tools are unavailable to customers. In many instances, there is very little lag time between system downtime and financial disaster.

The most common causes of UPS failure are faulty batteries, fans and transient power spikes. Other possibilities include lightning strikes, clogged air filters and disrupted connections (caused by vibrations from the building or machinery close to the UPS).

Consider a case where an older UPS that had a component failure and switched to bypass was unable to protect the critical load. If unnoticed, everything could appear to be in working order for months until a fault happened with the utility supply and there was a load loss. Customers subscribing to remote monitoring mitigate this risk, as monitoring technicians can instantly receive an alarm and dispatch a service technician.

Prevention pays

Analysis of millions of operating hours for thousands of UPSs has shown that mean time between failures for UPSs that receive preventive maintenance twice a year is more than 20 times better than for UPSs that do not receive preventive maintenance. Increase the frequency of preventive maintenance to quarterly, even monthly, and UPS reliability and service life just keep getting better.

Customers who do not get that attention or do not have access to the original equipment manufacturer service organisation face significant risks. Based on Eaton service records, more than 25% of preventive maintenance visits result in follow-up service to perform corrective actions or upgrades. This shows that proper maintenance enables risks to be identified and resolved proactively before putting the business at risk.

For many businesses, measuring the return on investment (ROI) of a preventive maintenance plan is simple, since a single downtime event can cost more than the entire expense of the UPS and service plan.

In a recent Ponemon Institute study of 41 data centres (‘Cost of Data Center Outages’) it was calculated that the average downtime duration was 1.7 hours, with an average cost per event of US$505,502 or US$4911 per minute.

Eaton’s Downtime Cost Calculator can estimate costs related to loss of sales revenues, loss of employee productivity, mission-critical data loss and other intangibles such as the impact to brand or service level agreement penalties.

When measuring ROI, the challenge is to maximise protection while minimising cost. An effective preventive maintenance plan will help you accomplish both.

Within an effective maintenance strategy are a number of functional tests and component checks that should be conducted regularly. Specifically, an operational test or major preventive maintenance event, which cycles the UPS through its various change-of-state modes, should be conducted while monitoring key operating parameters such as voltage, frequency, current and temperature.

Conclusion

Every UPS contains high-wear consumable components that must be replaced according to the manufacturer’s specifications. To ensure these parts are properly cared for and replaced when needed, regular maintenance is critical.

An effective preventive maintenance strategy can be one of the most cost-effective measures you can take to ensure the ongoing health of both your critical equipment and overall business. Because regular maintenance practices so dramatically improve UPS reliability and performance, while notably deterring downtime, preventive maintenance is an essential component of an end-to-end solution to keep your critical networks operating at peak performance in the face of multiple risks.

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