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Contingency Planning for Critical Power Applications

Published by Jason Koffler on 23 May 2010

No, company has been left un-touched by the effects of global recession however it has never been more important to ensure your Critical Power Solutions are regularly serviced, covered by a maintenance contract or upgraded in line with your business requirements. The key to disaster recovery and business continuity is operational resilience through manufacturer “backed up” service contracts which takes the worry out of owning high value mission critical solutions. Over the last ten years there has been a series of high profile incidents when poorly maintained UPS or generators with no-fuel left in their tanks have failed to “deliver power on the day” creating significant financial loss and additional business issues.

The cost of power infrastructure failing to deliver power on the day, results in significant costs which are typically are more than the manufacturer backed maintenance contract costs required to keep the equipment in prime condition. With maintenance contracts in place even unexpected breakdowns can be overcome through having a guaranteed engineer response time you can rely on, ensuring your application receives the engineer and parts when you require them. Furthermore preventative maintenance visits can help uncover faults before they occur whether these are caused through in correct operation, aging equipment or potentially disastrous changes in the load profile.

Typically, organisations which do not have any form of contingency planning in place which includes maintenance contracts for key equipment have proven over time the majority will face company liquidation within 14months, as they struggle to regain control of their business and put systems/processes back together. In certain countries, organisations face a legally responsibility to protect their organisations data and prevent business continuity issues.

The key to preventing power infrastructure issues from “damaging or even killing” your business is not just redundancy but also the application of a resilience strategy for your organisation no matter the size. Disasters which effect organisations can be man-made through poor planning, cyber-terrorism, and employee damage or design defects in critical infrastructure to natural disasters for instance the recent volcano eruption / winter snow we all experienced this year, which brought weeks of travel issues, employees unable to get to work.

According to the SwissRE study, over 50% of disasters are weather-related but terrorism must now also be taken into account whether from inside the organisation or external threats. As organisation address contingency planning, infrastructure and electrical system design must be made fault-tolerant. A good example is a short circuit should not stop the functionality of the whole building, riser or output from a power distribution unit in an IT Rack which ideally should be fed by two separate sources. Since UPSs, source transfer switches and generators are at the heart of any mission critical applications, data centres or key industrial application, a high degree of attention and time must be paid to resilience in electrical infrastructure. Without power our organisations stop functioning, processing orders, serving customers, even large scale freezer units can only manage without power for a short period of time.

In Europe, electricity utilities can just about meet 99.9%, (i.e. 999) of availability. This can result in 9 hours of blackout or several short blackouts and some brown outs. As the utility companies are not required to guarantee continuity, organisations also have to protect themselves against these power losses. Certainly, no organisation can accept this poor level of availability, so it is essential, therefore, to have critical applications backed up with UPS systems and standby generation to protect their core infrastructure. Remember the cost for not being operational could be the closure of your business within a relatively short space of time.

There is no substitute for preventative maintenance visits and where possible manufacturer backed maintenance visits. Critical Power Infrastructure drives your business and requires your attention.