Gary Audin
Gary Audin is the President of Delphi, Inc. He has more than 40 years of computer, communications and security...
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Gary Audin | July 29, 2011 |


Power Disturbances Damage Equipment and Data

Power Disturbances Damage Equipment and Data Heat outside will cause power problems inside.

Heat outside will cause power problems inside.

Heat outside will cause power problems inside. I have been sitting inside a lot recently because it is too hot in Virginia to be out in this summer weather. My air conditioning is working but I notice that my electrical utility is struggling to provide power. This situation leads to power fluctuations, brown outs, power surges and other poor-quality power delivery.

Power fluctuations can cause computer and network equipment damage. Momentary power drops can cause equipment to restart. The restart produces a temporary interruption of communications. Data can be lost. Delivery of clean uninterrupted power to ICT systems is essential. These problems affect the data center, network closets and the desktop devices.

Here are common electrical disturbances:

* Blackout--This is a total loss of power. It can be caused by power grid failure, lighting strikes, broken power lines due to storms, fallen trees, ice, and equipment failure. This condition can last for minutes to days depending on the severity of the problem and the resources available for service restoration.

* Voltage drops and sags--This is a short term reduction in voltage level due to the start up or restart of equipment, short circuits and overloaded facilities. These are common occurrences during the summer months.

* Voltage spikes--A spike a is momentary sudden increase in voltage caused by a lightning strike or fallen power lines.

* Power surge--This is a short term voltage increase that is longer in duration than a spike. The surge can occur when large pieces of equipment suddenly go off line or a short circuit occurs.

* Noisy power lines--Electrical noise can be produced by electromagnetic interference (EMI). This can be caused by the switching of power loads on or off, lighting, transformers, power generators, and industrial equipment.

* 60 cycle drop--Equipment that expects 60 cycle power may not work as well when there are power drains that reduce the power delivered to less than 60 cycles. This occurs when the utility is under stress with very heavy loads draining the power.

I found a useful article from my local utility, "Power Disturbances: Protecting Your Computer Equipment and Critical Data" posted at Your Energy Advisor September 1, 2010 by Dominion Power (excerpted with permission). There are two recommendations from the article for protecting sensitive ICT equipment:

Uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems keep your equipment operational by monitoring sags and surges, and providing power conditioning and battery backup when electrical disturbances occur. In addition, surge suppressors (also known as surge protectors) absorb excess electricity and divert it to the ground, away from computers, printers, scanners, and so on.

* UPS systems. UPS systems continue to provide power during an outage by switching your system over to battery power for 5 to 15 minutes. This is generally enough time to save your files and perform a controlled system shutdown. A UPS is capable of absorbing relatively small power surges, smoothing out noisy power sources, and--when combined with a generator--providing power for extended periods during blackouts. UPS/software combinations will perform additional functions as well, including monitoring and logging the status of the power supply.

* Surge Suppressors. Surge suppressors guard against spikes and surges that come through the AC outlets, absorbing excess electricity and diverting it to the ground line; away from your computer and peripherals. They are rated by their short-circuit current capacity. Care should be taken when using surge suppressors. Spot placement can cause grounding issues that actually increase the incidence of electrical problems on non-protected equipment. Therefore, if a surge suppressor is being used to protect one device on a circuit, protect all other devices as well.

You will experience some or all of these common power delivery problems. The enterprise can alleviate most of them with the recommendations above. However, if the problems are persistent and the enterprise solutions are not adequate, contact your utility who may be able to help identify the source, which can lead to a low- or no-cost solution.


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