What is a UPS device and why do servers need it? 

06.03.2024 2,822 4

Many new Internet users have been exposed to the web either through a mobile phone or a laptop. Inside those gadgets, there are batteries that are charged through a power supply with filters. These users are somehow protected from power supply variations, but for all the rest – desktop users, data centers, DNS servers, and more, having a UPS is essential. Why? Find out the answer to this and more questions related to UPS devices, here! 

What is a UPS device? 

UPS stands for uninterruptible power supply. It is a hardware device that has different filters to stabilize the current and a battery that can provide power in case of current interruption. UPS devices are not made to replace the power supply; their purpose is to prevent devices from shutting off due to changes in the current and to provide the user with enough time to save their data before the battery dies or the user changes to an alternative power supply. 

Why do you need a UPS device? 

You need a UPS device to prevent the damage that power issues can cause. There are different power issues, and here you have a list of the most common: 

Too strong voltage 

Over time, continuous exposure to too strong voltage can shorten the lifespan of devices and lead to increased energy consumption. Excessive voltage levels that are higher than the standard rating can overwhelm electronic devices and  cause immediate damage or even complete failure. Components inside the devices may become permanently damaged or directly burn out due to the increased stress caused by the high voltage. 

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Voltage spikes 

Voltage spikes are rapid and brief increases in voltage. They can occur due to power grid fluctuations, sudden equipment operation, or even lightning strikes. Repeated exposure to voltage spikes can progressively degrade the reliability and performance of devices. These spikes, even if short-lived, can cause immediate damage to sensitive electronic components, leading to hardware failure or data corruption. 

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Voltage dip 

Voltage dips refer to temporary decreases in voltage levels. They can disrupt the normal operation of devices, causing errors, reboots, or shutdowns. Voltage dips can damage or stress components within electronic devices, especially when these dips occur frequently. 

Too low voltage 

Inadequate voltage levels, below the required threshold, can cause electronic devices to operate erratically or inefficiently. Devices may struggle to function properly, leading to unexpected shutdowns, malfunctions, or system errors. Extended exposure to low voltage levels can damage equipment and compromise data integrity. 

Unstable main frequency 

Inconsistencies in the main frequency can affect devices that rely on precise frequency inputs. Equipment sensitive to frequency changes may experience operational issues, erratic behavior, or even damage when the frequency is unstable or deviates from the required standards. 

Harmonic distortion 

It occurs when non-standard frequencies or additional frequency components are present in the power supply. This distortion can affect the operation of equipment, leading to overheating, increased wear and tear, reduced efficiency, and malfunctions in electrical systems and devices. 

Electrical noise 

Electrical noise disrupts the proper transmission of electrical signals. It includes electromagnetic and radio frequency interference. It can cause communication errors, data corruption, or signal degradation in electronic systems. Persistent noise can interfere with the accurate operation of sensitive equipment, leading to reduced performance or malfunctions. 

Power outages 

Complete loss of power, or outages, can have severe consequences. They can cause loss of unsaved data, immediate disruption of operations, and potential hardware damage due to abrupt shutdowns. For businesses, power outages can lead to financial losses, downtime, and interruption of critical services. In some cases, outages can also cause damage to equipment during the power restoration process. 

What types of UPS devices exist? 

Depending on the type of UPS device you choose, it will protect you from one or more of the mentioned power issues. 

Standby UPS 

This variation is the most basic one with the least number of features but remains cost-effective. It has a battery backup protecting the device from surges, and  protected device is connected to the normal power supply. In case of variations in the voltage, the standby UPS kicks in. It takes up to 25 milliseconds to switch to the battery of the UPS. The UPS inverts from DC to AC and delivers power. The working time of this UPS depends on the power consumption of the device and the battery capacity. If you want a UPS for your desktop, this type is the most popular. 

Interactive UPS 

The interactive UPS, also known as line-interactive UPS, is one level better than the standby UPS. The biggest difference comes from the autotransformer, which automatically increases or decreases the output voltage. Thanks to this transformer, the UPS protects the device from continuous undervoltage or overvoltage without consuming battery power. Suitable for protecting sensitive electronics, workstations, servers, and networking equipment. 

Online UPS 

This type of UPS has its batteries always connected to the inverter. No switches are necessary. If a power issue occurs, the rectifier disconnects the circuit, and the batteries do all the work. When the power gets back to normal, the rectifier starts carrying most of the load again and the batteries start to charge. The online UPS is a kind of “electrical firewall” that separates the utility power and the device you want to protect. It can handle greater currents than the other two types and is usually used in large installations of 10kW or more. Online UPS protects against all types of power issues, making it ideal for critical applications (data centers, medical equipment, and high-end servers). 

Hybrid/Solar UPS 

It is a traditional UPS system but with the innovation of integrating renewable energy sources like solar power to charge the batteries during normal operations, reducing reliance on the main power grid. It’s ideal for areas with intermittent power supply or for individuals seeking sustainable power solutions. 

UPS in data centers 

We all know that consumers want zero downtime. The UPS is critical for every data center. The type of used UPS depends on the size of the data center. 

Type of UPS Standby Interactive Online 
Practical power range (kVA) 0 to 0.5 0.5 to 5 5 to 5000 
Conditioning of the voltage Low Depends on the design High 
Cost (per VA) Low Medium Medium 
Efficiency Very Efficient Very Efficient Medium 
Always on inverter No Depends on the design Yes 

Why do servers need a UPS device? 

Servers are crucial components of a network’s infrastructure responsible for storing, processing, and serving data or applications to users or other devices. , Similarly, UPS devices play a vital role in safeguarding delicate and often expensive hardware components from damage when they suddenly lose connection to the main power source.  

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At servers’ level, disruptions to fundamental operations can result in irreversible physical damage and substantial loss or corruption of data. In the worst-case scenarios, if a transfer gets interrupted, the files might become unreadable by both the sending and receiving devices. While specialized recovery technicians can sometimes save corrupted data, it often involves considerable costs. If they fail to repair or retrieve it, your data might be lost permanently. 

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While you might already have important data backed up, a UPS is invaluable in safeguarding ongoing background transfer processes. These processes occur constantly at both hardware and operating system levels whenever a computer is powered on and in operation. Many of these processes are critical to the computer’s overall functionality. 

Summarizing, servers need a UPS device to guarantee: 

  • Continuous operation. Servers need to run uninterrupted to ensure consistent access to services, applications, and data. 
  • System stability. Servers often contain critical software and applications that need to remain stable for proper functioning. Sudden power issues can damage internal components or disrupt the server’s and your business’ operations.Data protection. Abrupt or constant power issues can lead to data corruption or loss, especially if the server is in the middle of a read/write operation. UPS devices provide the needed buffer time for servers to shut down properly or continue running until power is restored. 
  • Downtime prevention. For businesses, server downtime can lead to financial losses, impact customer experience, and affect the overall reputation of the company. A UPS device is your safety net to prevent downtime and maintain your business continuity during short-term power interruptions. 
  • Equipment protection. UPS devices protect your expensive servers and associated networking equipment against damage caused by power issues. 

Which factors should I consider when buying a UPS device? 

Fully understand  your needs when buying a UPS device. There are different factors that need to be considered. 

  • The type of circuit protection you need. Too strong voltage, voltage spikes, too low voltage, voltage dip, noise, not stable main frequency, harmonic distortion, or power outages? 
  • Power Capacity. Define the power capacity (VA/Watts) needed for your devices. How many devices will you plug into the UPS device? Calculate the total wattage or VA (Volt-Ampere) rating of those devices. Pick a UPS that offers sufficient capacity to support them without overloading the unit. 
  • Runtime. Evaluate the required runtime during a power outage. Consider how long you need your devices to stay operational when the power fails. A UPS with a larger battery capacity can provide extended runtime. Battery runtime may vary based on load, so choose accordingly. 
  • Type of devices. Identify the critical devices you intend to protect. Some devices, like computers or servers, require pure sine wave UPS units for optimal performance and protection. Others such as networking equipment or printers, may function well with simulated sine wave UPS units. 
  • Topology and features. UPS devices come in different topologies, including standby, line-interactive, and online/double-conversion. Each offers varying levels of protection and efficiency, so assess features like automatic voltage regulation (AVR), surge protection, and remote management options based on your needs. 
  • Outlets and connectivity. Check the number and types of outlets the UPS includes. Ensure compatibility with your devices. Look for additional features like USB ports or network connectivity for managing the UPS and gracefully shutting down devices during power outages. 
  • Budget. Set a budget that aligns with your requirements.  
  • Form factor and mounting. Consider the physical size and form factor of the UPS. Pick a size that fits your space constraints. Some UPS models are rack-mountable, ideal for server rooms or data centers, while others are desktop or tower-shaped. 
  • Battery replacement and maintenance. Research the ease of battery replacement and the availability of replacement batteries for the UPS model. Some UPS units have user-replaceable batteries, simplifying maintenance and extending the device’s lifespan. 
  • Warranty and support. Review the warranty period and available technical support. Pick reputable brands that offer longer warranties and reliable customer service for assistance in case of issues or queries. 

Conclusion 

Now, you know what a UPS device is and why servers need it. Equipment is sensitive and power issues can happen at any time damaging it or causing disruptions. Analyze your needs carefully and get the most suitable UPS device to avoid nightmares like data loss, equipment failure, downtime, and more. 

4 replies on “What is a UPS device and why do servers need it? ”

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