Key power backup solutions for the active storm season ahead
While Disney’s Frozen Princess Elsa could conjure up ice and snow, the hurricane sharing her name recently brought a different type of storm to cities and counties up the East Coast. With 75 mph winds and heavy rains, Hurricane Elsa became one of the earliest forming fifth-named storms on record in the Atlantic and portended another active storm season.
As state and local governments evaluate their disaster avoidance strategies in preparation, it’s important to consider how weather events can impact IT operations, which can have crippling consequences and hinder the ability to serve citizens. In this article we’ll offer some tips for city and county IT staff to consider when deploying power management systems to keep critical IT infrastructure running when disaster strikes.
Dependable services in the digital age
Many governments and municipalities are expanding their adoption of digital technologies to improve services for citizens, a trend accelerated by the global pandemic. IT strategies are rapidly shifting from the traditional centralized approach to a distributed model leveraging multiple locations to support the “new normal” in terms of IT requirements. This transition underscores the looming realization that IT teams are lean, and demands are making it more necessary for staff to be able to remotely respond in the event of an emergency. Long gone are the days that all IT locations have onsite support staff.
At the same time, maintaining uptime remains imperative to ensure vital services stay up-and-running—not to mention driving the underlying IT functions that support government services. For example, police departments across the country sequence DNA every day as part of their ongoing caseload. If a DNA sequencing machine cuts off abruptly due to a power failure during a storm, both the sample and the potential DNA profile could be destroyed. Loss of evidence could damage a case and result in criminals walking free.
To help government IT staff prepare for a disaster scenario, an integrated power management system can provide critical support to avoid downtime and safeguard infrastructure from surges, outages and other issues. Key components of a reliable power backup system include:
- Uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs) A UPS serves as the critical bridge to generator power in the event of an outage—ensuring government agencies have reliable power and keep critical IT functions running smoothly. Recent advancements in UPS technology include lithium-ion batteries—which deliver longer life than traditional battery technology in a smaller footprint—as well as integrated network cards that enable enhanced connectivity and security to software and services. A power duo that ensures stability and reliability.
- Disaster avoidance software To help maintain control over power infrastructure, disaster avoidance software is essential, especially when on-premise IT support staff is limited. Software applications integrate with power management devices to enable a proactive approach to remote monitoring and management of critical infrastructure, enabling IT to mitigate power events before they cause damaging outages. Enhanced visualization and contextualization options can also be leveraged to better ensure system uptime and data integrity of IT equipment from anywhere at any time.
- Predictive analytics Advanced preventive monitoring services for power management devices go hand-in-hand with power management software to help anticipate failure of critical components before they occur. Predictive analytics notify managers when to schedule maintenance, repairs or updates before system components fail, avoiding emergency service calls and using convenient maintenance windows.
While cybersecurity might not directly correlate with weather-focused protection measures, it’s an important element to keep in mind during disaster avoidance planning given the steady rise in threats and high-profile incidents like the recent Colonial Pipeline cyberattack. To assist IT teams, network management cards with UL 2900-1 and IEC 62443-4-2 certification are available to help protect UPSs against potential hacks. When combined with power management software, staffs can make timely firmware updates to stay ahead of evolving cybersecurity threats.
Physical security is another element to consider when developing an end-to-end disaster avoidance strategy. Taking measures to deploy smart security locks on IT racks can help ensure that IT equipment, including UPSs and other power management devices, are safe and that only authorized personnel can gain entry.
Calm during the storm
While hurricanes don’t impact every community, Mother Nature certainly does. Weather events ranging from powerful thunderstorms to heavy rains and forest fires, can all leave communities dealing with debilitating outages. The good news is there are solutions available and can be brought together to help protect IT systems and services during crises. With a comprehensive backup power strategy, governments and their communities can rest a little easier knowing they’re prepared for what Mother Nature might bring.
Ed Spears is a technical marketing manager in Eaton’s Critical Power Solutions Division in Raleigh, N.C. A 40-year veteran of the power-systems industry, Spears has experience in UPS systems testing, sales, applications engineering and training, as well as working in power-quality engineering and marketing for telecommunications, data centers, cable television and broadband public networks. He can be reached at [email protected].