Protect IT Infrastructure Against Seasonal Power Problems

Hurricane season is upon us, and Cleveland-based power-management company Eaton Corp. offers these five tips to help businesses reduce the risks and enhance the reliability of IT systems.

  1. Know your risks. Power outages often are assumed to be rare and unlikely events, but severe weather is a major threat to power systems. Three of the top five most significant outages reported in 2008 were caused by Hurricane Ike, Hurricane Gustav and tropical storm Hanna. These storms affected approximately 5 million people, according to Eaton's Blackout Tracker, an online tool that provides a snapshot of reported power outages across North America. With this interactive site, visitors can see the cause, duration and number of people affected by a blackout and view causes per state or region.
  2. Consider your investments. Even a small server configuration and local area network (LAN) represents an investment of tens of thousands of dollars. To that, add applications, management systems and critical databases, and it is clear that significant company assets depend on power that is not always dependable. Eatons Blackout Tracker Annual Report cataloged more than 2,000 U.S. power outages in 2008.
  3. Power problems are equal-opportunity threats. Computers, servers and networks are just as critical to a small business as a data center is to a large enterprise. In addition to severe weather, equipment failures, lightning, copper thieves and even wayward snakes can cause power disruptions that have the potential to bring business to a halt. Look beyond generators and surge suppressors and consider an uninterruptible power system (UPS).
  4. Treat any IT equipment location as a data center. In small to medium-sized businesses, the rack environment may be the data center, but when planning this environment it is important to consider the same logistics as in a large data center: access control, thermal management, power protection, power distribution, cable management, flexibility and monitoring.
  5. Determine the level of power protection needed. Consider what type of UPS, best-deployment strategy and how much UPS capacity is required for your business. Assess how much battery power you need to shut down systems or switch to backup generators in case of an emergency. If an outage extends past the limits of backup systems, power-management software can orchestrate the selective, sequential shutdown of loads to extend available battery backup time.
A comprehensive power-protection plan not only should address power failure but also other problems such as power sags and surges, line noise and frequency variation, according to Eaton.

Eaton will continue to track all named storms throughout 2009. To access the Eaton Blackout Tracker or request a copy of the 2008 annual report, click here.


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