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Need advice on a UPS

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  • Management
  • Business Computing
  • Product
Last response: in Business Computing
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February 23, 2013 10:46:37 PM

After suffering another power outage and losing 15 hours of work, I've decided it's about time to invest in a UPS solution. I run a media/development studio and have numerous servers and workstations, but I know I'll only be able to cover some of them. I build all of my machines but I admit I'm a bit clueless when it comes to wattage requirements and specs on UPS systems so I'm hoping to find a little help here.

What I want to cover [section 1]:

- Two servers (just ATX boards with 600W PSU's
- Two USB webcams plugged into those servers
- My i7 workstation (650W PSU)
- Two external USB 3.0 drives plugged into that i7

And if possible [section 2]:

- Cable modem, router, and two gigabit switches
- Another i5 workstation (650W PSU) with a USB 3.0 drive attached

I'm hoping to have enough battery power to last all of the above at least 20-45 mins. I know since I'm trying to insure more than just a single desktop, I'll probably have to spend a bit more money. I've got the budget for it, although I'd like to go for the cheapest possible solution.

Due to cost, I may have to settle for only covering what I've listed in section 1, although it would be nice to cover the section 2 items as well.

Any help or advice would be most appreciated, thanks!

.zig

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February 23, 2013 11:01:46 PM

I think APC makes the best UPS products.
Go to their web site and run one of their configurators. http://www.apc.com/tools/ups_selector/index.cfm
For my part, I use a APC pack pro 1500. It has been flawless for some time.
They offer a free app called powerchute that you can use to configure settings, analyze reports and initiate a pc shutdown.
I used to use it, but my power is now so sound that I don't bother.
I think they can offer an extended battery pack that will double the run time if necessary.
Check them out.
Here is one: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
February 23, 2013 11:36:34 PM

CyberPower is a competitor that also makes good quality UPS products. One thing to note, is the inability of most APC UPS products to support most newer, active power factor correction (active PFC) power supplies. Many, if not most, of these power supplies require a pure sine wave input, and most APC units that consumers can afford provide sine wave step approximations that may not work with your power supplies.

I offer this because CyberPower offers a pure sine wave UPS for much less than APC. You may not need a pure sine wave, but if you do then you will have the hassle of returning your UPS and getting a replacement, and paying a 15% re-stocking fee (unless you buy from a brick & mortar store). Of course, if you don't test it, you won't find out that it won't work until the power goes out and your servers crash.

You might want to consider this, which is quite affordable for a pure sine UPS. We got it a month ago for our HP Proliant G6 server (dual 750 watt PSUs) and it works great.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00429N19W/ref=oh_deta...

Go to this website and click on the seventh item in the list, "AN-147 v2", which is a PDF of an APC whitepaper, in which they explain why more and more modern power supplies are active PFC and require pure sine waves, which most of their affordable, consumer UPSs don't offer.

http://www.apc.com/prod_docs/results.cfm?DocType=App%20...

Here is an excerpt from that APC whitepaper:

"It is important to note that not all PFC power supplies will cause the UPS overload. However, the incompatibility is most acute in the one of the following situations:

• A large server class PFC supply (e.g. rated 500W or more) is used with a Back-UPS or Smart-UPS SC.

• The server is equipped with redundant PFC supplies (has two line cords) that are powered by the same UPS.

• More than one PFC supply is plugged into the same UPS, bringing the total power rating (nominal) of the power supplies to 500W or more.

• A workstation class PC (or high-end gaming PC) is equipped with a PFC power supply rated 500W or more.

In any of these situations, APC recommends that a true, pure sine wave, server class UPS be used. Acceptable models include APC’s Smart-UPS®, Smart-UPS® XL and S-UPS® RT family of UPSs. However if, a Smart-UPS SC or Back-UPS RS is to be used, the UPS should be sized accordingly."

The CyberPower UPS above also comes with software to configure and monitor the unit, and will shut down your server or workstation in case of a power outage.

I wouldn't worry about adding routers or switches, they typically use little power, I measured ours with a kill-o-watt meter.
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February 24, 2013 3:58:37 AM

Thank you both for the excellent responses. The APC web app caused some fatal errors when I tried to use it, and I looked over CyberPower's hardware and was pretty impressed. But I'm still a little confused about what my min. requirements are.

For let's say, 3 desktops (2 are servers, but running win2003 or greater on ATX boards, web/sql servers) with several external usb 3.0 drives and several external devices (usb cams) along with my router, modem, and at least one switch, what would the minimum wattage/voltage requirement be for supplying 20-45 mins power min. on an SPS UPS? Rough ballpark is fine.. it gives me a place to start.

Is it more cost effective to invest in a single unit and plug my crucials into that, or invest in multiple units (ie, one per machine)?

Thanks again guys, I've read over the responses and have really learned quite a bit from both of them so far.

edit: grammar corrections
February 24, 2013 1:02:42 PM

First off, put each computer system on its OWN independent battery backup. Its going to be much more cost effective (and be a lot less wear on your battery backup) to have one computer running at approximately 500W than running two or even three computers at 500W each, and the cost of a 600W+ UPS may be a heck of a lot less than a 1500W+ UPS.

If you have the money, I recommend APC. Their products are very good quality, and their batteries seem to last longer as well. However, they are definitely a premium price, so my next recommendation and what we also sell a lot of is CyberPower UPS. Even if you don't think you need it, I'd recommend buying a UPS that is PFC compatible. Most all performance computer and server power supplies are PFC compatible even if you don't know it.

From what I understand, with an active PFC power supply, for a split second when the power connection is dropped the power supply will draw the maximum load capable by the power supply (ex. a 600W PSU will draw the full 600W even if your computer hardware doesn't normally draw more than 200W.) This means your UPS has to be rated at 600W or more to be able to fully support that short increased power draw. If the PSU and devices all connected to the battery side of your UPS pull more draw than what your device is rated for, then it simply kicks off and the battery doesn't start up. Effectively, you have an expensive surge suppressor is all.

Generally, I look at the computer connected to the UPS and consider if it is a 500W PSU, I need to go with a 750W UPS. If it is a 700W PSU then I need to go with a 1000W UPS. Please keep in mind that most of the UPS are rated on VoltAmps and not Watts, so you're looking at a UPS that is rated as 1200VA/750W, or 15000VA/1000W. Most of the descriptions should tell you what the VA and W support is on the model.

This might be a little overkill for some people's comparisons, but it meets all requirements for PFC that way AND gives you plenty of runtime. We installed new 1500VA/900W APC battery backups at my dad's sign business. Each computer has it's own UPS, and each computer is a performance workstation that we custom-built, running between a 650W and 800W UPS. The UPS displays an average runtime on battery for each of these computers of around 30 to 45 minutes. The server, which has dual 460 W Active PFC UPS shows an average runtime of 30 minutes, and I've put it to the test and got almost exactly that. Also a nice feature with these APC units is if the power goes out at the server, it will email me that the computer has switched to battery, and will email me again when the power is restored.

I would also recommend you getting a UPS for your network equipment. First, it's always good to have that stuff protected from electrical variations as they can be somewhat susceptible to faults or failures. You won't need a whole lot of UPS to run all of that, though. I'd say a 750VA/500W or even smaller UPS would give you plenty of run time and protection for your network equipment. We have a 1000VA/700W APC Smart-UPS running the network equipment at this same office (modem, firewall, WAP, gigabit switch, and a fax machine all connected to it) and it estimates about two hours of battery run time!

If you do not put your network equipment on battery, then you might have all your computers up and running during a power outage, but you will not have access to your network at all, including saving to your server if necessary or remote access to remotely shut down server if necessary.
February 24, 2013 1:32:26 PM

I have the Cyberpower CP1500PFCLCD PFC Compatible 1500VA 900W model that was linked above, it's a really nice unit - well built, slim and has allot of nice features.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00429N19W/ref=oh_deta...


As far as running 3 computers and other equipment on a single UPS and wanting to have 20-45 mins of backup is going to take tonnage(lots of battery power) something these affordable smaller units can't offer, you would have to spend a nice amount of money on a good unit able to sustain multiple devices. So I would think that in this situation it would be a better idea to get multiple UPS system's from a price perspective in addition when you start getting into the higher power UPS system's you have to have the right circuit for them by having to upgrade receptacles from 15a to 20a Nema R and also having to most likely upgrade breakers too.


February 24, 2013 5:29:19 PM

I just tested my external USB drive with a watt meter, and it draws between 8 and 12 watts, so if you assume 15 watts per external drive you should be OK.

Edit: After doing a full, 50-minute backup of my workstation to the external HDD, power usage did not go above 9 watts (at least whenever I looked at it).
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