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UPSs for Nonprofits

  • Does your nonprofit use UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) systems? If so, what type of system do you use and on what devices?
    senior editor, TechSoup
  • We use a mix of APC and Cyberpower (both from Newegg) UPS systems on our "core" hardware.

    * Network Equipment
    - Routers
    - Switches
    - PoE Injectors

    * Core Servers
    - Domain Controllers
    - VMWare Servers
    - Terminal Server
    - Site local voicemail servers (Shoretel)

    * Verizon Equipment
    - We use 'flexgrow' circuits which require a digital to analog converter (it looks like a big VCR) and if the power goes out -- we lose phone service.

    This setup allows 2 hour runtime on all essential functions (Shoretel VOIP, Network Routing, Voicemail Servers, Infrastructure).
  • Currently I have APC for the main data center A 2200 VA and a 1200 VA unit. One powers our "bread and butter" server, the other provides protection on our network routers, switches, other gateways and servers and extra run time on our PBX and voice mail.

    We are considering a revamp on our telephony going to a digital PRI and a T1 VOIP tie line, so power protection and extended run time will be critical.

  • We use APC 2200s primarilly. They do the job, but we are currently looking for something a bit more advanced.

    When looking for a UPS, you need to evaluate what, exactly, you want to achieve. There is a big difference between a UPS that merely allows enough time for the system to gracefully shut down, and a UPS that will allow you to continue to operate your systems for any length of time. Depending on your business model and need for maximum amount of "up-time", these decisions may very well lead you to entirely different types of devices.

    Also, keep in mind that a UPS needs attention. Eventually the batteries fail and need replacement. The time to replace them , of course, is before they fail. Not an easy thing to predict. Periodic testing and monitoring is necessary to keep your confidence level high.

    Tim Claremont
    Systems Administrator
    Rochester, NY

  • When I first started, we had a bunch of APC 1400's, and stepped up to an APC SmartUPS 3000. Currently we have a nice APC Symmetra that we were able to obtain through a grant. It allows us a half-hour of up-time in a power outtage. If we want to extend the up-time, we can pick shut down the servers that aren't critical to our business. All our servers, switches, routers, and our phone system are hooked to this unit.

    Gary Network/Systems Admin Berlin, NH
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  • We have a variety of models of APC SmartUPS for our servers and phone system. I'm currently looking at upgrading and adding to these as part of an upgrade and expansion of our predictive dialer.

    Mike Kirros IS Coordinator Clean Water Action/Clean Water Fund Midwest Regional Office

  • We experience fluctuations in power several times per day due to old wiring in our our 1918 bldg, cranky bldg AC units and usual electric co service.

    UPSs are SOP for every PC we buy, low-end w/ surge suppression and a few mins power for the PCs. No brand loyalty-- whatever we can get in Hawai`i that gives us those features for a good price.

    We cycle the new ones in for the critical PCs- fiscal and data entry, etc. and take their old ones and put them... on the intern PCs :)

    We have online UPS for the network eqp- servers, routers, etc. and for the digital phone system. It gives us 15+ mins shutdown time. On the phone system (Nortel 10 line/32 station with autoattendant) we have had the entire phone system run for at least 15 mins before we shut it down to conserve power. It ran the ISDN modem thru a 6 hour power outage due to an earthquake.

    No one mentions this, but the alarm system has a battery (not technically a UPS) and in a longer power outage, once the PC/network eqp is shut down, that alarm battery is my #1 concern. As long as the alarm system has power and the analog land line, the alarm works and reports any security events. Just in case thieves start to realize no power=no alarm=no police response!

    Accidental Techie
    Resident Worrywort
    and, typically, the only manager at work when the power goes out
  • APC for servers and routers.

    My philosophy is if you have a server you need UPS. While there is very little chance, these days, of losing data or harming hardware from a sudden power outage, it is always better to bring down a server slowly and be warmed about power issues. While servers can be signaled from UPS to shut themselves down very few are setup to do it, which is ashame since it si so easy to do.

    Here is a multiple server shutdown from one UPS.

    In many cities fire codes demand a cut off switch for all UPS because they are a electrical hazard in a fire. Check you local fire codes to ensure you are in compliance.

    Just my 2 cents

  • I am using some APCs for a small test lab here. Not to thread-jack or anything but I'd also like to hear what folks are using to monitor the systems as well. I am using apcupsd and it works quite nicely.

  • Do all of you use the included 'safe shutdown' software or do you use something else.

    We have run into so much trouble with some of that bundled stuff that we actually do not use anything now. We use battery UPS for the sole purpose of surviving short outages. Anything longer and we take the hard shut down with fingers crossed (assuming I'm not there when it happens).

    This was deemed the lesser of two possible evils (the hard shut down, or the problems the safe shut down software was causing).

    Curious to know if anyone has found a reliable solution they would recommend.
  • Our APC solution is network managed, and we needed to install a small client on each machine we wanted to gracefully shut down.

    Gary Network/Systems Admin Berlin, NH
    Host Non-profit Tech Careers, Security Forums
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  • I'm in the same boat about living with the hard shutdown. My issue is time to implement any solution. Most OS have a simple USP service that looks for a particular pin signal state change on one of the RS-232 serial ports. Many UPS will have a contact closure when there is only 10 minutes of battery left. If you can tie those two together (some times that's called a simple signaling cable) and then use the OS default UPS service to affect a clean shutdown.

    That should bypass all the bloat that some of the UPS vendors put in their software.

    A little more graceful method would be to clone the contact closure for all the servers on the UPS and have a little PC there with the monitoring software for all the displays and battery reports.

    I have plugged an old laptop in the UPS I use on the switches and routers to check battery condition, initiate the performance test, then unplugged it and let the UPS be.

  • We use 3 APC Smart-UPS 1000's

    1 / server (2 servers)
    1 for routers and switches

    For the odd time the power does go out the major concern is saving and shutdown more than continually running. We do use VoIP however and use PoE on the main switch (big draw when power goes out).
  • Ours is a CyberPower 1250 AVR for the server and router and switch. The phone system has a Minuteman Pro 500E.
  • We use APC UPS's in our office. We've had them for a number of years and have been very happy with them.

    One tip I can offer to save money is to look on Ebay for reconditioned units. as long as they have new batteries in them, they can be purchased at a tremendous cost saving over new ones.

    For the most part, the chassis do not fail, but the batteries do need to be replaced periodically. many companies will get rid of UPS's when they upgrade or when the batteries fail and many of these make it into the secondary market.

    We've had very good luck with the refurbs we've bought.

    Mark Oberg
    Walkers in Darkness