Not every agency considers UPS protection a priority

The gospel of uninterruptible power systems has yet to win converts at all agencies.


Early on, data centers installed proprietary UPSes for their mainframes and
minicomputers. But most agencies do not routinely connect UPSes to client PCs or servers,
although data loss from power problems is 15 times more common than from virus attacks,
according to a survey by Contingency Planning Research Inc. of White Plains, N.Y.


Power outages affect data on one-fourth of all PCs during their lifecycles, said Andrew
Kallfelz, general manager of American Power Conversion Corp.’s desktop power
solutions unit.


UPS manufacturers such as American Power Conversion of West Kingston, R.I., and Exide
Electronics Corp. of Raleigh, N.C., estimate that nearly as many UPSes as servers are
sold, but not all agencies purchase a UPS each time they buy a server.


NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., installs UPSes for all its
workstations and servers, said Alan Schunemann, a senior network administrator and
contract employee. Goddard also puts UPSes in network closets to monitor the status of
switches and hubs, he said.


In one building, each of the nine closets has a large rack-mounted UPS to protect
networking hardware made by Cisco Systems Inc. of San Jose, Calif., he said.


“If your network isn’t up, then your UPS-protected server won’t be
reachable,” Schunemann said.


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has only limited UPS capability,
said Karen Gregory, associate director for information technology.


“We don’t do UPS on desktops, but we have some systems in centralized
processing rooms,” she said.


About 100 users at the Agriculture Department’s Agricultural Research Service in
Madison, Wis., back up their data regularly and have only two PC-attached UPSes, said Roy
Hughes, the building manager.


But at the Federal Aviation Administration’s technical center at Atlantic City,
N.J., UPSes are essential to stop electrical spikes, electrical engineer John Aschenbach
said.


He said the center has installed about a dozen American Power Conversion units for
workstations and three or four larger units for image generators and projection systems,
which simulate air traffic control towers.


A high-voltage spike from an electrical storm would damage the sensitive image
generators and projection systems, he said.


Entry-level UPSes for PCs range from $100 to $300 and supply 250-volt-amp to 650-VA
power, said Darrick Finan, Exide’s product marketing director.


Midlevel systems, which range from $400 to $2,600, have circuits that give some voltage
regulation plus 450-VA to 3-kVA power.


High-end UPSes can convert alternating current to direct current, clean it and convert
it back to AC, Finan said. Agencies can also buy special UPSes to protect server clusters.


Some UPS products come bundled with software for network manageability, as other
peripherals do. An administrator can check the UPS status through a Web browser or network
management console.


UPSes are available on governmentwide acquisitions such as the Air Force Desktop V,
General Services Administration IT Schedule, NASA Scientific and Engineering Workstation
Procurement II and National Institutes of Health Electronic Computer Store II contracts.
 

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