Tripp Lite helps unravel knotty UPS management

Pros and cons:
+ Can monitor any UPS remotely
– Software not available separately
– Only one UPS monitored at a time

Real-life requirements:
A Tripp Lite UPS; Windows 95, Windows NT, IBM OS/2, Unix or Novell NetWare

Strength without direction is weakness.

Having enough uninterruptible power systems for all the computers on your LAN
isn’t necessarily to protect your data from power failures and fluctuations.
You’ve got to have a way to manage those UPSes.

Tripp Lite’s PowerAlert 10 brings order to UPS chaos on LANs loaded with new users
and devices. It’s one of the first network UPS management products that can manage
every leading UPS brand from any station.

The software comes free with Tripp Lite UPSes; you cannot buy it separately. So you
need at least one Tripp Lite UPS to use the power management tools.

I tested PowerAlert two ways. First I looked at how it managed a Tripp Lite UPS over
the GCN Lab network, and then I tested it with a UPS from American Power Conversion Corp.
of West Kingston, R.I. Not surprisingly, it monitored the Tripp Lite UPS best. But it
worked with the American Power Conversion UPS better than I expected.

Installation was easy under Microsoft Windows 95. PowerAlert began monitoring the Tripp
Lite UPS as soon as I plugged it into the client’s serial port. I set alarm
thresholds for temperature and electrical output, then began pulling the plug repeatedly.

PowerAlert accurately monitored the battery power, from fully charged down to nearly
drained. It initiated automatic shutdowns when necessary.

Moving to another client on the lab network, I performed the same monitoring functions
via TCP/IP, the only protocol the software supports. You must have TCP/IP on your network
to take advantage of remote monitoring.

The software is password-protected so that an administrator can perform system
self-checks or shut a system down remotely. It worked flawlessly with just the Tripp Lite

Problems surfaced when I tried to monitor the American Power Conversion unit attached
to a client running Windows NT. Initially the software worked fine. I could monitor the
local UPS and my original host’s Tripp Lite UPS from a different room at the other
end of the lab network.

When I pulled the plug on the Tripp Lite UPS, the client running NT alerted me to a
power problem. I was able to change the settings on the American Power Conversion unit and
shut it down remotely from the original host.

But when I shut down the PC running NT and to which I had attached the American Power
Conversion UPS, the PC lost the configuration of its serial ports.

After bootup, the PC refused to activate them until I had uninstalled the Tripp Lite

It turned out that this had to do with the way NT scans the serial ports for a mouse.
To fix it, you type “/no serial mice” into NT’s boot.ini file.

If you do have a serial mouse, type the address of the port with the serial cable that
goes to the non-Tripp Lite box. If your UPS is on Port 1, for example, the correct command
would be “/no serial mice = port 1” to leave your mouse unharmed.

Once I cleared up that mess, the software worked more or less correctly for monitoring
the American Power Conversion UPS.

A couple of things would improve PowerAlert’s performance.

Tripp Lite needs to simplify the process of setting the software to monitor UPSes.

Also, the software ought to monitor multiple UPSes simultaneously. To check the battery
of every UPS on the network and see which ones are not up to snuff, you must individually
select each machine and check its UPS’ status. It would better if you could
select the battery charge variable and see all UPS charge levels displayed at once.

PowerAlert will work fine for small offices. But if you have more than a dozen UPSes on
your network, it will be time-consuming.

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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