In such uncertain times, the ability to remotely monitor critical infrastructure such as the UPSs that work behind the scenes minimising the threat of damaging downtime will never be as important.
Remote UPS monitoring offers data centre operators the reassurance they’ve got extra pairs of eyes keeping watch on their essential equipment. It’s the equivalent of having a “virtual” power engineer onsite 24/7/365.
Different Types Of UPS Monitoring
Monitoring at its simplest uses sets of terminals either on the UPS or fitted through a slot-in accessory card. These voltage-free contacts, also known as dry contacts, provide “true/not true” answers to basic statements of fact. An example would be whether there’s a mains power supply failure.
This level of interaction isn’t detailed enough for a mission-critical environment like a modern data centre, though.
So what’s the solution? A network-based approach either via an ethernet connection or over the internet expands the possibilities.
This could come in the form of an RS-232 connection, which offers single-ended serial signalling. It’s regarded as a basic yet resilient solution.
Then there’s Modbus, an open protocol that is now the most common method of connecting industrial electronic devices. Modbus allows serial communication and creates a hierarchical structure from a single RS-232 or RS-485 connection. Or Profibus, a faster adaptation of Modbus, which is a recognised standard for Fieldbus communication, particularly in automation technology.
Finally, there’s Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP). This enables you to remotely monitor and even control a UPS from a central location.
The unit gets fitted with a network adapter and connects to dedicated management software. This allows the UPS to both talk (i.e. send information) and listen (i.e. receive external instructions). An example of the latter would be running an emergency shutdown script when there’s a power failure.
Benefits Of Cloud-Based Remote UPS Monitoring
A cloud-based SNMP monitoring service, for example our Riello Connectplatform, sees the UPS communicate with a remote service centre manned round the clock by technical engineers. All communication is highly-secure as data is SSL encrypted and requires two-step verification to access.
Modern uninterruptible power supplies perform automated daily tests. While the service centre will also remotely interrogate the UPS on a regular basis, (daily, weekly, and monthly).
Whenever there’s a major change in onsite operating conditions, for example a mains failure, or a fault with the UPS system, it will trigger an alarm.
If this happens, the remote monitoring software immediately sends alerts to first responders by email or SMS. In addition, it messages the service centre, where technicians carry out tests and diagnostics to assess the extent of the issue. In a worst-case scenario, they can also trigger emergency shutdown scripts to safely turn equipment off.
Here are a five fantastic reasons why remote UPS monitoring makes sense for data centre operators:
- Fast fault detection: if there’s something wrong with your UPS or electricity supply, you know about it. You aren’t left hanging for someone to physically see or hear an alarm. This is particularly important outside of normal working hours, where a fault could go undetected for hours. It’s also why remote monitoring is essential at unmanned facilities.
- Diagnose issues remotely: by communicating with the UPS, engineers in the service centre are able to make an informed opinion of what the problem is. That means any field engineer responding to the callout has the best possible chance of achieving a first-time fix.
- Preventing faults in the first place: remote monitoring picks up minor faults before they can escalate into a critical incident. An alarm would trigger, for example, if an automated battery test fails. Under further investigation, a deteriorating battery block is the cause of the problem. Promptly replacing that block reduces the risk of the whole battery set failing.
- Better day-to-day performance: under normal operating conditions, service centre technicians can remotely interrogate the UPS’s historical alarm and status logs, enabling you to track performance over time. If you’re a large-scale data centre with several UPS systems linked to the same network, that’s a huge amount of data to study. Use this information to optimise load management and tweak other areas of potential improvement.
- Lower maintenance costs: having your UPS monitored remotely reduces the number of times you’ll need service engineers to carry out onsite Preventive Maintenance Visits. Another advantage is that it allows your IT staff to undertake many of their daily duties from the safety of their own homes by remotely working.
Guest blog by Chris Cutler, Business Development Manager for Riello UPS Ltd