Guest Column | March 19, 2009

Protecting Your Customer's Investment With Extended Battery Backup


Written by: Bill Allen, director of marketing, Minuteman Power Technologies, Para Systems

In today’s business world, companies are completely reliant on information technology. Businesses cannot function without computers, servers, telephones, physical and IT security, and the many peripheral devices that support these systems. All of these devices have one thing in common — they require clean electrical power to operate. Because electrical power and IT operations are so tightly interwoven, power problems cut directly into a company’s ability to keep its mission-critical systems fully functional, and failure of the IT infrastructure can create operational and financial havoc.

Power disruptions occur in a variety of ways, ranging from the travails that Mother Nature brings to bear, to unexpected construction accidents. No matter the source of a power failure, businesses must be ready when disaster strikes. It truly is not a question of ‘if’ a power failure will occur; it’s a question of ‘when.’

Security System Considerations
A security system plays an important role during normal business operations; it protects a corporation’s plant and equipment assets, but more importantly, its people. When power fails and a security system is not backed up by an uninterruptible power supply (UPS), this presents many challenges and leaves a company vulnerable in many different ways.

When an access control system goes down, entering or exiting facilities can be a challenge, and most building entrances will not be secured at all by the access control system during the outage. When security cameras, DVRs, or NVRs go down, the ability to monitor facilities is gone. Having enough backup power to support these critical functions through an extended power outage is essential. Simply put, when a security system goes down, there is no security.

According to a Frost and Sullivan survey of SMB IT managers, 75% say they are seeking at least one hour of battery backup time for their security system. A total of 55% want at least 2 hours, and 44% are seeking more than 4 hours. “Having a longer time to react when power outages occur has moved from a luxury to a requirement as IT managers handle an increasing number of mission-critical systems and applications,” says Vishal Sapru, energy and power industry analyst for Frost and Sullivan. “SMBs continue to tell us that they want UPS solutions that offer more battery backup time.”

Extending Battery Backup Time
Most power outages are fairly brief, with the average power disruption lasting 15 to 20 minutes. However, according to a J.D. Power and Associates study, the average extended power outage lasts 8 hours. Achieving the goal of obtaining more battery backup time is not as expensive a proposition as one might expect. Resellers have options in the types of solutions they can offer their customers.

One way to extend a customer’s backup time is to sell a larger capacity UPS which will provide some additional time. Care must be taken when recommending this solution because a small electrical load on a large UPS can reduce battery efficiency and actually shorten backup time. The more practical solution is to purchase a UPS that supports external battery packs to lengthen the time the UPS is able to sustain the attached equipment. This is a more intelligent solution because external battery packs can double, triple, or quadruple runtime for just a few hundred dollars more investment.

Tailoring The Right Solution
When resellers are specifying or selling a UPS, they should consider how mission-critical the attached equipment is to their customer, and how long the customer wants to maintain operation of the supported devices. Determining the correct size UPS and how many battery packs it takes to achieve the runtime goals of a customer can be challenging. There is a valuable resource available at to assist resellers in correctly specifying a UPS solution. This easy-to-use tool contains thousands of security, IT, and telecom products from hundreds of manufacturers in a library that includes the associated equipment loads. This allows resellers to configure an installation and properly size a UPS that meets their customers’ needs in terms of features and battery backup time requirements.

The Cost Of Downtime
On an annual basis, power outages cost U.S. businesses somewhere between $26 billion and $104 billion according to several estimates. Of course, the amount of the loss depends on the size of the company, but small businesses can be devastated with a lengthy power outage. When you factor in lost employee productivity, lost sales, unhappy customers, and lengthy recovery time, the total impact can add up to substantial dollars very quickly. Extended runtime battery packs can provide a rapid ROI with just a single power outage.

Resellers can do their customers a huge favor by recommending or specifying an extended runtime solution. Again, the cost difference is minimal, but the benefits far out-weigh the investment when an extended power outage occurs.

Bill Allen is director of marketing for Minuteman Power Technologies. In this role, he is responsible for development and execution of all marketing and communications functions for Minuteman’s power protection product portfolio. Prior to joining Minuteman, Bill Allen was director of strategic alliances and marketing programs for Texas Instruments RFID Systems. In this position, Bill drove the strategy and development of key business, channel and technology relationships, and defined and managed core marketing programs for the group.