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FEATURE UPS: adding value to sales

FEATURE UPS: adding value to sales

You may have rarely considered selling a UPS when you sell a PC or a network, and your customers may never have asked for one before. However, recent power outages in Auckland and Brisbane have brought the risks of unreliable power to the fore. Phil Parent investigates the opportunities that UPSs represent.

Tom Allen, Gerard Norsa and Ellen Cresswell contributed to this articleUninterruptible Power Supplies (UPSs) can provide resellers with a reliable stream of the most vital of all resources: profits. They also provide a steady stream of power to any type of electrical appliance. But for the reseller there is no reason in the world that each and every computer or peripheral sold shouldn't be accompanied by a UPS unit. At McDonald's they always ask "do you want fries with that burger?". Similarly, resellers should always ask "do you want a UPS to protect your investment with that computer?"

Compared to the price of the computer or server, a UPS is not that much of an additional cost to the customer. For a typical industrial strength PC, a price tag of $3000 or $4000 is about average. A compatible UPS might be another $400 or so - maybe 10 per cent of the PC sale (not a great step for the customer). With margins on PCs the way they are, any additional profit from a UPS can have an effect on the bottom line that is out of proportion with the actual amount of the sale.

Your margin on the $4000 PC might be around $200. Your margin on the UPS, however, could be up to $110. So adding a basic UPS can increase the total margin by another 50 per cent.

The UPS ensures that any power outage, surge, or sag will not have an adverse affect on the data or the hardware itself. This means your customers might even call you to thank you for talking them into a UPS after a power failure which didn't erase that important file.

So the economics for selling a UPS are easy to justify. Why then, are so few of the computers in Australia and NZ protected by a UPS? And, more importantly, how can you tap into this fast-growing and profitable market?

To answer the first question, resellers (and customers) just don't know about UPSs, where they can be applied and how they can protect their client's IT investment. "Bringing resellers up to speed on where the opportunities lie is pretty much a full-time job," noted Chris Gemmel, director of New Zealand's Mas Tec International and veteran UPS evangelist. "We run a full-day training program for our resellers where we go over the product line, explain the basics for evaluating which products fit which requirements, and then go into troubleshooting. This gives our resellers enough knowledge to get started. That being said, they themselves still need to keep up with new products and techniques."

Great market potential

Because only a small percentage of the computers in Australia are protected by a UPS backup system, the potential for growth in this area is tremendous. Not only can new customers be targeted, but existing ones as well. This is especially important for systems integrators as it provides an opportunity to increase the amount of work they can do for key clients. And of course if the UPS is ever utilised in a power crisis, the installer is a local hero.

There are a number of competing UPS products in the Australian marketplace, and almost all do the job for which they are designed. The key for reseller success is to understand the client requirements and then match those requirements to the available products.

Most UPS units perform more or less the same functions. In short, a UPS is an emergency power supply that gives users enough time to power down a computer or network in the event of a power outage. In addition, most UPSs contain surge and power-sag filters that even out the current flow to those systems. In addition to the UPS unit itself, all but the most basic UPS packages are bundled with power-control software that performs a variety of management functions.

Calculating the UPS requirements at a prospect's site is a relatively straightforward operation. The first step is to identify the components that comprise the system. Start with mission-critical servers and access points, such as finance or production. Then look at PCs, routers and hubs, modems - especially external modems, and even the phone system. For each type of unit estimate the peak power requirements as well as the time required to shut down. For larger systems running complex software, the time required to close all applications and log off can be upwards of 15 minutes.

The next step is to understand the configuration and where the UPS should be physically located. This is a bit more complex as certain systems are linked together and might require a master UPS, while others might be more applicable at the end unit. Or perhaps a heavy-duty UPS could be installed at the power source. This is where the distributor or agent can be especially useful.

Once you have a pretty good idea of the client's requirements you can begin to specify which products are the most appropriate. Considerations which may affect your client's long-term satisfaction include UPS configuration (rack, tower or desktop); size (accounting for the types of systems in use, the range of applications and the number of nodes in one or multiple locations); communication level (from simple shutdown capabilities to SNMP-based monitoring and control); upgradeability; and support (determining the scope and availability of service locations as well as the supplier's reputation for reliability and support).

One rule of thumb: when in doubt, overspecify. Except in extreme cases, there can never be too much backup power. Even for simple things like shutdown times. If the IT manager is not available immediately to start the power down, all that planning and exact specification will be for nothing. And people invariably add more components to the network without upgrading the UPS. Once the decision to go with a UPS has been made, bumping up the specs is a smart move. A little insurance goes a long way.

Documentation cannot be overestimated. Chances are the client has no idea of the power requirements of the system. One of the best things you can do is catalogue the various components and track their power requirements.

Smart software

This is where the power management software is very important. Many of the systems come bundled with extremely sophisticated software that tracks usage, what protection has been applied to which unit, the capacity and state of the battery, and even a log of the quality and quantity of power as it flows through the system.

By matching all of these capabilities and options with your client's current and future needs, the right UPS can protect almost any loss of computing and networking equipment.

Among the most popular types of UPS devices are the online, stand-by, and line-interactive protection systems.

Online protection. This alternative provides the highest levels of network protection and conditioning. In an online UPS, the inverter - a device that converts DC to AC - supplies conditioned power to attached devices all of the time. Most online UPSs supply five to 10 minutes of battery backup, which is more than enough for 98 per cent of all blackouts as these situations typically last no longer than two minutes. For the other 2 per cent of blackouts, online UPSs are available with extended battery capabilities. Online technology is often the best choice to protect critical applications - those that simply cannot be "down".

Stand-by protection. Off-line, also called "stand-by", is a cost-effective choice for small, non-critical stand-alone applications such as isolated PCs and peripherals. While these computers can be connected to a network, communication is usually not a necessary component and a stand-by provides sufficient backup. This type of UPS typically powers the load from the utility input when available, but switches to the inverter (supplied by the battery) when the utility fails. Stand-by UPSs include a battery charger to maintain the charge.

Line-interactive protection. For highly-effective power conditioning plus UPS backup, there is line-interactive technology. Line interactive technology is particularly applicable in areas where power outages are rare, but where there are frequent power fluctuations. For instance, power-hungry equipment in most industrial applications switches on and off frequently, causing voltage fluctuations that, while not as damaging as a complete loss of power, can still result in destroyed data or system-wide corruption. Network communication is available in line-interactive UPSs, though it is often not necessary.

Today, many UPSs protect their entire networks, including computers, routers, hubs and other attached electronic equipment.

Interoperability is a key requirement for any device that connects to a network. While network-wide power protection can be represented in a simple shut-down interface, today's increasingly complex networks have a real need for built-in network communications to ensure reliability and compatibility among all the various devices connecting to it.

The standard communications protocol UPS vendors are using is called Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP).

Because this standard defines how UPSs and other devices communicate over all networks, SNMP capability, in turn, enables UPSs to do more than ever before and do it more "intelligently". UPSs with SNMP communications, for example, can log events, continuously monitor power quality, report on battery status, load and temperature, and perform self-management diagnoses.

There are a number of reasons why your clients should be implementing UPS protection into their system. Statistics show the typical computer is subjected to 120 power problems per month, resulting in everything from keyboard lockups and hardware degradation to complete data loss and burned-up motherboards. And others say that 75 per cent of companies that completely lose their data never open for business again. That, combined with an increasing drain on the power supplies without a parallel upgrade of the power generation and distribution capacities, means power problems are on the upswing and the need for a UPS is only going to become more pronounced in the future.

How can you, as a reseller, break into this potential growth area?

If you already carry a line of UPS products, make sure you know the product line and the capabilities of each unit. Most of the distributors would be only too happy to provide you with all the information you could possibly want. For those of you who don't have a supplier already or want to expand your product range, there are a number of product lines available locally. The thing to look for is functionality vis-a-vis your particular clients' requirements, as well as support, education and an interest in your operation.

Those resellers with clients in Auckland will probably never have an easier sell in their careers. "Business is booming," said Mas Tec's Gemmell. "In one day during the Auckland power crisis I did six weeks' worth of business. For the week I had two months worth of sales. Although the demand has come down a bit, we expect to see at least 100 per cent growth this year."

People invest in information technology because they need computers and networks to run their businesses. They invest in hardware, software, training and, most importantly, data. Even with regular backups and security, that information is at risk without a comprehensive and appropriate power protection strategy. If the network is used for mission-critical applications, it should be protected.

You as a reseller can provide a valuable service by understanding your client's needs and providing a solution. Not only will you be adding value to your relationship with the client, but you will be opening up a revenue stream that traditionally carries a higher margin than the hardware alone. It's a win-win situation for all concerned.

Why power protection?

Without appropriate power protection installed, a computer is vulnerable to power fluctuation, surges, spikes and outages.

Organisations install UPS systems to protect their data centres, and in some instances, overlook systems such as communications racks, voice mail systems, LAN file servers, fax servers, hubs and routers.

Without adequate protection for all these systems, the organisation may suffer downtime and disruptions. Power Tech recommends a check of information Systems to ensure all critical components are protected against power disturbances.

Organisations also need to ensure the battery backup times afforded by their UPS systems are adequate to allow them to perform an orderly shutdown of their network. Steps to consider include regular battery testing and procuring extra battery packs as required.

(reproduced by permission of Power Tech)Stand-by UPS doesn't conditionModern stand-by UPS systems provide adequate backup power in the event of mains failure.

However, in an independent Monash University study, it was discovered that stand-by UPSs do not provide sufficient power conditioning to protect your valuable data from everyday power problems such as surges, spikes and electrical noise.

This simple fact illustrates the clear advantage of using online UPS versus stand-by. UPS systems provide the ultimate in power protection by continuously providing 100 per cent clean, pure sine wave power to your critical equipment. This is achieved by continually rectifying the incoming mains power. By doing so, all spikes, surges and other power problems present in the raw mains power are removed.

With online UPS systems, you can expect even greater efficiency due to fewer incidents of data corruption, system crashes and hardware failures.

(reproduced by permission of Power Tech)What to look for in power protectionThe first thing to understand is that any power protection device will reduce the risk of damage to appliances, but not remove it entirely. Use of a protective device, no matter how cheap, will reduce the risk of damage, but as you would expect, particularly in things technical where specifications do count, you get what you pay for.

To quote Energex senior investigations engineer Dusko Ginoski: ". . . as always, the general rule is the more expensive the product, the better. Some portable protectors are good for one operation only."

Many entry-level devices ($10 to $30) only reduce the risk of damage by 10 to 15 per cent. Better designed and higher-quality devices can offer around 75 to 80 per cent risk reduction.

There is always a risk of damage despite the best protection money can buy. Even unplugging the appliance is no guarantee of total protection because powerful EMI (electro-magnetic interference) energy from nearby lightning can travel through the air and affect sensitive circuits and ICs.

What do you recommend?

According to Damien Doyle, national sales and marketing manager for Australian Protective Electronics (APE), selecting the right product is not that difficult. "For protection from spikes and interference, a power filter is a good choice. A quality power filter should feature a low trigger point (clamping voltage) - below 300 volts, a rapid reaction time - less than five nanoseconds, and a high-energy absorption capacity, - more than 12,500 amps or 220 joules. Power Filters are also available with communications (telephone line) protection," Doyle said.

"For Surge, over-voltage or under-voltage protection, the only device to consider is Power Guard (a patented design by APE). Power Guard isolates the protected equipment in the event that Voltages outside the safe operating envelope occur," Doyle added.

Power Guard with a Filter provides excellent protection for Home Theatre or hi-fi, and Power Guard along with a filter with communications line protection make a powerful protection strategy for computers with modems. Power Guard also allows a computer user to safely discover that they need UPS (and not by accident).

Barring a catastrophic event, protective devices should last several years. However in reality, damage from continuous spikes and surges can reduce this span dramatically. A quality device will mean the protected equipment lasts longer - which is good for the customer and a strong motivator to buy quality protection.

Doyle said that, faced with the constant increase in entry level products, APE wanted to assure its resellers of the quality APE delivers. He said: "We felt that although the APE Professional Series products have a six-year warranty against manufacture defect, we still wanted to make a stronger statement on quality. So the APE Professional Series products have a three-year replacement warranty, even if they are damaged or destroyed by a power-related event."

Comparison of three UPS technologies

All UPS vendors claim their UPS has the best technology. It's easy to become confused. However, each of the three basic UPS technologies has its advantages, and each has its place.

The online UPS solution provides the highest levels of network power protection, power conditioning and UPS backup available. Online UPS is the clear choice for mission-critical, high-availability computer installations. There is no switching from mains with online UPS technology, so switch-over time is not an issue. This feature is important when the network includes high-speed data transmission and switching equipment.

The quality of power from online UPS is significantly better than that of other UPS technologies. Online UPSs completely regenerate the sine wave - not just condition the raw mains supply. Online UPS systems are the only UPSs that protect against frequency variations and waveform distortions, which are essential for use with backup generator systems.

Line-interactive UPS technology provides some power conditioning plus UPS backup. This is helpful in areas where power outages are rare, but where there are frequent power fluctuations. The advantage of line-interactive UPSs over stand-by UPSs is their ability to accept a wide input voltage range, thus regulating the voltage as necessary. The wider the range, the more total protection you will have.

As with stand-by UPSs, line-interactive UPSs offer no protection from power frequency variations and voltage waveform distortions. Line-interactive UPSs are more energy efficient than other UPSs, though not appreciably so.

Stand-by UPS, also known as off-line UPS, is a cost-effective choice for non-critical, stand-alone applications such as PCs and peripherals. Stand-by UPS technology is relatively simple, and will protect from around 80 per cent of all outages, as well as most small power spikes. However, stand-by UPSs offer little protection from sags, large spikes, power frequency variations and voltage waveform distortions which are a real problem in industrial estates. A good quality stand-by UPS will accept a wide range of power without resorting to batteries to supply the load. This gives you more battery backup when you really need it.

(reproduced by permission of Power Tech)Companies and their productsPower monitored via the WebAmerican Power Conversion (APC) has announced enhancements to its WebAgent software product. WebAgent allows users to view UPS status, diagnostic information, data and event logs, and perform UPS self-tests remotely via their web browser.

This latest APC innovation creates the industry's first cross-platform, web-enabled UPS monitoring solution. APC has provided web-based UPS monitoring capabilities for Microsoft Windows NT for two years. The enhancements to WebAgent support Novell Netware and Unix.

"Since most users operate in a mixed-server environment, we have extended web-based monitoring to include UPSs that are protecting Netware and Unix servers as well as Windows NT," said Kevin Brown, APC's software marketing manager. "The new version of WebAgent offers IT managers ease of use and greater flexibility with the ability to look at the status of APC UPSs protecting their servers from virtually anywhere."

Simple to use

WebAgent is said to be simple to configure and integrate - users only need to install WebAgent once on a Windows NT server. WebAgent then communicates with APC's PowerChute Plus power management program running on UPS-protected servers.

APC's strategy of providing Web-based management via this single proxy service has resulted in a powerful, yet simple solution for customers who need to monitor UPSs over an enterprise intranet. WebAgent 1.3's backwards compatibility allows administrators to increase capability by leveraging their installed base of UPS monitoring software with a minimum of effort.

Exide from BTR Power Systems

BTR Power Systems (formerly Exide Electronics Australia) provides a range of UPS systems which are manufactured in the USA by Exide Electronics. BTR Power Systems' UPS products have a long history in Australia, having been distributed by Online-Deltec for a number of years prior to the direct involvement of Exide and subsequently, BTR.

The Powerware range of UPS systems feature UPS ratings from 300VA to 3200kVA. Whether customers need to protect a single PC or an entire facility, BTR claims the Powerware range of products offers the highest level of power protection available.

The small product range includes the OneUPS off-line models (300-650VA). Recommended retail pricing for this range is from $260 to $449. The NetUPS and NetUPS SE range of line-interactive models (450VAÐ3000VA) starts at $553 RRP and finishes at $4020 RRP. Finally, Prestige online systems (800-6000VA) range from $1620 RRP to $6385 RRP.

Rack mounting kits can be purchased for an RRP of $233.

These products are designed specifically for the IT industry and include several features, such as Advanced Battery Management (ABM), which provide real benefits to the end user. The company's Strategic Power Management solutions include enterprise-wide power management software, network connectivity devices and remote monitoring facilities.

The company now operates from BTR Power Systems' head office in North Ryde, Sydney. The company also has offices in Perth, Brisbane and Melbourne.

Upsonic's UPS Tonic

Australian company Upsonic Power specialises in under 6kVA, network-ready UPSs with either a dry contact relay interface or RS232 intelligent interface. It also offers connectivity products including shutdown and monitoring software from the world's largest developer of network power management products. There is a comprehensive range of filters and surge diverters at Upsonic, and consultants are available for reviewing the power protection needs of systems from single home computers to complex networks.

Making full use of the channel, Upsonic offers support to resellers in the form of staff training, two-year warranties, on-site power and equipment analyses, national advertising campaigns, and point-of-sale marketing collateral including flyers, brochures, posters and counter stands.

The extensive product range from Upsonic includes semi-intelligent line-interactive personal systems (from 300 to 1200VA), line-interactive stand-by PC Power units (300 to 600VA), true sine wave-intelligent LAN Savers (600 to 1800VA), double conversion true online sine wave Pro Power units from 600 to 2000VA and true online intelligent double conversion technology Pro Power Plus units from 700VA to 3000VA.

The big news from Upsonic is that it has released a new self-contained 300 and 500 VA-rated Slim-Line Internal UPS System. Designed for workstations, personal computers, raid systems, disk arrays, point-of-sale devices and any other applications, the key feature of the Slim-Line range of UPSs is they fit neatly into a standard 5.25in disk drive bay.

Full monitoring for an unattended system save and shutdown is also available to suit most operating systems including Windows 95, 3.11, Novell, NT and most versions of Unix via the DB9 communications port on the UPS.

Approximately 10 minutes of battery backup is claimed for the Slim-Line IUPS-300 model when operated with a Pentium 200 and a 14in monitor. This can be tripled to approximately 30 minutes with the inclusion of an auxiliary battery pack. The IUPS-500 comes standard with the auxiliary battery pack and will supply approximately 10Ð15 minutes at full load. The 300VA system carries an RRP of $311, while the 500 VA unit will retail for $408.

Sola Australia

The Sola 610 UPS is the third generation of a high-frequency online double conversion product. The line ranges from 700VA to 10kVA, all with internal batteries that provide five to 10 minutes of backup. External batteries can be added to all models except the 700VA unit. New features of the 610 series include a front panel mimic diagram, online double conversion UPS, and an inbuilt bypass facility. It also has a communication slot for AS400 cards or an on-board SNMP adapter. Each unit has a rear panel external battery connector and the output voltage can be selected by the customer.

The 320 series is a range of affordable UPSs for PCs, workstations and small servers. There are three UPSs in the 320 range - the 400VA, 750VA and the 1000VA. All units use the latest UPS technology, including the Sola "PowerSteady" buck and boost voltage regulation capability. The 320 series has Australian output sockets and operates on 240 volts, unlike some international products which operate on 230 volts. It provides Internet/intranet-ready advanced power protection to safeguard against all incidents including lightning, surges and the like. Every model incorporates 10Base-T network surge suppression to protect computers connected to Ethernet networks.

The Sola 320 range includes three products, starting at $459 RRP for a 400VA product and ranging up to $925 RRP for the 1000VA unit. The 610 series is more diverse, but only three models are available to resellers: the 610-1000A is a 1000VA unit and carries an RRP of $2252; the 610-1500A sells for an RRP of $3029, and the 610-2000A is $4637 RRP. 3000VA, 6000VA and 10,000VA units are sold directly by Sola.

Nikko Celebrates 10 Years

This year is a big one for Nikko Business Equipment, which celebrates its tenth year as a supplier of power protection. Part of the Tag Pacific Group, Nikko specialises in high-technology power products including 425VA to 480kVA UPSs, Line Conditioners from 500VA to 750kVA, as well as Active Power Filters and Surge diverters.

It services all power protection needs from the home PC to large mainframe systems.

Nikko's business is primarily operated through resellers and distributors, including offering leads to the channel on geographical grounds.

It claims a firm commitment to product and reseller support.

On May 1 this year, Nikko will release a range of upgrades for its most popular lines in addition to a new product. The popular Nikko King Pro Line Interactive Step Wave (425VA to 1200VA) and Smart King UPS Line Interactive Sine Wave (600 VA to 2000VA) will be upgraded after two years and 12 months respectively.

Meanwhile, an all-new DataPower UPS Online Sine Wave (700VA to 300VA) in stand-alone and 19in rack mount configurations has been added to the range.

The DataPower range utilises triple-stage double conversion technology and provides galvanic isolation which means the output is completely shielded from input spikes and line noise.

RRPs for the King Pro range start at $396 for the 425VA unit, and go up to $899 for the 1200VA unit.

The Smart Kings start at $760 for a 600VA unit and progress to $2408 for a 2000 VA unit. The RRP range for the DataPower UPS will be $1921 to $6016.

Contacts:

American Power Conversion

Tel 1800 652 725

Fax (02) 9955 2844

APE

Tel (02) 9439 1833

Fax (02)9439 1933

BTR Power

Tel (02) 9878 5000

Fax (02) 9878 5555

Nikko Business Equipment

Tel (02) 9907 0922

Fax (02) 9949 4061

Power Tech

Tel 1800 635 733

Fax (03) 9587 3569

Sola Australia

Tel (03) 9706 5022

Fax (03) 9794 9150

Upsonic Power

Tel 1800 634 307

Fax 1800 634 308


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