UPS: Avoiding big brown out

Saturday, November 1, 2008

ATLANTA--There’s back-up power, and then there’s uninterruptible power supply (UPS), and on the floor of ASIS, the latter was one of the hottest topics of discussion. Alpha Technologies was touting to the security industry its outdoor-targeted options, which have been popular in cable and telecom for years. Altronix was pitching its new video surveillance UPS, specifically built to operate 24VAC and 12VDC cameras during a power outage. And Minuteman Power Technologies continued to tout its Certified Partner Program the facility of, which lets integrators figure out just what they need to protect the systems they’re installing.

Essentially, the difference between UPS and back-up power is that UPS both ensures a total lack of downtime and manages the power input so that there aren’t any spikes or “brown outs,” which are more often the cause of system damage than when power is cut entirely.
The market for UPS solutions in security “has been growing substantially the last couple of years,” said Erik Knecht, director of channel sales at Minuteman. “It’s being driven by the move to digital, and as the market goes to NVRs and the like, the customer base is a little more savvy. The systems are ending up in the network room, and in that environment UPSs have been the norm for years.”

“There has been a long tradition of ‘five-nines’ uptime in the telecom world,” agreed Mohammed Soleimani, chief technical officer at integrator Kastle Systems, which has long been a UPS user. “That migrated from the telecom world to the IT world, and as IT migrates into our world, we see that same five-nines expectation in security.”

Alpha Technologies, for example, has been supplying UPS products to the cable market for some 30 years, said Audey Korpus, Alpha’s marketing manager. With 95 percent of the market share in outdoor UPS solutions for cable, the company started looking around for new markets. “Where is there a need for UPS?” asked Korpus. “Where is it critical to have that system up and running? Well, when the power goes out, that’s when you really need the security system. That’s when all the chaos starts.”

Korpus noted that there’s a big difference between indoor and outdoor UPS systems, even beyond the obvious ruggedized features an outdoor solution needs. Indoors, you really just need enough back-up power in the UPS to get you over to the generator that most large facilities already have, so it’s a stop-gap measure. While still important, that functionality might pale compared to the need for UPS in outdoor situations, where a generator isn’t available. He said eight or 12 hours of UPS capability might be required for a surveillance system at a pumping station or wireless antenna, the time it takes for a crew to come and restore power or plug in a portable generator.

In general, the security industry is just becoming more aware of the importance and differentiation in UPS systems, Knecht said. “A lot of times, they’re just not using anything, and if they do have something to manage their power, it’s just a surge strip,” he said. “Or maybe they’d just run down to Best Buy and get the least expensive UPS they could get, just batteries in a box.” Sophisticated systems ought to have sophisticated UPS systems, he said, with the ability to layer software in that monitors the flow of power and keeps it constant and safe, in addition to providing that back-up when the power goes out.