November is the start of the electrical storm season in Sydney, so it's important at this time to check that your computer system and related communications equipment are well protected.

Electrical storms have the potential to cause both power cuts and power surges, so your power protection policy must consider both eventualities.

As part of your Business Continuity Planning you need to consider the following 5 factors:

#1 - Install a Quality UPS Device

An Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) is your primary defence system against a sudden power outage. Every UPS includes a battery that will immediately take over in the event of a power loss and keep connected devices operational. We recommend each server in your computer room is connected to its own UPS to maximise uptime in the event of an extended power outage.

NetCare recommend HP UPS devices for tower based servers and APC branded UPS devices for rack mounted servers. Both these UPS brands include alerting software that allow NetCare engineers to monitor the UPS for outages and battery life.

#2 -Check that Your UPS Battery is Up to the Task

A vital feature of any UPS is that it can power down the server after a set amount of time. This ensures the server is completely off in the event of an extended power outage that causes the UPS battery to run flat. Our recommendation is that the software begins to shut the server down for any outage that lasts longer than 15 minutes.

This is based on our experience in the Sydney area that outages are either very short (say 5 minutes or less) or very long (say over 2 hours). In the first scenario, 5 minute outages mean the server stays operational the whole time and there is no remediation work required - when the power comes back on, the UPS automatically switches back from battery to mains power. With any power outage that is longer than 15 minutes, the UPS software triggers the server to automatically shut itself down "gracefully". A graceful shutdown protects all your applications, folders and files from data corruption and data loss.

NetCare recommends the UPS battery be tested every year and/or replaced every 3 years. Both the HP and APC models we recommend allow batteries to be replaced for a cost effective price.

#3 - Consider Protecting Your Server by Installing 2 Internal Power Supplies

NetCare has been providing the HP ProLiant range of servers to clients for over 20 years and we are in no doubt that they the most reliable servers on the planet. Part of the reason is that HP servers provide space for a second power supply to be installed and thus protecting against the sudden failure of one from crashing the server. In NetCare's experience, the 2 main reasons for a power supply failure are due to either a power spike or an overheated power supply due to dust build-up.

NetCare recommend any server that is running an Exchange email system and/or a SQL database should have dual power supplies installed. One power supply cable is then connected to the UPS and the other directly to the mains (preferably via a secondary power filter). Why not connect both to the UPS? We're mitigating loss against the sudden failure of the UPS - your server will stay up if the UPS fails.

#4 - Ensure You Have Power Filtering Measures in Place

Electrical storms not only mean power cuts because of downed lines, they can also cause power surges from lightning strikes. Its therefore important to ensure you have power filtering devices in place to protect your computer's power supply. Low cost power filters are available from any electrical or hardware store and NetCare recommend their use for any important office or home computer, as well as to protect critical network devices like your router, firewall and switch.

For servers, a higher level of power protection is required and fortunately this is provided by the installation of a good quality UPS which also includes power surge protection. Both the HP and APC UPS models that NetCare recommend include excellent power filtering features.

#5 - Consider Connecting Your Network Devices to Your UPS

In addition to your server staying operational, you may also decide there's a business requirement to keep critical routers, firewalls and switches operational during an outage as well. Business decisions like this require careful load estimation from a skilled engineer to ensure the extra power protection provided to more devices isn't traded off in markedly reduced battery life. Just because a UPS allows 5 or so devices to be connected to it doesn't mean its ok to do so.

For situations where multiple devices in a server room need to be protected we recommend the installation of 2 or more UPS systems. A "smart" one for server connection and lower cost ones for network and communications devices that stay running until the power comes back on, or until the batteries run flat.

Protect your Computer System with a Comprehensive Power Protection Assessment

November and December always means a few exciting thunder and lightning events in Sydney and many of these electrical storms seem to be overnight or on the weekend. This means it's important for your business continuity that you review the power protection solutions currently in place at your premises.

For all NetCare clients, we will be double checking on your behalf that you have adequate power protection solutions in place.

And for any other Sydney based business concerned about their current power protection strategy, we are offering a free no-obligation power protection assessment to the first 10 businesses that register.