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Monday, 10 September 2012

Business Continuity and Power Systems

We take data security very seriously indeed and it was a real wakeup call when the UPS (uninterruptable power supply) decided to go on the blink; instead of the familiar bleep, bleep  indicating that the batteries had taken over and that it would be some 20 minutes before everything went dead, there was just a single bleep then silence.  Of course this also meant that screens went off, as did the server. Some rude words were said!

After what seemed an eternity the  power was restored.  Fortunately a data integrity check showed that all our data was intact and not corrupted.  The piece I was working on when the power went off was,  of course, lost.

We carry out daily, weekly and monthly checks on our systems to ensure our equipment is ok. We, however did not check the UPS batteries capacity;  we simply switch off the power and see that the UPS cuts in.

With the power of hindsight we should have let the UPS run for longer to check that the batteries were able to sustain the power to our systems. 

Looking back at our records I noticed that the UPS was over five years old and it still had the original batteries fitted.  These batteries are lead acid type and I know from experience with car batteries that they tend to last about 4 years before capacity becomes reduced.  It is normally on the day after a hard frost that the car won't start, requiring a battery replacement.

I ordered a set of batteries and the following day they arrived.  Very heavy and hidden in the bowels of the UPS are the batteries.  I isolated the power and took out the old units.  They were thick with dust.

Fitting the new batteries into the unit was relatively simple, I connected them up and turned on the power.  I did not know whether the batteries were fully charged or just had a minimal charge, so I left it some 8 hours before testing the whole unit. 

The new batteries kept the power on for 24 minutes after I disconnected the mains supply. 

All is well again at Quality Matters.

A lesson learned though, you should not take your UPS for granted. It will be tested at least monthly.

I have also set up an alert to replace the batteries again in four years  time.

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