Watching fireworks is fun; the light, the sound can be quite the spectacle. When thinking of spectacles, often overlooked is the office space where the bulk of IT equipment is stored. After all, it's plugged in, it works, what's the issue? Turns out there could be a number of issues that might just be putting your office at risk.
Today, we're going to look at 5 things you can quickly check to ensure no unexpected fireworks displays occur in your office:
1. Ensure equipment is plugged into a properly sized UPS backup system
By now, just about everybody knows what a UPS (or "battery backup") is and what they do. Unfortunately what most people fail to realize is the differences between UPS devices, specifically the loads and types of devices they are designed to support. It's not uncommon for us to see a huge myriad of devices plugged into a cheap UPS designed to support a single desktop. This not only won't perform as well as it should, but can actually pose a risk as a heavy, unexpected load can short the unit out, causing the fireworks mentioned above.
Most UPS devices have a wattage rating that they are able to handle. You will want to compare this rating with the expected load you plan on having and be sure to leave a bit of headroom. We generally recommend a 30% headroom gap so if you expect a 700 watt maximum load then we'd recommend a 1kw rated UPS.
2. Ensure the correct equipment is plugged into your UPS devices
Still on the subject of UPS devices, another thing we often see are devices which should NOT be plugged into UPS units at all. We get that many UPS units have lots of plugin ports but that doesn't mean you should be using them for everything under the sun! Here is a short list of the most common things we see plugged into UPS devices that NEVER should be:
- Laser Printers (Inkjets are OK)
- Personal/Space Heaters
- Coffee/Tea Makers
- Portable/Window AC Units
- Water Pumps (ie: Fish Tank Pumps)
All of these devices should be plugged directly into a wall outlet and NEVER into a UPS unit as these devices can damage the UPS at best and be a fire hazard at worst.
3. Ensure equipment has adequate air flow and ventilation
This one's pretty obvious but IT devices don't tend to do well with heat. This is especially true of network devices which typically have a smaller footprint than servers or desktops. Stacking these devices on top of one another can cause massive temperature spikes in their power supplies which can lead to failures and/or even fires. Check your hardware regularly to make sure it isn't getting too hot. The "simplest" way to do so is the basic touch-test. Lightly touch the devices in question and see how hot they are. It's OK for the devices to be warm to the touch. But any device which is uncomfortable to hold or even too hot to touch should definitely be given better ventilation. You can also use a temperature reader and compare the results against the manufacturer specifications, which is the proper way to do it, but the touch-test usually works well enough in a pinch to let you know if something's too hot.
4. Make sure equipment is getting clean power
Dirty power is a very common cause of (in some cases spectacular) device failure and it's unfortunately a much more common thing that most folks realize. For the unaware, "dirty" power is power which does not have a consistent sine wave or voltage. There can be many causes for this ranging from building wiring issues to the power itself from the power company just being dirty to begin with. Modern processors and memory buses are very sensitive to voltage changes and dirty power can wreck havoc. If your building or area is known to have dirty power (an electrician can help you find out) putting some form of power conditioning on your IT equipment can help preserve it's life expectancy. Power conditioners are typically known more in the music industry but can also be used for IT equipment. Fortunately, many mid-grade and high-end UPS devices also have power conditioning built in so, again, if you're using the proper battery backup, you may already be ahead of the game in this area.
5. Ensure equipment circuit is not overloaded
Finally, this one gets overlooked as business changes throughout the years. It's important to make sure the building electrical circuit which powers your important IT equipment (servers, network, etc) is not being over-used. We've seen cases in the past where new high-demand devices, machines or other equipment were installed into the office and just plugged into an available outlet. This proceeded to work okay for a while until a breaker starts randomly tripping repeatedly, killing the entire office network because the machine happened to be on the same circuit as the IT equipment. Not only is this a temporary inconvenience, it's also a potentially expensive mistake, especially if your IT equipment isn't protected by a UPS device, as repeated hard shut downs can corrupt configurations, fry power supplies, or even the entire device. In a perfect world, the IT closet gets it's own circuit but sometimes that's not possible. In the latter case, just be sure to know what outlets are on the same circuit as your critical IT equipment and avoid putting a large amount of things on that circuit.
Keep the fireworks outside
If you haven't checked on the items above, we recommend to set aside some time to do so in the near future. It never hurts to run an annual or bi-annual check on these things. They often tend to go overlooked but regular checks can help spot issues before they become problems or even worse, disasters.