Monitoring Your Critical SpaceWritten by Ahmad Moshiri Sunday, 18 November 2007 06:19
Since the heart of each business is usually its data center, a proper back-up power system that keeps the data center running during power fluctuations and outages is essential. For example, an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) can provide a high degree of protection and reliability. (It may provide up to an hour of back-up battery power.) A generator can protect your entire building or just certain loads. Chillers can keep critical space environmentally controlled. All of these vital pieces of equipment should be maintained routinely and monitored very closely.
Businesses are impacted differently by equipment failure in critical spaces. For example, financial institutions rely on computers to exchange electronic information. Manufacturing facilities rely on electrical equipment to produce goods. Just imagine the impact of the loss of electricity on a hospital if a transfer from commercial power to back-up power is interrupted, and/or there is a breakdown in the alarm monitoring process. A failure in electrical power creates a unique set of problems for each business if it isn’t acted upon immediately.
Some of the causes of equipment failure are: (1) an open cell in a battery can disable an entire battery string used to maintain a critical load during a utility outage; (2) a failure in an air conditioner can result in room overtemperature; or, (3) an overload condition can cause a UPS to transfer to utility power. Whether the problem is with a battery string, an air conditioner, or an UPS, if not detected in time there can be a serious threat to a data center and/or critical bus continuous operation. These situations can cause millions of dollars in damages, lost time, and/or lost data. Fortunately, a monitoring system can help avoid such a disaster.
Choosing the right Remote Monitoring system or service for your operation can be a big task. So, here are some basic questions to help you make that decision:
1. What is Remote Monitoring?
A Remote Monitoring system or service provides continuous monitoring of critical equipment and spaces. A system receives alarm data from monitored equipment at the site. The alarm is processed to determine the equipment information, alarm instructions, and who should be contacted. The instructions and contacts are predetermined by you.
2. Who should use Remote Monitoring?
Any business or facility that houses critical spaces for equipment. Remote Monitoring eliminates the expense of keeping personnel on site 24-hours-a-day to monitor equipment and respond to alarms.
3. What type of equipment should I have monitored?
All the equipment in your critical spaces, such as: an UPS, a generator, a battery system, environmental units, building chillers, electrical sensors, fire suppression systems, water detection units, space temperature and humidity sensors, and others.
4. What reports should I expect from a Remote Monitoring system?
At a minimum, you should expect three reports: (1) a Site Setup Report that lists all equipment and alarms to be monitored; (2) a Site Acceptance Test Report that shows the results of acceptance testing at startup. (This report should include the time the alarm was sent based on the clock in the monitor at the site, the time it was received, the equipment name, and the alarm text with resulting action taken), and, (3) an Alarm Monthly Report listing all alarms received during any given month.
5. Can I use an Alarm Management software package instead of a Remote Monitoring system?
There are centralized monitoring systems that can be configured to handle alarms based on a predetermined escalation procedure and schedule. As with any centralized system, someone must be present to acknowledge and respond to alarms. This solution is ideal for a 24-hour "manned" site. Such systems also work well with a Remote Monitoring system where they can be configured to relay alarm information. The Remote Monitoring service frees you of maintaining a database of alarms and instructions; acknowledging the alarms; and then notifying the proper personnel in case of a problem.
Whether you choose local or remote monitoring, a periodic maintenance check of all critical equipment helps minimize downtime and the chance of potential disaster. Ensure that your vendors are reliable and available seven-days-a-week, 24-hours-per-day. Ask for their guaranteed response and restoration time. Make sure they carry parts or have a parts’ depot near you. A Remote Monitoring system for your critical space is only as good as the vendors who service the equipment. When downtime or disaster happens, your vendors better be prepared!
Today, more than ever, businesses depend on computer systems and networking for day-to-day operation. A data center can be affected by a variety of sources: power outages, water leaks, generator and/or battery failure. It is no longer a question of whether you will experience system or environmental failure, but when.
Know that you can have piece of mind if your critical space is monitored by a reliable Remote Monitoring system and/or a service that notifies your vendors of alarms when they occur. You can potentially avoid a serious disaster and save millions of dollars.
Ahmad Moshiri will further discuss the issues surrounding remote monitoring at the Spring DRJ Conference in San Diego.
Ahmad Moshiri is Manager of Technical Services for Liebert Global Services, which is based in Worthington, Ohio.