UPS Management Software
The leading UPS management packages for Windows NT provide varying degrees of interactivity, reporting, and testing/shutdown capabilities. Keep two caveats in mind:

  • Except for PowerMon II, each package works only with its own company's UPS products.
  • When setting up your system, determine if the package you select works with NT's UPS service--not all of them do. You can save considerable time and trouble if you find this out ahead of time in addition to selecting which serial port to use, at what speed, and what authentication that service will use. Taking the default settings at installation time might not catch these items.

In general, installing these programs was a simple and straightforward process, requiring no more than a typical systems administrator would know. Each program has self-guided routines that prompt for home directories and so forth, and then auto-configure a service that boots with the server/workstation. The documentation for these packages is good, providing explanations of all the major features and screen examples. Once you become familiar with the interfaces on the programs, they are all easy to use.

APC's PowerChute Plus
PowerChute Plus was the most impressive package I tested (see screens 3 and 4 on page 49). Although all the packages have their strong points in UI design, price, or number of features, PowerChute has the best combination, as well as thorough reporting options, testing and condition logging, and network support. It lacks certain features, such as power status graphing, statistics/ power history graphing--These would be really nice additions! Hint! Hint!--and a battery-conservation mode, but its clean interface and ease of use make it an excellent piece of management software.

If you are running an APC SmartUPS--vs. the standard BackUPS--you can access enhanced management features, which will communicate PowerChute's status directly to your server via a special serial cable. Among its capabilities are event notification (power failures, system status, etc.) and system-status reports through Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) and paging. You can also get specific operating information from the UPS, such as environmental conditions, that tell you about impending system problems (e.g., if the temperature is too high).

PowerChute Plus

Requirements:
Standard Windows NT Server/Workstation

Contact: American Power Conversion (APC)
800-800-4272

Price:
$99 OnliNet

Requirements:
Standard Windows NT Server/Workstation

Contact: Exide Electronics * 800-365-4892

Price:
$189

LANMaster

Requirements:
Standard Windows NT Server/Workstation

Contact: Para Systems--MinuteMan
800-238-7272

Price:
$69

PowerWise

Requirements:
Standard Windows NT Server/Workstation

Contact: Hewlett-Packard * 800-533-1333

Price:
$99

PowerMon II

Requirements:
Standard Windows NT Server/Workstation

Contact: System Enhancements * 314-532-2855

Price:
$99

Power Alert Plus

Requirements:
Standard Windows NT Server/Workstation

Contact: Tripp Lite * 312-755-5401

Price:
$89

More customization options are available using PowerChute's system-control capabilities. You can schedule shutdowns and powerups, monitor and manage other servers and workstations on your network that are equipped with UPSs, and, best of all, schedule (or run manually) regular self-tests to maintain the integrity of the UPS. (The options are complete, including simulated power failures and alarm tests.)

APC's FlexEvents provide outstanding control over user notification and condition handling. There are several dozen events, ranging from service startup to system failure, which are completely configurable, allowing you to select a variety of actions: Log Event, Notify Administrators, Notify Users, Run Command File, Send E-Mail, Page Users, and Shut Down Server. These are particularly handy when testing a system: You can determine whether broadcast messages are to be sent on any or all events, so that the domain users aren't barraged with alert boxes while you're adjusting the UPS. Each of these actions (except Log Event) is configurable as to which users, administrators, files, etc. receive which responses.

PowerChute Plus also supports SNMP for more advanced networking features, such as remote management under other operating systems. The only major drawback to the otherwise inexhaustible list of features in this package is that--reportedly--it works only with APC power supplies and IBM's smaller UPSs.

Exide Electronics' OnliNet
OnliNet implements a good range of UPS management functions and adds a few handy UI features which display a considerable amount of sampled data. Like the others, OnliNet has its own NT Service which must be enabled before it will operate. You must also specifically engage data collection before you can perform most functions.

The main screen is simple (see Screen A), but it gives you access to a number of different real-time graphs simultaneously, including battery voltage, I/O frequency, etc., all from the Screens-Meters box. You can also view the UPS's operation graphically.

There are event and alarm logs that you can configure to monitor specific events at specific intervals, and OnliNet will monitor UPSs scattered across your network. For security and power-use optimization, you can set up a regular schedule of system shutdowns, with a special warning message to users and a password.

Despite OnliNet's extensive power-monitoring capabilities with many different kinds of data to reveal trends and problems, it lacks any UPS testing capabilities or configurable user notification. It does support a shutdown command file but needs special text files to display warning messages.

HP's PowerWise
The Hewlett-Packard (HP) PowerWise package sports a type of interface (see Screen B) common to most HP equipment, such as engineering testing hardware--oscilloscopes, logic analyzers, etc.--thus scoring high with a former electrical engineer who has used HP machines. Its only major hangup is that it supports only an HP UPS.

With this exception, PowerWise offers a variety of advanced UPS management features that enable you to take full advantage of HP power supplies, including full testing, battery status, SNMP (with installed card), and others. The interface is clean and straightforward with displays of all major UPS activity: line voltage, load, battery charge, a power-quality graph, power frequency, operational readiness, available runtime, and model number (in case you have multiple units you need to monitor). PowerWise also lists recent events in a scroll window and shows any scheduled shutdown and restart times.

In addition to having full logging capabilities for faults, power events, system status, and so forth, you can graph statistics over time from a log file (again, in a display which looks suspiciously like an HP digital oscilloscope's), and display them as either line graphs--sampled data--or bar charts--numbers of events.

Although it has an excellent interface and full implementation of the features found in the other packages (see PowerMon II on this page), PowerWise could not be my first choice because it lacks configurable user notification. Despite modifiable warning messages, it does not permit you to select specific users to be notified for the wide variety of events available in PowerChute Plus. Thus, when an event occurs (and only the major ones are covered, such as line voltage low, on battery, etc.), all the users on the network receive the information, even if it doesn't affect them.

Para Systems--MinuteMan's LANMaster
LANMaster (now in Beta release)--based on the Systems Enhancements' PowerMon II engine--gives you access to testing, environmental conditions, graphing, and UPS status through an attractive interface using a bar-graph metaphor (see Screen C).

On the main Control Center screen, you see displays of estimated runtime, UPS temperature, load, input/output/ battery voltage, charge percentage/status--whether it's good or bad--UPS type/mode, power frequency, and even the age of the battery--you set the date at installation time; it can help you diagnose problems right on the screen if your unit is malfunctioning.

Also in the Control Center is a history graph of load and input voltage and a testing button that brings up a configuration dialog to either test your UPS immediately or schedule regular tests. Alarms resulting from tests, or those generated by the UPS itself, are displayed on the screen in a pop-up dialog until they are acknowledged. They are posted to the event log as well.

LANMaster has some more advanced statistics and graphing features than the other packages: Not only can you display and print according to specific data (power events, alarms, communications, and other items), but you can also store multiple log files and bring them up for history graphing. You can select input voltage, output voltage and current, input frequency, battery voltage, UPS temperature, or all of these. You can display averages, maximum and minimum, or a specific time period. Log-file specifics, such as sampling intervals, are set from the Log menu.

The shutdown and restart capabilities for LANMaster are carry-overs from the SE base. They include scheduled up and down times and shutdown command-file macros.

SE's PowerMon II
This comprehensive package will work with almost any UPS capable of handling serial communications, including those from Intellipower, Best Power, Liebert, Oneac, Sola, Superior Electric, TSI, and Upsonic. Some vendors who have their own packages, such as Exide Electronics, build their software around the engine designed by Systems Enhancements (SE) which is then modified to provide additional features or a different interface. SE sells its product to other UPS vendors, such as Controlled Power, who then bundle the software as-is with their own units.

PowerMon II (see Screen D) works as a replacement for the standard NT UPS service and handles the communications and hardware interfacing by itself. Although its UI is less than exciting, PowerMon goes above and beyond what NT itself provides, including such features as printable color-coded event logging, statistics graphing, power history and power status graphs, network broadcast messages, configurable actions/responses/messages to events, and Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) support to monitor UPSs on other systems or networks (regardless of operating system). PowerMon also gives you a graphical look at current UPS status and provides a useful Calendar view for monitoring power events over a longer period of time.

Other features include scheduled/manual shutdowns--with a manual "pause" during shutdown to perform other tasks--paging and modem dial-out on system failure, and power event logging in the server error log. For shutdown, you can run a custom command file to make a graceful exit from NT. PowerMon even has a mode that conserves battery power while you're running from the UPS. The package comes with a serial cable that can be used with most UPSs.

The following are other UPS manufacturers who either build on PowerMon II, ship it or NetMon/MultiMon/ SensiMon products for SNMP support and remote manipulation with their units, or recommend its use: Acme Electric, Toshiba, Deltec, Merlin Gerin, AT&T, Para Systems, IPM, Square D-EDE/ Topaz, Data Sphere, International Power Technologies, EFI Electronics, PowerCom America, SanRex, Power VAR, Mitsubishi, Perfect Power, General Power, United Power, Clary Corporation, C-Power, On-Line Power, MESTA Electronics, ETI, Cyberex, Computer Power Inc., Control Technology, AST, Compaq, Digital Equipment Corporation, Hewlett-Packard, Emerson, and Intergraph.

Tripp Lite's Power Alert Plus
Power Alert Plus adds useful features that greatly enhance its capabilities over the standard NT UPS service. These features include testing, administrative security, remote/network UPS management with central alarm logging for the whole network, and notification by modem (which, by adding Tripp Lite's RT-2 adapter, can also provide remote startup or reboot by modem). Custom shutdown commands can be performed with macros; you can record your own or use the ones included with the product.

The Monitoring Center, albeit generic-looking, is the main graphical interface for the package (see Screen E), providing access to all information and views for voltage, load, and charge capacity. You can set it up to show in a graph the history of either the unit's line voltage or the battery capacity over time.

In addition to alert logging, viewing, and printing, scheduled shutdowns, statistics, SNMP support, and other standard features found in comparable products, Power Alert Plus includes printable history graphs, testing capabilities, alarm thresholds, and configurable messaging. You can perform testing either immediately or on a regularly scheduled basis, and the results are posted to both the log file and the Monitoring Center screen. You can set tolerances according to alarm thresholds so the system will notify you if an event (Input Voltage Low/High, Load Percentage, Battery Percentage, or Temperature) crosses that threshold. You can edit the messages by predetermining what the alarm messages will say, which events they will appear on, and which users--none, local domain only, or all network users--they will go to. However, you don't have the wide variety of options that are available in PowerChute Plus.

\[Editor's Note: There are two other UPS management packages currently available for Windows NT but we were unable to obtain copies of them for testing. See the "2308 Vendor Directory" on page 54 for Deltec Electronics (LANSafe III) and Alpha Technologies (UPS Management Plus). Merlin Gerin, from Square D, soon to be released for Windows NT, is another package based on the SE PowerMon II engine.\]