Keep your server running when your power shuts down

When power fluctuations put your data and applications at risk, APC's Smart-UPS 1400 eases your mind. The unit minimizes voltage variations and provides up to 950 watts of power during short power outages or gracefully shuts down your server during long outages. The power supply's case houses two 12-volt, 17-ampere-hour maintenance-free lead-acid batteries; six breaker-protected power outlets; and an RS232C interface. The unit comes with an array of power-management electronics and the PowerChute plus power-management configuration software that runs on the server.

I attached the Smart-UPS 1400 to the Windows NT Magazine Lab's Gateway ALR 9200 4-way Pentium II server with 2GB of RAM, a five-disk RAID array, and a 15" color display. When I first plugged the unit into an AC line, the batteries took 4 to 5 hours to charge. Five-stage LED graphs on the unit's front panel showed the batteries' approximate charge level, the percentage of the Smart-UPS 1400's 950-watt capacity in use, and the AC line voltage. PowerChute plus' main screen graphically duplicated the power load and line-voltage indications and calculated the server's battery runtime at 31 minutes based on current power usage. Battery life typically falls between 20 and 40 minutes for one server depending on the server's power requirements and the batteries' charge states. You can reconfigure any of the three graphs to also display battery voltage, output voltage, and battery-charge level.

The Smart-UPS 1400 maintains an output-voltage range of 103 to 132 volts. When the AC line voltage exceeds these thresholds, the unit raises or lowers output voltage 12 percent as needed. When the AC line voltage strays below 90 volts or above 145 volts, the unit switches to battery power until voltage returns to normal levels. You can use PowerChute plus to adjust these thresholds.

The product's real value is apparent when the power fails. I disconnected the unit from the AC line to simulate a power failure, and the switchover to battery power was transparent. An audible alarm sounded, and the unit notified all the domain's clients that the server was shutting down shortly because it was operating on battery power.

PowerChute plus' flexibility gives you many options for determining how the unit responds to a power failure or severe voltage fluctuation. When the power fails, for example, the administrator can decide how long to wait before users receive a warning, how often to send the warning, and who receives the warning. The software can page or send an email message to the administrator (and users) when the power fails or after the power has been out for a defined period of time. The software can also page or email the administrator when the Smart-UPS responds to severe voltage fluctuations for a designated period of time.

You can instruct the software to shut down the server after a power outage of a predetermined time or when the battery runtime drops to a predetermined level. Immediately before an automated shutdown, the software saves your data and closes your applications—in most cases. Data in unnamed files is one exception. You can set the software to allot extra time to save application files before the application closes and the shutdown proceeds. I pulled the plug on the Smart-UPS 1400, and the Lab's Gateway server ran for about 30 minutes on the power supply's battery power before PowerChute plus closed Microsoft SQL Server 6.5 and shut down the server.

PowerChute plus' flexibility in responding to a variety of events comes at the expense of ease of use. APC didn't organize the program's options well, requiring systems administrators to use the detailed manual to master the features.

The Smart-UPS 1400's price might seem steep, but the unit is cheap insurance if you suffer from frequent power problems. The product offers a wealth of features, flexibility, and options that will satisfy anyone who needs up to 950 watts of clean power.

Smart-UPS 1400
Contact: APC * 800-800-4272
Web: http://www.apcc.com
Price: $799
System Configuration: Windows NT 4.0, 950-watt capacity