IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Underappreciated UPS Opportunities

From security cameras and network video recorders to storage devices and even slot machines, there is a world of uses for the once-lowly UPS. By James E. Gaskin
Reader ROI: 
Everything that runs on AC should have UPS support.

An uninterruptible power supply, the UPS that's not brown trucks but prevents brownouts and blackouts, is part of every data center and server closet. Units are large and heavy because they rely on proven (meaning older and heavier) lead-acid battery technology. Even the smaller units often found under desks are twice as heavy as they look. Every company needs them, but no one calls them interesting.

That's a shame, according to Bill Allen, marketing director at Minuteman Power Technologies, by Para Systems Inc., of Carrollton, Texas. He believes the lowly UPS now powers a world of interesting new devices. "[They’re] not just [for] servers; our customers use them to support data storage, all manner of remote devices around companies and campuses, wireless access points, security cameras and video recorders, and more. And that's not counting all the uses customers are finding for our remote power management products."

Selling strictly through the channel, Minuteman serves resellers specializing in both IT and security. "VARs have awakened to the opportunity in IP-based security systems," says Allen. "With the push toward IP, security people are learning about IP and tech resellers are learning about security."

That means all security cameras will need battery backup, whether to each camera or to each PoE (Power over Ethernet) wiring hub and switch. NVR (network video recorders), which are essentially server appliances customized for video recording, also need battery backup.

The same is true for all the Internet of Things (IoT) devices starting to appear on the network. No matter where they are, they need power, and that power must be uninterrupted. They almost always need Wi-Fi as well, which is why many UPS boxes are hidden in ceilings to support wireless access points. Popular Minuteman models are the EnSpire series of Standby UPSs and the ERS Ruggedized UPS models used in extreme environments to support traffic controllers and CCTV cameras and recorders.

"Some of our low-end UPSs have keyholes in the back to mount them to a wall," says Allen. "We also have optional wall-mount brackets for larger ones." These are handy for placing UPS boxes close to routers, because, as Allen says, "If your router goes down your network goes down."

More UPS Applications
Shelley Deane is a senior technology consultant at Clinton Township, Mich.-based JEM Tech Group, which has additional offices on the west side of the state as well as in New York and the Carolinas. She often wall mounts UPS systems from Cleveland-based Eaton Corp., noting, "Many of our K–12 clients still have wall-mounted racks, and weight is a concern." She says about 75 percent of the UPS systems her company sells are from the Eaton 5PX or 9PX families.

Deane also relies on Eaton's PDU (power distribution unit) and ePDU (“e” for enclosure) for remote management and monitoring. "We have a big focus on manufacturing, and the plants all seem to be 500 miles away in a cornfield. Often we go through the UPS to get into the PDU to reboot or fix equipment without sending a tech on a flight."

Allen has resellers using Minuteman UPS remote power management tools in similar ways. "One VAR installed TV and internet access in dorm rooms. They put a two-port remote power manager [RPM] to support the router and cable modem. When there's a problem, they remotely reboot the router with no user involvement."

Another interesting market, says Allen, is casinos. "We've even made some models that are taller and thinner than normal, to fit inside the cases of casino slot machines."

Allen believes everything that runs on AC should have UPS support. A quick, informal survey of resellers found some customers have strange installations. Objects resellers report seeing plugged into UPS units include desktop portable heaters and box fans, hopefully not for the same person. Many UPS units are plugged into other UPS units, and sometimes themselves (“Hello, help desk?”). Often, customers fill up the surge-protected outlets, leaving all the battery-supported outlets empty. Our favorite? One reseller sold a UPS just for his client's coffee maker.

About the Author

James E. Gaskin is a freelance writer and former reseller based in Mesquite, Texas. He writes frequently for The ChannelPro Network.