• Expert guide: What to do with an older UPS

Default Alternative Text
Typical conditions that make a given option a sound decision regarding aging UPS equipment.

In the life of a data centre, many things can change within a 10-year span. Owners need to monitor the health of their UPS equipment, for instance, to mitigate the risk of sudden failure.

Depending on conditions, three options exist for managing an older UPS: run to fail, upgrade, or buy new. The following steps comprise a logical approach that can help owners to make the right decision.

Step 1 – Evaluate current situation and determine future needs

Condition: Determine whether a legacy UPS is able to meet its performance requirements, and if issues exist, whether servicing or upgrading would fix the problem. If not, then replacing with a new UPS would be the right choice when there are no plans to consolidate or outsource the data centre.

Outsource strategy: When an entire data centre is ageing, owners may plan to upgrade, outsource, or build new. While cost analysis may favour upgrading or building over outsourcing during a 10-year lifespan, sensitivity to cash flow, cash crossover point, deployment timeframe, life expectancy of the data centre, and other strategic factors play important roles in deciding the fate of an older UPS.

Energy efficiency: The efficiency of a UPS system, to a large extent, determines operating cost. So it’s important to understand how efficient a UPS system is today and how it might be improved through upgrades or changed load requirements, or whether replacing it with new equipment is the answer. (To help determine UPS efficiency ratings and their impact on energy costs and a data centre’s carbon footprint, Schneider Electric offers the UPS Efficiency Comparison Calculator.)

Future load requirements: If an existing UPS system is at or near full load and future load growth is anticipated, it’s best to explore options for adding capacity. If the existing UPS capacity cannot be changed to meet the future requirements, then buying new is the only option. But if existing units are lightly loaded, then buying new or performing upgrades may not be necessary, or it may be possible to replace the UPS with a smaller unit. This would improve efficiency, reduce the number of batteries needed, and likely reduce service costs.

Step 2 – Compare the pros and cons
 
Run to fail: Keep an older UPS in service until its ‘end of life’ without significant maintenance or upgrade expenditures, but continue to monitor health and status changes. As a UPS ages, reactive maintenance increases. In fact, after 10 years, time-and-material type service more than doubles. Run to fail can be the lowest cost option, but the risk of sudden failure and load impact is higher. Owners can implement strategies to mitigate that risk such as power redundancy, a robust operations and maintenance program, and disaster recovery planning, which might make this option the right choice in some cases.
 
Upgrade: Revitalise or modernise an older UPS to extend its service life. Manufacturers and third-party service companies often provide a warranty and service terms that further reduce the risk of extending the lifespan of a legacy UPS. Particularly for modular UPSs, the parts most likely to fail can be replaced with new ones. But not all parts of a UPS can be upgraded or replaced. Vendors may offer bundled upgrade packages, which can reduce costs compared to piecemeal, one-at-a-time upgrades. While an upgrade is more disruptive (initially while the upgrade is performed) than the run-to-fail approach, it takes less time than installing a new UPS.
 
Buy new: Replace an older UPS with a new one. Compared to the other options, replacement will result in short-duration high risk during the changeover and will take longer to implement, but delivers the lowest long-term risk profile. Initial capital expenditures will be higher than an upgrade, but that fact balances out, considering the lower operating expenses of a new UPS. When a UPS has unserviceable parts that fail or are likely to fail, replacing with a new unit is a sound decision.
 
By taking into account conditions such as years in service, level of standardisation, outsourcing strategy, redundancy and efficiency requirements, infrastructure support, current health, and the data centre’s future plans — data centre owners can make the best choice about an older UPS in terms of cost, implementation time, and expected performance.

Download a guide on what to do with ageing data centre UPS equipment
Learn more