Powering the future of business

Louise Smyth

Increasing reliance on IT systems drives need for reliable power. Matt Collins explains the importance of considering changeover systems in a successful digital strategy

One of the biggest talking points of 2016 was around the topic of digital strategy. The development of IT infrastructure in recent years has culminated in businesses being expected to have a comprehensive digital strategy.

However, this drives a pressing need for an electrical power supply that is continuous and reliable.

Businesses are constantly barraged with IT buzzwords like big data and cloud computing, concepts that they are told offer a wealth of benefits if adopted. These trends, in addition to a shifting business landscape through globalisation and outsourcing, have made it necessary for facilities managers to invest in the right infrastructure to support digitisation.

However, beyond the software and hardware, facilities managers often overlook the power being supplied to IT systems. While it's important that businesses choose the right IT system, so too is ensuring that these systems continue to operate in the event of a power failure or an emergency.

For example, there was an incident in 2015 where one of Google’s data centres experienced a power failure. This down time was a result of transient voltages caused by lightning striking the local power grid in Belgium. Unfortunately, several disks worth of data remained inaccessible after the incident.

This highlights the need for two things. The first is that facilities managers should ensure that power equipment is protected against lightning strikes and, secondly, that a building's power supply is connected to an effective changeover system that can keep systems running in the case of an emergency. If a company the size of Google can fall foul of power failure on such a scale, so too can smaller businesses.

Changeover power

So how can facilities managers keep IT systems operational? An important step is to invest in a changeover system that meets the needs of the application.

These are designed to facilitate a power supply shift from mains electricity to a backup generator with minimal disruption to service, so they come with a multitude of configurations available.

For example, ide Systems was recently approached by a large London-based business to design a 400A manual changeover panel to ensure reliable power to the building's IT systems. To maximise its effectiveness, engineers from ide Systems designed the panel with a lightning protection unit and, interestingly, a multifunctional power meter that included text message functionality.

A powerful feature for remote monitoring, the text functionality offers an additional level of reliability to the system.

The power meter’s text message facility works on the incoming mains supply so that, in the event of a mains failure, facilities managers receive a text instructing them to switch the supply over. This gives peace of mind that important IT systems will not lose power.

Innovations such as this can only be designed into electrical equipment if facilities managers give due consideration to emergency systems. While it is easy to think of IT systems as the sole responsibility of IT managers and technicians, facilities managers have a key role in ensuring the ongoing power required to sustain an effective digital business strategy.

Matt Collins is business development manager at power distribution specialist ide Systems