As technologies evolve, organizations increasingly are embracing the application economy. Advances in areas such as cloud services and networks have spurred a host of new data-driven applications that facilities are leveraging to enhance operational capabilities while improving efficiency and lowering operating costs. Because these new solutions rely on the underlying power infrastructure to stay up and running, issues with downtime can be more disastrous and costly than ever.
The huge cost of power losses
To study the causes and impacts of outages, Eaton’s Blackout Tracker monitors power events across the United States. According to the 2017 U.S. Blackout Tracker report, there were 3,526 outages in the country last year. The number of people affected by outages more than doubled in comparison with 2016 – an increase of almost 19 million. In total, the report found that blackouts affected nearly 27 million people last year, with the average power outing lasting 81 minutes.
While power outages can be inconvenient for the public, they can lead to major bottom-line losses for businesses. A 2017 survey from ITIC, an IT consultancy, revealed that for large enterprises with more than 1,000 employees, a single hour of downtime costs an average of $100,000, when factoring in lost revenue and lost end-user productivity. For large businesses in nine verticals including manufacturing, that figure rises to $5 million, ITIC found.
Arthur Mulligan is a Raleigh, NC-based product line manager for Eaton. He has a B.A. in economics and management from Albion College.
Power monitoring considerations
Power protection is a mounting concern for businesses and facilities, but it’s also becoming more complex as IT environments grow more interconnected and digitized. Remote power monitoring software and services can provide the tools for organizations to bring together the various components of power protection in one system, with the end goal of saving time and simplifying day-to-day power management processes.
There are multiple features and capabilities for facilities to consider when it comes to remote power monitoring services today. Outlined below are five key requirements for designing a next-generation power monitoring system.
1. Combine software and services. Data serves as a valuable resource for facilities, but there isn’t always a clear-cut process for protecting these assets when disaster strikes. Instead of having staff rely on manual, reactive monitoring efforts, organizations can leverage real-time remote monitoring software combined with experienced technicians to track information and activate a plan quickly when required. Coupled with a service organization that has proven experience, training, and a strong safety record and response time, integrated power monitoring can help greatly improve an organization’s disaster response efforts.
2. Leverage data-driven insights and predictive analytics. Facilities have a breadth of new data and diagnostic tools available to help drive faster, more cost-effective repairs. With advances in predictive analytics, facilities can even anticipate power component failures before they occur. By collecting and analyzing data from connected power infrastructure devices, these solutions can provide IT administrators the insight needed to make recommendations and act quickly. When predictive analytics are added to a remote monitoring service, facilities can shift their power monitoring efforts from a reactive to a proactive model.
3. Advance asset management. In addition to improving maintenance and repair processes, next-generation power monitoring services can help businesses achieve more-comprehensive asset management. To optimize asset management, businesses must be able capture more useful data about an asset, such as uninterruptible power systems (UPSs). With up-to-date status information on battery date code, battery model and type, firmware version, service history, capacitors, and so on, facilities can do planning and analysis more efficiently. These details should be easily accessible to administrators to facilitate inspection, reporting and remediation.
4. Ensure intuitive, convenient reporting. Next-generation power monitoring services must deliver timely, focused insights to the people who need them. To do that, facilities should take advantage of remote power monitoring software that features an intuitive dashboard – one that allows administrators to easily view insights on system status and device performance. Web portals should also be considered part of the system to provide administrators with on-demand access to reporting and alerts. Mobile applications can also be used to enable the delivery of alerts to select mobile devices for easy access.
5. Offer simple software-as-a-service (SaaS) delivery. The more up-front cost and deployment time associated with a solution, the longer it will take to see the return on investment. To maximize the return on a next-generation power monitoring investment, organizations should may want to consider using tools that are based on SaaS delivery models. This eliminates the resources required to license, install and wire on-premises monitoring infrastructures. By leveraging SaaS offerings, organizations can shift capital expenses to operating expenses and pay-as-you-go models.
Power management's path forward
As technological innovations and data sciences evolve, new applications will come into play, putting greater demands on power structures. The threat of unplanned events and outages will continue to impact operations, posing the risk of missed service-level agreements, reduced productivity, financial penalties, brand damage and lost customers.
This article is part of our monthly Tactics and Practices column. Read more Tactics and Practices.
To optimize power infrastructure, IT teams need a more-robust monitoring service comprising monitoring and reporting software, services, and on-site technical support. By leveraging a next-generation power monitoring system, facilities can gain the critical information and processes needed to improve power management – identifying troubling trends and addressing them before outages arise. This strategy allows facility staff to focus on their own tasks, avoiding the fire drills that come with reactive practices.
A next-generation power management system can drive compelling and continued return on investment for a facility. As these systems grow more advanced, they will enable more central, efficient management of an organization’s entire power infrastructure – including UPSs, PDUs and other integrated power systems. While data-driven applications and solutions might grow more reliant on these power systems to keep things up and running, facilities and their IT administrators can be assured that they have the tools and processes in place to manage their power and address emerging issues quickly and effectively.