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Keeping up with UPS

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A UPS is a very important piece of equipment to any business in South Africa, but purchasing one and just installing it is not enough. It needs to be maintained and monitored to make sure it operates properly when needed, writes ELRICA QUICK.

A UPS has become one of the most critical pieces of office equipment in South Africa, given the on-going power problems as well as the essential nature of technology equipment such as servers, switches and other IT equipment. However, a UPS is not simply something that can be purchased, installed and forgotten about. As essential as it is to operations, it is vital to ensure that the device itself is maintained. This is necessary to make certain that, when it is needed, the UPS will be able to perform with maximum efficiency. Simple preventative maintenance and proactive monitoring, can help businesses to ensure their UPS is always available and in good working order, ready to perform its critical tasks whenever needed.

In the past, performing preventative maintenance on UPS’ was challenging, and problems could only be resolved once they surfaced. However, today’s new UPS models offer integrated advanced monitoring, such as regular automatic status updates, through self-monitoring software. This can greatly assist in ensuring problems can be corrected before they affect the business. However, aside from this proactive monitoring, it is also important to still inspect a UPS regularly to ensure it is operating at maximum efficiency. Through regular maintenance, unnecessary downtime can be avoided, which saves businesses both time and money.

While UPS systems are designed to be reliable and durable, as they age there is an increased chance that they may malfunction either mechanically or electronically. The most common causes of UPS failure are the batteries, fans, electrolytic capacitors, Metal Oxide Varistors (MOVs) – a resistor designed to protect circuits against high transient (short term) voltage – and the relays.

Batteries do not last forever, and will typically need to be replaced at some point during the lifecycle of a UPS. The forecasted lifespan of a UPS battery is between three and five years. However, this depends on the cycles run on the battery. For example, the number of times that the UPS was dependent on the battery will impact the lifecycle of the battery. Newer UPS units include more advanced features and will send out SMS or email alerts regarding the status of the battery and UPS.  Other factors that impact the lifespan of the battery include placement and storage of the battery, ambient temperature and battery chemistry. Being proactive and being aware of these factors can help organisations ensure they obtain maximum life from their UPS batteries, and can predict and prepare for imminent failures.

Temperature has a significant impact on the life expectancy not only of batteries, but of all UPS components. Most UPSs are thus equipped with fans, to help cool the unit and keep ambient temperatures within recommended ranges. The fan will typically switch on or speed up when utility power is not available or when the temperature within the UPS surpasses a predetermined level. To prolong the life of UPS fans it is advisable to limit the scenarios in which the fan is forced to operate. Keeping the ambient temperature within the specified range, monitoring the UPS for unusual or frequent cycling, and correctly sizing the UPS for the relevant load can all help to extend the life of this component.

Electrolytic capacitors smooth out voltage fluctuations and monitoring the temperature of the environment and ensuring it remains within specified ranges, will greatly enhance the life expectancy of electrolytic capacitors.

When it comes to MOVs, they typically malfunction after being exposed to frequent and/or extreme voltage spikes. A UPS is designed to provide surge protection to connected equipment, and the MOV functions to achieve this by absorbing excess voltage. If a severe voltage spike occurs, the MOV may be destroyed. There is little that can be done to prevent the effects of extreme voltage spikes, however, it is important to ensure that if they do happen, the MOV is replaced so that the UPS can continue to provide optimal functionality.

Relays switch the battery on and off, and under normal circumstances it is unlikely that the UPS will cycle enough times to cause the relay to fail. Unusually high cycling could indicate incorrect UPS operation, and the relays and the battery may be affected. Proactive monitoring and reporting will help organisations to become alert to this type of issue, which enables proactive adjustments to be made to the firmware to prevent substantial damage or failure before it occurs.

While the majority of serviceable UPS components are designed to be touch safe, it is wise to bear in mind that a UPS is still a live piece of electrical equipment, and due care and safety procedures should always be taken. General best practices for the maintenance of UPS solutions are to be proactive, be prepared and be organised.  Proactivity is always the best approach with regard to both battery and UPS replacement. Finally, correct organisation is essential. Maintenance inspections should be routinely scheduled, and should always include documentation with details such as inspections performed and date of inspection. Keeping records of the type of maintenance performed and the condition of equipment, including any areas of degradation such as reduced battery runtime, will help organisations to predict future failure.

Monitoring and maintenance are of the utmost importance in preventing problems before they occur, and minimising the effects of costly downtime to a business. Certain factors can easily be controlled to help extend UPS life through optimal conditions, and understanding the effects of elements like temperature and environment. Utilising a reputable brand of UPS from a reliable service provider or partner, and making use of the management features available, can help organisations to leverage their UPS investment to maximum advantage.

* Elrica Quick, APC Product Specialist at Drive Control Corporation

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AppDate: Prepare for space

In this week’s AppDate, SEAN BACHER highlights Space Nation Navigator, Hitman Sniper, Snake Mask, Memrise, WhatsApp Web, and Carrot Weather.

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Space Nation Navigator

Space Nation Navigator is a bit of a strange app. It is part game, part exercise and part educational. On the game side, users have to navigate the Mars Rover, put the International Space Station back into orbit or move their Martians to safety before a sand storm hits Mars. When it comes to exercise, Space Nation Navigator provides users with a range of exercises and Yoga videos to prepare them for space travel and working in an anti-gravity environment. The education aspect teaches users about the planets, and star constellations, and then offers quizzes on what has been taught.

Platform: Android and iOS

Cost: A free download.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Memrise

Memrise takes a new approach to help people learn new languages. Instead of providing a user with random phrases and words to memorise, the app connects you with a person already fluent in the language you want to learn. In turn, the person you are speaking to wants to learn the language in which you are fluent. Once your profile is filled out and languages selected, it connects you with people around the world who are interested in your language, and then allows you to chat with them in real-time. Memrise also lets one learn new languages through games, chatbots and grammarbots that help with spelling, tenses and pronunciations.

Platform: Android and iOS

Cost: A free download.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Hitman Sniper

Hitman Sniper is loosely based on the Agent 47 movie released a few years ago. The game offers players the ability to hone their shooting skills through a range of training courses and, once they think they are ready, they can start taking out the bad guys. Things start off easy enough, but they get more and more difficult as one progresses through the 150 missions on offer. One will also have to upgrade various gun components, like scopes, magazine capacities and silencers, to make the missions a little easier. Hitman Sniper lets users buy 16 to tackle each of the missions – either with real money or via the points accumulated by completing missions. Money and points can also be used to upgrade firearms.

Platform: Android and iOS

Cost: R7 – with a range of in-app purchases.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Snake Mask

The iconic Snake game that was preinstalled on most older Nokia phones has had a complete make-over. It now uses Facebook’s AR technology, meaning that you have to navigate the snake around obstacles in your home or office, all the while collecting coins and stars that change the snake’s speed and length. Unfortunately, Snake Mask is only available on Nokia’s new range of smartphones. However, it should not take long before it slithers onto other devices.

 

Platform: New Nokia smartphones running Android.

Cost: Free to use through the Facebook app installed on the device.

Stockists: Available through the Facebook app.

 

WhatsApp Web

Although this is by no means a new app, it is an extremely useful one, and one that not many people know about. Tapping out WhatsApps on your phone is easy enough, but thanks to WhatsApp Web it can be even easier. Open the WhatApp Web page under WhatsApp and you will see a QR code. Scan this code through WhatsApp on your mobile and you will be shown a replica of what you would normally see on your phone. You can then type and reply to messages using your computer instead of having to stop everything and unlock your phone every time a message comes through. WhatsApp Web is great if you share your computer with other people as it automatically disconnects when the browser is closed. However WhatsApp also offers an app that when installed will stay connected to your phone unless you manually remove it.

 

Platform: Any up-to-date Internet browser

Cost: Free to use and install

Stockists: Visit www.WhatsApp.com

 

Carrot Weather

There are thousands of weather apps on the Internet these days and all of them do the same thing – inform you of the weather in your area. However, Carrot Weather has taken what is just another app and turned it into something fun. By fun, I mean sarcastic, rude and completely politically incorrect. A user starts off by selecting religious and political views. It then asks about personality, ranging from friendly to homicidal to overkill – which includes profanity. So, for instance, instead of waking up to to the standard partly cloudy forecast, Carrot Weather will display something like: “It’s only partly sunny, the sun is a total effing failure.” It also has a range of insults that it throws at you whenever you open the app – some of them downright insulting, so it is definitely not for those who are easily offended. The app’s user interface is very simple, displaying a week’s daily forecast and hourly forecasts for the day selected.

Platform: Android and iOS

Cost: Free to download but with adverts. The premium, advert free version costs R12 per month.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

* Sean Bacher is editor of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @SeanBacher

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SA Start-up reinvents PABX

For any South African business, the idea of setting up or changing a telephonic switchboard system is the stuff of nightmares. Dealing with expensive hardware and hearing things like QSIG and VOIP is not what you’d call exciting.But now there is an app.

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Enter BuzzBox (www.buzzboxcloud.co.za), a web-based telephone switchboard that is aimed at small and medium sized businesses wanting to take the hassle and cost out of the company switchboard. Whether you are a small one-man operation or a larger organisation with staff working remotely, BuzzBox is the best switchboard solution.

What sets BuzzBox apart from anything else on the market is its easy-to-use dashboard. It puts you in control of everything from picking your phone number to setting up voice prompts and managing your business-hours schedule.

BuzzBox was developed when the startup behind it, Jini-Guru, needed such a service for its own use across multiple continents. “When we started Jini-Guru we could not find a seamless online process that would allow us to set up a full web-based switchboard, so we decided to build one for ourselves,” says Mike Smits, Director at Jini-Guru.

He says a lot of startups today are tech savvy and know how to use apps and the services that go with it. “It’s the uberisation of services and its driving demand for instant service activation.”

BuzzBox works as an app on both iOS and Android but users wanting a desk phone option can choose from a variety of devices on offer or use their existing VOIP phones.

Setting up a BuzzBox account takes 5 minutes. During registration your FICA documents are uploaded [ID and proof or residence] and you get to pick your phone number before the account is created. Companies that want to keep an existing number can do so too.

The real magic happens when you log on to the BuzzBox Dashboard. The main screen displays a summary of statistics for your account while the left-hand menu provides you quick access to various configuration settings and reports.

Setting up new extensions or external numbers is done with a few clicks and you can even set up various departments which is a great way to route a call to various people in a department, like sales or support.

The intuitive user interface also makes it easy to set up hold-music and voice prompts. You can add voice prompts by recording them straight to your phone, just make sure you use a clear voice with quiet surroundings for the best customer experience.

One of the main features of BuzzBox is its call recording feature that allows an organisation to record calls for legislative purposes, such as a lawyer, or for customer service purposes such as support. Recordings are stored securely online, and you have the ability to download recordings for playback. Companies can opt-in for this service and it’s free to use. Recordings are stored online and are fully encrypted so only you can listen to, or download them. Storage costs R1 for every 1000 minutes of stored recordings.

Other features include call forwarding and scheduling. The latter allows you to set office hours for your organisation which will divert calls to an after-hours messaging service. You also have the option to enable routing to an employee who is on call after hours.

BuzzBox also has a reseller program for companies wanting to offer this as a switchboard solution to their existing customers.

The costs for this service is R89 p/m for the first phone number which includes your first extension for free. Thereafter you’ll pay R89p/m per extension. Calls between extensions are free but you pay per second for all outgoing phone calls. More info on pricing can be found here: https://buzzboxcloud.co.za/pricing/

BuzzBox is offering a Launch promotion where they are offering the first line and extension free for 12 months. Only pay for calls. Use promo code “feoifyaa” during sign-up to apply your discount.

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