A Brave New World Power protection is significant in the networking and IP camera space

A Brave New World

Power protection is significant in the networking and IP camera space

A Brave New World Power protection is significant in the networking and IP camera spaceStanding as arguably one of the most important foundational elements of any security system, the presence of adequate power and the protection of that power are critical. While businesses will spend thousands of dollars on cameras and recording systems, alarms, intrusion detection, emergency communication and theft prevention, many overlook the need for systems’ power protection.

Similar to an individual buying a top safety-rated car with the latest safety advances but neglecting to buy car insurance, even security systems need protection. Because of our technological age, all systems require power to operate, and to protect a business and its personnel. Thus, without power, there is no security.

IP/Network Integration in Security

The shift from analog to digital, and the increased presence of networking capabilities in the security industry, means that systems are becoming increasingly integrated and therefore bigger, more complex and more widely distributed.

In the days of analog, systems were separate. For example, a business would employ the use of a power protection device, such as UPS, for each specific system. This could include cameras and DVRs, access control systems and theft prevention measures, all protected separately using an individual device. This allowed businesses to employ inexpensive power solutions with lower quality and shorter runtime because managers only needed to power one unit just long enough to have a technician available to service the devices.

With the shift toward digital and IP, systems have become more integrated into IT networks and are more complex. Instead of having one unit per system, businesses can connect multiple systems, such as NVRs, cameras and servers, all to one UPS. This shift has led to increased power demands in the security space, along with the need for increased battery backup time. In this new configuration, businesses must consider the availability of power to the network.

Power Problems

The increasing age of the power infrastructure along with everincreasing demand for power has led to significant increases in power problems. The five most common power problems—blackouts, brownouts, sags/surges, spikes and line noise—create the potential for data loss and equipment damage, exposing organizations to both safety issues and potential liabilities.

While blackouts, a complete loss of power, are often foremost on people’s minds, brownouts account for 88 percent of all power problems. Sags and surges, short duration change in voltage levels, are less common but can cause data loss and catastrophic hardware damage. Finally, line noise, a high frequency interference appearing in the AC line, can result in corrupted data, peripheral lockups, semiconductor damage and shortened equipment life spans.

The Importance of Protecting Security Equipment

While power protection is a valuable asset in most business applications, in the security industry, it is absolutely essential. When a security system goes down, it becomes a far greater issue than just downtime—the safety of both life and property hang in the balance.

Power protection devices are broken into two main types, surge protection and uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems, each varying in features and components. The most basic level of power protection is the surge protector. These products are designed to protect non-critical equipment that will not be required during a power outage. These devices ensure attached equipment is protected from catastrophic damage caused by surges and spikes.

A step up from surge protection is the UPS, or uninterruptible power supply. UPSs, also called battery backups, protect against all types of power problems with the added bonus of keeping equipment up and running. Without battery backup in place, in the event of a power anomaly, security systems and business could be vulnerable.

There are three levels of UPS, each increasing in price and protection capabilities:

Standby. This is the most basic type of UPS. It is essentially a surge protector with a battery. In the past, this inexpensive option has been the go-to choice for small load (400-900VA) security devices. When a power anomaly is detected, the UPS switches over to battery power until normal power is restored. These systems are extremely cost-effective, but cannot handle larger systems or loads.

Line interactive. This type of UPS represents the middle ground. It uses an automatic voltage regulator (AVR) to extend battery life and overall efficiency. For IP security, line interactive UPSs are the starting point for protection due to their increased capacities—750-3000VA—and more extensive features. Line interactive units are available in both tower and rack-mountable formats, making them ideal for integration in a security closet or in the updated rack environment alongside network equipment.

Online. Representing the crème de la crème of power protection, the online UPS only has one option for the current going into it: double conversion. Simply put, the UPS passes current through an AC-to-DC-to-AC process, ensuring complete power conditioning and the utmost power quality.

In the security realm, these units can provide backup capacity for facility-wide surveillance systems, and can be used to backup both network communications and security equipment. These types of systems are often required for critical devices, such as fire and emergency communications equipment, because of their fail-safe nature.

UPS Output Types: Sine Wave vs. Simulated Sine Wave

Not all power is created equal. UPSs can output square wave, simulated sine wave and true sine wave power. While each wave alternates between positive and negative to create a current, the three are vastly different.

Square waves are typically produced by lower-end equipment, and despite cost benefits, may put strain on the connected equipment that can lead to operational problems.

The next step up is a compromise between power quality and cost with a simulated sine wave. While this type of wave is still less than ideal, the shape of the wave more closely resembles utility power, which is a pure sine wave, therefore offering a better quality current.

Finally, the best power quality comes from pure sine wave UPSs. This is the ideal output for mission critical equipment in terms of performance and longevity. Line interactive and online UPSs are available with true sine wave output.

Increased Efficiency

As the shift toward more integrated systems continues, the need for multiple power protection solutions has decreased, making power usage levels and the management of these systems more efficient. One UPS protecting a rack full of devices instead of multiple units attached to multiple systems simplifies any security manager’s job.

The movement to network integrated security systems, with an ever-increasing focus on cost reduction, has shifted the overall focus of most organizations towards efficiency. With everything connected, businesses and managers can focus on the entire system, rather than monitoring individual components using multiple systems.

The shift from analog to digital means that systems have become more intertwined and complex while running on the backbone of the IT network. Having a cohesive plan in place that properly protects all security devices is not only critical for system operation; it can also save a security manager’s job, should a catastrophic power event occur.

This article originally appeared in the August 2014 issue of Security Today.

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