Pat Lynch’s Calendar

January 20, 2013 by Pat Lynch

Ask me anything at

2011-09-01 08.22.35

2014 Calendar

April 8 – HTMA-Nevada, Las Vegas

April 9-11 – MD Expo in Las Vegas

April 29 – Gateway Biomedical Society, St. Louis

April 30 – Meeting of Biomedical Service providers to Haiti

May 9 – HTMA-SC Conference (Columbia, SC)

May 20 – CMIA Orange County

May 30 – Manny’s Meeting at AAMI – Philadelphia

May 31 -June 2 – AAMI in Philadelphia

July 15, 16 – MD Imaging Expo – Indianapolis

Sept 3,4,5 – NCBA (NC) in Concord, NC

Sept 10, 11, 12 – NCBA (MN)

Sept 17, 18, 19 – VBA – Richmond, VA

Sept 24, 25, 26 – BAW – Wisconsin (presentation via teleconference)

October 1,2,3 – MD Expo/FBS – Orlando

October 24 – Oregon Biomedical – Portland, OR


9 things every leader should keep an eye on

October 28, 2014 by Pat Lynch
Written by Molly Gamble (Twitter | Google+)  | October 21, 2014

Culture is difficult to quantify, measure and manage, but making note of nine distinct components can help leaders assess their organization’s strengths and weaknesses.

In her article for Insigniam Quarterly, Editor in Chief Shideh Sedgh Bina lays out nine components of corporate culture and provides anecdotes that illustrate these facets.

1. Language and network of conversations. To understand culture, it’s essential to observe how people in a company interact, what they talk about, the language they use and how they structure conversations. For instance, Ms. Bina said she worked with one company that upheld collaboration as a value and success strategy, but senior executives partook in “email wars.” This suggested an adversarial “gotcha” culture within the company, which would ultimately trump collaboration. The following eight components can also be assessed via conversations.

2. Customer orientation. How the customer is viewed, served and interacted with is another important glimpse into culture. One hospital system Ms. Bina worked with had set the strategy of becoming a national leader in patient service, satisfaction and outcomes. Despite this goal, when her team interviewed hospital executives and staff, they noticed nobody brought up patients without prompting. Instead, they were more than comfortable talking about financial concerns. “If your culture is truly patient-centered, then the patient is not a background concern and the budget is not the main topic of discussion,” she wrote.

3. What is actually valued. The best way to find out what values are operational in your organization is to listen to how leaders assess each other. Note what is recognized and complimented and what is looked down upon. Ask people what it really takes to succeed. “Looking at what people truly hold to be important will tell you what is framing their choices and is a far better way to gauge culture than examining values written on a poster,” wrote Ms. Bina.

4. Accountability and responsibility. Accountability is being answerable for providing or governing so as to meet the conditions needed to bring about the intended results. Individual discussions can reveal how little accountability exists within an organization. For example, Ms. Bina’s team was once brought in to work with a company for a project that was $50 million behind a $500 million target. “By way of getting to know the interviewee, we asked executives to describe the jobs and the results for which they were accountable,” she wrote. “One after another, we heard answers that talked about a series of tasks. Not one person other than the person who hired us talked about results. One of the senior leadership executives even shrugged and said that in his role he had absolutely no accountability for business results. How about that for a bird’s-eye view of culture and its impact on performance?”

5. Traditions, rituals, heroes, legends and artifacts. Companies have legends or stories that are referred to almost on a daily or weekly basis, and certain status symbols within an organization give people a sense of belonging. It’s critical to ensure these stories and artifacts are consistent with the culture you are trying to create. For instance, a CEO Ms. Bina worked with believed one way to improve competitiveness was through a thrifty corporate culture. “But what we discovered was that a sign of being a successful executive at this particular company was wearing a diamond-encrusted Rolex,” she wrote. “How can you authentically drive a culture of thrift while sitting in a room full of diamond-encrusted watches?”

6. Leadership dynamics. How leadership is viewed and overall leadership style in a company is another significant contributor to culture and the ability to execute on strategy. If leadership promotes patient-centeredness, for example, how do executives reinforce that value? How do they interact with patients? There should be behaviors and structures in place that show executives are involved in those efforts, too.

7. Unwritten rules for success. Recognizing an organization’s unwritten rules is an essential part of a cultural transformation. “As much as we’d like to think otherwise, all of the avenues to success within an organization are not spelled out in the employee handbook,” according to the report. For instance, what really determines an employees’ likelihood for promotion — job performance or their standing with certain executives? The latter may ultimately distract employees from the overall success of the company as they navigate an ambiguous professional dynamic. Unwritten rules sometimes demand alteration.

8. Decision rights and processes. Another component of culture is who makes what decisions, at what pace and whom they must consult to make those calls. Some companies like Ritz-Carlton allow each employee to spend up to $2,000 per day to please a customer or fix a problem without consulting a manager. Other companies keep such decision rights extremely limited, such as one with 45,000 employees and a rule that no contract involving more than $25,000 or travel over $500 could be approved by anyone outside the C-Suite.

9. Legacy. Every company has a story about its origins, founders and successes and failures along the way. “Spend more than a day in any Johnson & Johnson Company and someone will bring up the J&J Credo as a reference point for action,” wrote Ms. Bina. “The credo is a clear-cut statement aimed at generating an allegiance to the mission of serving patients, physicians, nurses, and so on — and makes a point to list shareholders last in a long list of stakeholders. And whilst the company has at times had breakdowns, the credo always serves as a mechanism to get back on course, resulting in one of the most consistently high-performing companies of all time.”


Read the complete article from Insigniam Quarterly.

Better Budgeting Collection (3rd Edition)

October 20, 2014 by Pat Lynch
This is a great collection for any HTM Manager.   Pat

by Harvard Business Review

Publication Date: Feb 12, 2014. Prod. #: 7583BN-BUN-ENG

This specially priced collection will help you understand what budgets are and how the budgeting process works. It includes proven alternative management models that overcome the limitations of traditional budgeting. The “Better Budgeting Collection” includes these 5 components: “Budgeting Essentials” (CD-ROM), this interactive Harvard ManageMentor program will help you understand how to create different types of budgets, and how to identify common budgeting problems–so you can allocate resources wisely to meet your goals; “Finance Basics: 20 Minute Manager Series” (Paperback) explains the fundamentals simply and quickly, introducing you to key terms and concepts such as: (1) How to navigate financial statements, (2) How to weigh costs and benefits, (3) What’s involved in budgeting and forecasting, and (4) How to gauge a company’s financial health; “Beyond Budgeting: How Managers Can Break Free from the Annual Performance Trap” (Hardcover) by Jeremy Hope and Robin Fraser provides a guiding framework for managing in the twenty-first century and for achieving sustained improvement in the marketplace; “Who Needs Budgets?” (HBR Article) wherein Hope and Fraser argue that budgeting, as most companies practice it, should be abolished; “Corporate Budgeting Is Broken–Let’s Fix It” (HBR Article) by Michael C. Jensen argues that to avoid gaming the traditional budgeting system, companies should adopt a purely linear pay-for-performance scheme that rewards actual performance, independent of budget targets.

Save 30% off the regular prices when you order this special collection.

Ops vs. apps — The case for IT outsourcing

October 10, 2014 by Pat Lynch

Ops vs. apps — The case for IT outsourcing in healthcare

Written by Marion K. Jenkins, PhD, FHIMSS, Chief Strategy Officer, 3t Systems | September 15, 2014


If there was ever a business case for IT outsourcing and managed services, healthcare is a prime candidate. And healthcare has the opportunity to learn from other industries and take advantage of lessons learned over the last decade.

There are numerous blogs and discussions about the pros and cons of healthcare IT. Regardless of which side one is on relative to this debate, here are some “givens” that are representative of its current state:

1.    Healthcare is way behind other industries in IT adoption
2.    Compliance issues are increasing, putting even more pressure to improve and optimize processes
3.    Healthcare IT resources (both people and money) are limited
4.    Users are frequently frustrated with the lack of value they get out of their IT investments

Written by Marion K. Jenkins, PhD, FHIMSS, Chief Strategy Officer, 3t Systems | September 15, 2014



If there was ever a business case for IT outsourcing and managed services, healthcare is a prime candidate. And healthcare has the opportunity to learn from other industries and take advantage of lessons learned over the last decade.

There are numerous blogs and discussions about the pros and cons of healthcare IT. Regardless of which side one is on relative to this debate, here are some “givens” that are representative of its current state:

1.    Healthcare is way behind other industries in IT adoption
2.    Compliance issues are increasing, putting even more pressure to improve and optimize processes
3.    Healthcare IT resources (both people and money) are limited
4.    Users are frequently frustrated with the lack of value they get out of their IT investments

To read the rest of the article, click here.

10 not so popular sites you will like

October 10, 2014 by Pat Lynch

Something a little different on Friday . . .

Posted on September 15, 2014

  1. You’re getting old – Website that gives you stats about your life so far in an awesome way.
  2. Clickhole – BuzzFeed parody from the creators of The Onion sarcastic news site.
  3. Made /w Code – A customized bracelet that you can have 3D-printed. Made by Google. Also they will send you it for free if you live in the US.
  4. Printable Paper – Useful for school start and saves you a lot of money. Download and print many kind of papers for free like “Dot Paper with 2.5mm spacing on A4-sized paper” or “Columnar Paper with six columns on A4-sized paper in landscape orientation” and hundreds more.
  5. – If the Moon were only 1 pixel. Scroll and be amazed!
  6. ChessCademy – Awesome site to learn chess.
  7. Blog – French blog, but the Flash application is unbelievably cool. 40 popular songs split up into the used instruments, each instrument can be activated and deactivated separately.
  8. – 45 gigapixel panorama picture of Dubai. Zoom!
  9. Mailinator – Disposable e-mail account. Useful when you don’t want to receive spam to your main e-mail account.
  10. Midomi – The site is like Shazam, but for PC, however you can sing the song yourself or hum it if you don’t know the words.

You’re Bored? That’s So AWESOME.

October 8, 2014 by Pat Lynch
 by on Jan 27, 2012 in Resources | 189 Comments


So…I saw your tweet.

You’re “bored”?




I am…absolutely floored. Hopelessly lost in admiration!

You are everything I aspire to be.

Oh. Hold on.


Back. I had to go and check what “bored” meant, just in case the definition had changed recently, but no! It’s the same! In essence, you’re saying you’re sat there, with all the resources of the internet at your disposal, and you’ve run out of interesting things to do.

Which is just incredible.

You are amazing.


I mean, by being “bored”, you must have…

  •  Eagerly delved into everything Stanford, Harvard and Yale are offering up on iTunes, entirely for free – or lost your mind wandering around Coursera, which aggregates courses from some of the most famous universities in the world…
  • …before testing yourself on the basics – all the basics – with Memrise.
  • …and then did the same with Chez Pim‘s output  – with enormous emphasis on the Pad Thai.
  • Backed up every single photo and critical document you own…
  • …and then did it again, elsewhere, because you never know when the badsectorpocalypse will strike…
  • …and even went as far as protecting all your precious bookmarks & settings on your favourite apps by going portable and sending a backup a copy to your USB or cloud drive? (Find all this travel-tech stuff baffling? Here’s a reliable guide.)


  • Packed a bag, walked out your front door, caught a bus, caught another bus, caught yet another bus, and kept going until you ended up somewhere incredible? Because yes, it’s possible.
  • Explored the fringes of your vocabulary with Visuwords.
  • Read all The Morning News, then all of World Hum, then every scrap of archived material from Brain Pickings, rounding things off with the Paris Review. (Well done. You’ve read some of – and read about some of – the best writing on the Internet. Admirable way to spend a couple of decades. I applaud your dedication).


  • Read Lord Of The Rings yet again, except this time following the route in Barbara Strachey’s Journeys of Frodo (above), the Ordnance Survey of the fantasy world.
  • …and followed it up with a substantial dollop of TED-watching.
  • Grasped the fundamentals of the 6,000+ living languages of the world.
  • …and then somehow, against staggering odds, managing to fight your way through all 50 of these.


  • Read this trilogy, while following  the real history of Newton, Liebnitz, Hooke, Louis XIV, William II and all of Stephenson’s “characters” in a real history-of-science book (say, this one), and pinpointed exactly where Neal Stephenson has stuck to the facts and where he has taken wild, anachronistic flights of fancy.
  • …and then written at least as many fiction and non-fiction books as Isaac Asimov.
  • Guess where in the world you’re looking at to within 100 miles, 10 times in a row, with GeoGuesser – or just randomly gone exploring with MapCrunch.


  • Taken every “inspiring quote” in the spirit it was intended.
  • Sat outside and listened to the world – the birds, the weather, the bustle of humanity, the creak of your chair, the sound of your own breathing – until everything held absolutely zero novelty or interest for you. Go on. We’ll wait.
  • Learned how to paint a picture with food, like this, or this.
  • Addressed every lingering guilty regret, until you were satisfied you’d done absolutely everything you could to make amends, no matter how belatedly.
  • And finally (because it’s important to have a sense of proportion here) – you’ve followed every single link in every single issue of Aaron Bady‘s Sunday Reading series.
Not enough for you? Follow me on Twitter and I might be able to help further!


Shannon of A Little Adrift has rounded up a couple of cubic miles of free stuff here, some of which I’ve mentioned above, most of which I haven’t. Click this and you’ll never be bored again, but your head may explode. Your choice.

I mean, there’s other stuff – but let’s face it, doing these things really ate up your free time. You’re allowed a little slack!

And I don’t want to sound unreasonable, of course. Or bitchy.

Anyway, I’ll let you get back to being bored.

Because you, my friend, deserve it.

Images: Shermeee, Hubble Heritage, Mike Sowden.

Why You Must Lie On Job Interviews And What You Must Lie About

October 7, 2014 by Pat Lynch
(An interesting view on job interviews.  Pat)
Oct 6 2014

All of the characteristics HR looks for in a job candidate are the polar opposite of what enlightened leaders seek in new talent. While HR is tediously focused on making certain that candidates “play well in the sandbox,” strong managers want those who don’t venture near the proverbial box. Which creates a conundrum and a paradox:to get to the latter you need to lie to the former. As well you should. Why be held hostage to a broken system?

Case in point: the HR person will likely ask you if you work well with others? Well, many of the smartest and most innovative people on the planet simply don’t. Not that they are trouble makers or in any way venal but they simply prefer to work alone, creating marvels of software, mathematical formulas or extraordinary feats of creativity. But can they tell HR:

“No. I don’t really like working with others. I guess you can say I do my best work by myself. My professors at MIT used to call me a ‘loner.’”

HR’s universal reaction to this honest response would be “Next.” Einstein and Newton would have failed their test.

For years, my firm worked with a hedge fund that invests capital based on quantitative strategies, developed by their team of math and physics brainiacs. None even pretend to enjoy the social aspects of the work environment. For them, it is all about hibernation, concentration and introspection. They never stepped into a a sandbox as kids and they aren’t about to start now.

Over the course of an intense year when we examined and adjusted many of the practices of the fund, management came to recognize that the caliber of the candidates coming to them for second-stage interviews was way down below the quality hierarchy. On closer examination, we discovered the HR filter was turning the best and the brightest away before they could be seen by senior fund managers — all geeks and loners in their own right. The solution was simple: HR was limited to managing the fund’s employee benefits and policies and completely removed from the hiring process.

Another HR question that demands a lie goes like this:

“So tell me why you want to work for our company.”

In many cases, the honest answer would be:

“I think this is the best place to make a fortune before I’m 35. I really want a chunk of those stock options.”

But to the HR paint-by-numbers gang, that would lead to a fast dismissal out the fire exit. To get to the next-stage interview you have to lie, waxing poetic about the company’s innovative culture or lionizing it’s irreverent founder (who, by the way, is eager to have brilliant wealth-seeking hot shots on the team).

The old adage “Just be yourself,” is a fool’s game when it comes to the hiring process. Instead, at the outset, you need to be what HR wants you to be. And in most cases, you need to (and very well should) lie to win a pass to see the real players in the company. The ones with a 180 degree different (from HR) perspective on life/business/success and how to get what you want in your career.

Look, I don’t believe in making lying a way of life–in fact, I appreciate blunt and honest people and think of myself in this way. But when a system is stacked against the truth, dance around it.

CMS Approves Outlet Strips!

October 1, 2014 by Pat Lynch

In a major reversal of their position, CMS (Centers for Medicare/Medicaid Services) has issued a nationwide waiver on their recent prohibition on RTPs (relocatable Power Taps) in hospitals.

Hospitals have always had a shortage of electrical outlets in patient care areas.  More medical devices need to be plugged in than there are outlets to accommodate them.   Adding new electrical outlets are a major construction project – not something that can be done on the spur of the moment or for trivial dollars.   Hospitals have long relied upon ad hoc fixes, like adding a multiple outlet strip which increases the number of available outlets from 1 to either 4 or 6.  These are usually purchased from an office supply company and are not inspected either at the time of installation of at regular intervals thereafter.

CMS unilaterally banned then in June of this year.  Their position (which followed NFPA 99-2005)  allowed no option for proper management of these units – removal was the only choice.

This new statement, issued September 26, 2014, is a common  sense approach to this problem, requiring much-needed controls.  Please download the Waiver from the HTMA-SC website at .  Also, you may download the official definition of an SRPT (Special Relocatable Power Tap), entitled NPFA 1363A.

Thanks to AIV ( and TrippLite ( for their support and education on this very important subject.


How Your Intuition Reveals Your Brain’s Best Decisions

September 18, 2014 by Pat Lynch

By Luis R. Valadez August 22, 2014

Brain Power, Human Brain, Psychology & Health, Uncommon Science intuition brain


There is no logical way to the discovery of these elemental laws. There is only the way of intuition, which is helped by a feeling for the order lying behind the appearance. ~Albert Einstein We often hear a lot about the great strength of the human intuition, but rarely are we taught how to accurately listen and perceive our intuition. Even though it has been proven time after time, that our intuition is often a better decision maker than our rational mind. And so, one must ask, how do we develop our ability to utilize our powerful decision-making machine? One thing is for certain and is supported by psychologists world-wide, it is possible to master your intuition with practice and mindfulness.


Let’s Start With The Basics


Before jumping straight into how to become a master of your unconscious mind, you have to understand the differences between your instinct and intuition. And how to tell them apart because it will be essential for you to differentiate the two when it comes time to formulate the best decisions.


Instinct: Is your inclination towards a specific behavior that dates back to our cavemen ancestors. It is not a learned response such as that of modern day behaviors.


Intuition: Is the complex system in your brain that acts as a bridge between your unconscious and conscious mind. It is the process of your brain that does not require extensive analytical reasoning. Your intuition also connects your primal instinct with your ability to reason.


Gut feeling: Is the sensation you first experience when your intuition is activated and is trying to communicate something important to your mind. It will often feel like a hunch or pull towards a certain decision. Sometimes it may even come as a whisper or the very first thought that comes to your mind when trying to decide on something.


Why Listen To The Whispers?

Famed and prominent psychologists, Carl Jung and Rogers argued that your intuition is one of the most powerful mechanisms of your human brain. Going as far as to say that it is absolutely necessary for a positive mental health to cultivate your intuition. Rogers exclaimed that in order to be at your optimal functioning state of living, you must trust your intuition and be capable of expressing yourself through continuous and spontaneous forms of self-expression.


Carl Jung made great strides in the field of psychology and sociology through his extensive research into the unconscious mind. Jung concluded later in his life that humans who possessed optimal mental health possessed a certain level of openness to the deeper messages coming from the unconscious mind. Researchers nowadays have come to a similar conclusion about the importance of this deep connection to your unconscious. Primarily because according to present psychological research —your brain’s gray matter consists primarily of the unconscious mind. Roughly 80% of your brain’s entire gray matter is dedicated to the unconscious, while only 20% of your gray matter is utilized in your rational mind.


That’s a significant amount of your intellect, being completely devoted to supplying your intuition with brain power. Just like the famous Sigmund Feud image of the iceberg where only the tip of the iceberg can be seen from the top while the bottom lies below, with much greater size. The size and scale comparisons are spot on when it comes to your brain’s gray matter.


How To Pay Attention To The Whispers


What you need to understand that is crucial about your intuition, is that it’s essentially a file matching game, turned up to an omega-level. Which means that when you are in the middle of an important decision, let’s say deciding on what to wear to your interview today — your brain searches through your entire bank of memories and experiences in order to make the best decision.


Your brain may come back with a decision like “red”, but then your rational mind decides against it. Your rational thoughts begin filtering the whisper that your intuition brought to you because you think that red may be too bold for an interview and you just want to wear black and blend in.


What you don’t know is that your intuition decided on “red” because it’s your favorite color, and you have past experiences when wearing red brought you success in past jobs (of which your rational mind forgot about) — it also makes you feel incredibly confident which your intuition decided is essential in your interview.


So in that small amount of time, your complex system that is your intuition was able to gather all the positive data associated with colors in your life and gave you the absolute best answer. Turns out it was right, you wore red, you felt confident and you landed your dream job. Had you listened to your rational mind and contemplated for several minutes, much longer than your immediate intuitive mind, you might have been seen as “average”and turned down for the job.


The Moral of The Story


Honing into your intuition is incredibly important to developing intellect and comprehensive decisions. The key is to listen to your thoughts and “feelings” when making important decisions. Your intuition isn’t going to be loud and will more than likely be drowned out by your rational (irrational) thoughts, but that’s where the mindfulness comes into play.


What you need to understand is that the rational mind works in a different part of the brain, specifically parts of the brain that deal with language. Thus the reason you can quite literally “talk” yourself out of just about anything, if you really choose to. Where as your intuition primarily works in your limbic system where your language is not processed; thus the reason your intuitions will always be felt rather than openly spoken in your head.


You may not be able to turn the volume down immediately, but with practice and mindfulness, you can learn to listen to the wise whispers of your unconscious mind. They’re there, but only if you pay attention and simply, listen.


To Learn More About Your Intuition (References)

Chabris, C. (March 18, 2010)The Invisible Gorilla.

Bolte. A (September, 2003) Emotion and Intuition.

‘Wilder R.L. (May 1967) The Role of Intuition.

Read more at:

More stupid signs – explaining that a 2×4 is actually smaller than 2″ x 4″ – duh!

September 17, 2014 by Pat Lynch
  LITIGATION NATION: Lowe’s pays $1.6M settlement over 2×4 labeling

Posted by /

Lowe’s has new rules regarding how it can label building products in California. A Superior Court judge laid out terms by which the retailer must advertise its 2x4s and other dimensional materials in a $1.6 million settlement order and final judgement filed on August 27. The order, brought on as part of a civil consumer protection action, lists three main rules for the retailer to follow going forward:

  • “Common descriptions” must be followed by actual dimensions and labeled as such. For instance, a 2×4 must be followed with a disclaimer that the wood is actually 1.5-inches by 3.5-inches and include a phrase equal or similar to “actual dimensions.”
  • “Popular or common product description,” like the word 2×4, must be “clearly described as ‘popular name,’ ‘popular description,’ or ‘commonly called.’”
  • Dimension descriptions are required to use the “inch-pound unit,” meaning they must include abbreviations such as “in., ft., or yd.,” and can’t use symbols like ‘ or ” to denote measurements.

The order, handed down by Judge Paul M. Haakenson, came as a response to a case involving claims by the Marin County, Calif., district attorney’s office that the retailer “unlawfully advertised structural dimensional building products for sale.”

According to the judgement, the retailer was ordered to pay $1.47 million in civil penalties and costs of the investigation, and an additional $150,000 to fund further consumer protection-related activities.

Lowe’s spokesperson Amanda Manna said the company has begun to conform to the product description requirements in nearly 100 of its stores across California.

“Consumers should expect when making product purchases that retailers are providing accurate information,” said Marin County District Attorney Edward S. Berberian. “Especially when misinformation could adversely affect building projects that more often than not rely on precise measurements.”

In a statement, Cobb added: “Periodically, representatives of local Weights and Measures departments visit retailers, and they expressed concerns about common product measurements, such as a 2×4 piece of lumber.

“Historically, Lowe’s provided information about product dimensions received from vendors. Moving forward, customers will now be able to locate product by actual and common dimensions as provided by vendors for certain building products. For example, for a piece of lumber commonly known as a 2X4, customers will see both the common name (2×4) and the actual product dimensions (1.5 x 3.5 inches).

“Both Lowe’s and the California DAs agreed that a settlement is in the best interest of all parties. It allows us to continue moving forward with our program to provide both actual and common product dimensions and meet our shared goals.”

The settlement was ordered by Marin Superior Court Judge Paul Haakenson.

Read more at×4-labeling/

UPS Primer

September 16, 2014 by Pat Lynch

The uninterruptible power supply – or UPS – is one of the most misunderstood components of the IT and power infrastructure. Yes, it can save your bacon, but it can also be an intimidating piece of technology. As Eaton product manager David Windsor once put it, “You don’t have to have an engineering degree to understand it, but it helps.” Whether you’re on the verge of implementing your first UPS or are gearing up for your next upgrade or replacement, this guide can help you make sense of things.

What it is and why it’s awesome

A UPS is a battery-based power supply that keeps your critical equipment running in the event of a power outage. A UPS is generally used to provide enough power to allow a graceful shutdown of your equipment when the power goes out. In situations where no downtime can be tolerated, a UPS can be used until systems can be cutover to a backup site or until an alternate source of power, such as a generator, can be brought online.

But wait – there’s more! Depending on the type of UPS you have, it can also protect equipment against power surges and power “sags,” which is important because both can wreak havoc on sensitive IT systems. This process of regulating incoming power to eliminate surges and sags is sometimes known as “power conditioning.”

Depending on your environment – and your budget – you may want to protect every system in your infrastructure with a UPS of some kind. Or you may have to prioritize and protect only the most business-critical components.

Basic types

Most UPS devices fall into three basic categories:

A standby UPS allows your equipment load to switch quickly to battery power when power through your normal sources is disrupted. There can be a micro-second delay while the UPS takes over. Depending on what equipment you’re supporting with your standby UPS, this blip may not hurt anything. This is the base model UPS, and it may or may not regulate incoming power to even out surges and sags.

A line-interactive UPS does the same thing as a standby UPS in terms of switching quickly to battery power after a micro-second delay. But unlike most standby UPS devices, a line-interactive UPS regulates incoming power before passing it through to protected equipment. You’ll pay a little more for this type of UPS, but it offers better protection against power fluctuations.

A full-time UPS (also known as an “online UPS”) is always ready to take up the load and therefore can take over seamlessly when a power outage occurs. This is the kind of UPS you want when your equipment cannot tolerate the momentary blip of a standby or line-interactive UPS. A full-time UPS provides the best power protection – and is also the most expensive.

Line-interactive and standby devices that regulate incoming power are known as “single-conversion” devices. A full-time UPS is known as a “double-conversion” UPS because it does more than just regulate power as it comes through – it converts the AC power to DC, then converts it back to AC again before passing it through to protected equipment. The purpose of this process is to completely isolate the IT equipment from the original power source. It may help to think of the line-interactive device as a power filter – and the full-time UPS as a power purifier.

Mixing it up

What if you need full-time UPS protection for some equipment but not others? Mix it up! Since full-time UPS protection is the most expensive, it doesn’t make sense to use it for your entire infrastructure. Use a full-time system to protect your most sensitive workloads, then provision a line-interactive or standby system to protect the rest.

Nowadays you can also buy what’s known as a “multi-mode” system that can act as either a line-interactive or a full-time UPS device, depending on the power situation. This is more of an enterprise or data-center solution, though. For the average SMB, it will probably be cheaper just to divvy up your systems based on the protection they need and buy separate devices.

Key terms you should know

Before you jump into any UPS discussion – either online, with colleagues, or with a vendor – there are a few key terms you should be familiar with:

VA: VA stands for volt-amperes and is how the power rating for a given UPS is expressed. A small UPS might have a rating as low as 500 VA. Giant ones have ratings in the millions. The average SMB is probably looking at closer to 20,000 to 100,000. Also, don’t confuse VA with wattage, as they are completely different things!

Single-phase vs. three-phase: These terms are referring to the type of power delivered to your facility by your power utility. Generally, residences receive single-phase power, and businesses receive three-phase power. The UPS you choose will likewise be single-phase or three-phase. Of course, single-phase UPS devices are cheaper than three-phase, but they are only appropriate for protecting relatively low-amperage systems (less than 20,000 VA).

Output load: In simplest terms, this is the load your UPS is capable of supporting in the event of a power outage. Keep in mind that you don’t ever want to have to run your UPS at 100% of its capacity. You could easily overload it and cause everything running on it to fail. Aim to run your UPS at no more than 80% load to give yourself some breathing room.

Runtime: This is the length of time that the UPS will support the load you have assigned to it. The higher your output load, the shorter your runtime. Likewise, the lower your output load, the longer your runtime. Needless to say, if your runtime is too short, you won’t have enough time to react when a power failure occurs. Supporting appropriate output loads, most UPS devices are designed to provide five to fifteen minutes of runtime. Make sure your UPS will give you sufficient runtime to get your IT affairs in order.

Rightsizing your UPS

How do you know what size of UPS to buy? That’s the $64,000 question, and it’s one you should probably get a UPS vendor to help you answer. But here is a fun math calculation you can do on your own to help you know if you’re in the ballpark:

  1. Identify all the equipment the device will be protecting, then use OEM information to determine the volts and amps each device draws.
  2. Multiply volts by amps to get the VA of each device, then add them all together.
  3. Multiply that figure by a minimum of 1.2 to allow for breathing room. If your business is growing quickly or you’re planning to add or upgrade servers in the next few years, you’ll want to use an even higher number.

You should also have an idea of whether you prefer a rack-mounted UPS or a freestanding device. Depending on the size of UPS you need, you can probably have your choice of form factor.

Need more than the standard five-to-fifteen minutes of runtime? You can always augment your UPS with supplemental external battery modules. Depending on the capacity, these can give you hours of emergency runtime instead of mere minutes.

Replacing batteries vs. replacing the UPS

According to industry averages, most organizations will get eight years of reliable life out of their UPS device and will need to replace the batteries once during that lifespan. If your batteries are more than four years old or the UPS itself is more than eight years old, you may be starting to press your luck, especially if you’re seeing any alerts or errors. Both age and errors dramatically increase the risk that your UPS will fail when you need it most. And an unreliable UPS defeats the purpose of having one! That said, a well-made and well-maintained UPS has been known to provide upwards of 20 years of safe and reliable service, assuming it’s still sized correctly to meet the output load.

They say up to 85% of UPS failures are caused by battery failures. It’s a depressing thought that the UPS itself can be fine but the batteries can conk out, rendering the entire device useless. But that’s exactly how it works: The batteries are the heart of the UPS, and they have to be in good shape if the UPS is going to do you any good. Keep in mind, however, that batteries represent roughly 80% of the cost of the UPS. So if the UPS itself is nearing retirement age and has already had the batteries replaced once, you may want to seriously consider replacing the entire unit instead of just replacing the batteries, especially if it’s time to reconsider your output load.

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