Summer Power and San Onofre’s Shutdown

You’ve certainly heard about San Onofre’s shutdown and the reactivation of the Newland Huntington Beach facility. Much like you, I’m wondering what all that might mean to us as the temperature heats up. Applying simple logic and a measure of safety to protect your business is just plain smart. We can be of assistance here!

The Issue
We fully understand that San Onofre’s Nuclear Generating Station capacity serves 1.2 million customers in San Diego and Southern Orange County. I first thought that taking SONGS off-line might affect us, but then, I am reminded that we’re all on one big power grid. After all, how could we forget when we were all down last year when someone in Arizona flipped the wrong switch? Now, this reminds me of how human and how delicate things really are; so, here is my take on the consequences.

If there is not enough power to server the grid, then some things start to kick in, like where the thermostats that are remotely controlled by the power companies, followed by rolling residential (we hope)  blackouts during peak usage hours. This is supposed to help alleviate the load a bit. But what if it’s not enough? Now you have to think through this one.

At the end of the day, if you don’t have power, it’s pretty hard to conduct business. But mitigating extenuating circumstances that can result from a power glitch or shutdown is very important. What I am talking about here is a server, computers or other equipment going down hard – and not coming up!  If it’s a server, that’s going to be expensive. This could easily be your worst nightmare realized!

When Power is Out
Understand the items that do stay up or work when power is out. Laptops have their own battery so that is always a winner, but unless your network is on a battery backup, you may just have to either work locally or ‘tether’ to a  3G or 4G device, like a Smartphone or Tablet. Heck, even auto manufacturers like Audi are turning cars into hot spots so don’t forget this option! Having a couple devices set up with a ‘tether’ before an outage makes sense as scrambling when power is down puts you in line with everyone else. Cell phones and Smartphones will be up as long as you battery will carry you.  Single line telephone lines like a fax or alarm will be up, but unless your phone system is on battery backup, it will go down as well. Do remember that you likely don’t need a very large or expensive UPS (battery backup) to keep a phone system powered and the lines themselves are backed up by the phone company as that is mandated as it is considered a lifeline service. In short, the phone lines don’t go down, but the items connected to it are usually do, creating phone downtime.

When Power comes back on
When power is out, you’ll want to unplug sensitive and expensive devices, like copiers. This is beneficial because when power has been restored, for a few minutes the power fluctuatates from so much equipment coming up at one time. This places an excessive load on the grid and may under or overcompensate, creating surges or worse yet, low voltage conditions. These two types of events cause the most damage. We recommend that you wait for power to have been restored for about ten minutes before starting to turn items to ensure that the power will stay up .

How to Mitigate your Risk
Here’s hindsight in a nutshell. Your computers and printers should have surge protectors at the minimum. If there are very critical computers, spend the $60 and get them a UPS. Servers should have a battery backup that has shutdown intelligence. This means that when the battery begins to be depleted, say 25% remaining, it should be able to tell the server to shut down as it does not know if it will be able to sustain the server until the power returns. It is far better to shut servers down in an orderly manner, and simply have to reboot them when the power has been restored, then to have to call us in and perform a rebuild at significant cost; not to mention the impact of being down for an undefined amount of time on your business .

If you’re not sure how well protected you are, or want to confirm your belief that you are protected, give us a call.

We’ve been down this road before, so you don’t have to!

4G Wireless Networks – The ISP Game Changer!

Every so often, a technology comes along that truly changes the game. The latest one to do so is the 4G networks popping up everywhere. It will no doubt take some time to retrofit all from 3G to 4G, but talk about taking it to next level! The speeds here are comparable with physical land-based facilities, like copper or fiber. Also understand that 4G is all IP-based, so this is another significant shift in technology.

I tend to measure an ISP network connection by a few metrics, and these rules need to hold true when comparing 4G to copper and fiber land lines.

Reliability: No compromise here folks as it needs to work 100% of the time (or very close to it). If it’s not up, you’re not in business.

Latency: It’s likely to increase a bit traveling through the air. The other issues here for 4G might be weather and temperature issues, which would increase retries.

Bandwidth speed repeatability: A connection needs to be repeatable to be able to have something you can ‘count on’ in the course of doing business. This may be a sketchy area.

Cost: Cost per Mb must be comparable, as should the terms and penalties for early termination.

Who should adopt soon: Where I see 4G taking hold first is replacing flaky and underperforming DSL connections. It only makes sense. I also see it replacing land lines for the person who spends a ton of time on the road, given adequate 3G coverage in all the areas they frequent. Remember, it’s going to take some time for 4G to be widely available.

Though certain bandwidth speeds are published, look for wireless carriers to cap speeds to protect the core. Look for them to also cap monthly bytes. You just need to know what you’re getting – and not getting- for the monthly recurring cost, plain and simple.

Also, Sonic Wall and other firewall providers will soon offer 4G options to get us away from the terrestrially-based connection, so they need a little time to get their offerings on the table if other than a single computer scenario.

Who should wait to adopt: Outfits that require 3Mbits up and down and unlimited monthly data downloads, especially those that have a lot of folks using VPN into a central site or using Terminal Servers or Citrix Technologies for your field folks. Yeah, these cost more, but there are no restrictions and repeatability of bandwidth speed and latency are critical here.

You folks should wait this out until the field issues and costs settle out a bit. Also, see if a guaranteed repeatable bandwidth and static IP “Business Offering” type service makes more sense. In a few words, let’s take the “Wait and See” approach to not put our business at risk as the economy is just starting to turn in our favor. This is not the time to make mistakes or take unnecessary risks for the sake of technology.

At Roundbrix, we believe technology is always best leveraged when it has stabilized from numerous standpoints, including cost, performance, and acceptance by the vendor community. This helps alleviate risk from adopting too early and paying the price with a negative experience. Roundbrix will be testing 4G over the next few months and we’ll write again and share our findings at that time.