Lightning Storms are No Match for Smart-UPS at Alabama Schools

This audio was created using Microsoft Azure Speech Services

If ever there was a case study that demonstrates the need for protecting network switches from power outages, it is the Mobile County Public Schools in Alabama.

The system consists of 90 schools and uses a voice over IP (VoIP) phone system in all of them, which of course requires Internet connectivity – as do the various Web-based applications the schools use. The challenging part is the weather, says George Mitchell, Supervisor for the school system.

“Historically we get 22 lightning storms per month during the summer time,” he says. You read that right – 22 per month. “So we must have our equipment protected by quality equipment.”

The equipment the schools chose is APC by Schneider Electric Smart-UPS uninterruptible power supply systems, which protect a Cisco 4500 switch in each wiring closet.

“Usually when we lose power it’s only between zero and about 10 minutes,” Mitchell says. The Smart-UPS units can provide backup power to the Cisco switches for that amount of time. “With our phone system running voice over IP over our network, they don’t see any interference. The phones keep up and running, [users] don’t even know that lightning hit or the power went out.”

The Internet connections used by student and staff computers likewise flow through the Cisco switches, so the Smart-UPS protect them, as well. “It keeps the applications up and running so they don’t have any down time,” he says.

That’s becoming increasingly important as schools move toward more Web-based applications. “With Web-based applications, especially if they’re taking a test, you don’t want the computer to hiccup,” he says. “They’ve got to stay up and running.”

Check out the video for my full interview with Mitchell, recorded in the Schneider Electric booth at the recent Interop 2014 event in Las Vegas.

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