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Five Basics for Protecting Electronic Networks from Power Surges

2020 06 Networking 320Fire, security, communication, and data information networks are all essential to the operation of modern organizations, whether they are businesses, schools, governmental agencies, or non-profits. If these networks are damaged or inoperable for any reason, normal operation instantly becomes more difficult, and at least in the case of an inoperable fire alarm system, operation may even become impossible.

Because of this importance, managers often take action to provide some protection from typical network vulnerabilities. For example, IT departments often protect the information network with sophisticated software to detect ransomware, data breaches and other hack attacks. However, for all network types, perhaps the most dangerous threat is electrical surges and spikes and the damage they can cause.

Here are five basic concepts for protecting electronic networks from the damaging effects of electrical surges and spikes:

 

1. An Attractive Investment

Many people are not aware how common power surges are (very common), how easily they can damage sensitive electronic networks (they reduce electronic equipment life and reliability), and how costly downtime can be (reports ranging from $20k to over $1M per day are common). With this knowledge, surge protection is revealed to be a very attractive investment, with a high ROI. Surge protection costs are small – usually less than the sales tax on the protected network – and these investments help prevent the high potential costs of repair, replacement, and operational interruptions.

2. Where Surges Come From

Electrical surges and spikes come from a wide variety of external sources, including lightning strikes, utility grid switching, and nearby activities such as welding. Many people are surprised to learn that surges are also generated right inside the building every day, such as those from motors and pumps in HVAC and similar systems. Electrical surges can also be created by equipment failures and human error, such as accidentally letting a power cable touch a network cable. Sensitive electronic systems including networks are subject to the cumulative effects of these disturbances – even the small ones that often pass by unnoticed by building occupants. The cumulative damage shortens the life of electronic equipment and decreases its reliability.

3. Layers of Protection

Adding surge protection prevents damage from electrical surges and spikes. Best practices indicate that implementing several layers is the best way to protect all your essential electronic networks.

The first layer is to protect the incoming facility power because this is the primary entry point for power surges and spikes that originate outside the facility. The second layer is to protect the network equipment power connections because these will protect against power surges that are generated from within the facility, as well as providing extra protection from external and accidental sources. The third layer is to protect other electrical pathways into the system, such as cables that pass outdoors, that could carry damaging power surges. Examples of these include wired connections to networked devices such as outdoor surveillance cameras, signaling line circuits, and telephone lines that are connected to fire alarm panels, ATMs, and point of sale devices to enable communication and notification.

4. Protect Both Ends

As more devices are connected to the network, the risk of damaging surges migrating to other parts of a facility has also increased. When devices are networked across systems, a surge could move from a surveillance camera, for example, through a digital network to a device on another system. Putting surge protection in place at both ends of these connections, and especially at locations where the network moves from outside the facility to the inside, can help prevent surges from spreading across a network and damaging or destroying multiple devices and systems.

5. Ongoing Maintenance

Today, a wide range of surge protective devices (SPDs) are available, each specifically designed to match a particular installation need. In the course of doing their job, however, SPDs will eventually sacrifice themselves, and will no longer provide protection. At that point, the network is now fully exposed to power surges and the SPD will need to be replaced. Make sure that you will know when SPDs need replacement so that protection will be maintained, either by instituting a program to frequently check the status of each SPD, or by using SPDs that are equipped with a notification function to alert you when they need replacement. DITEK offers both types of SPDs to meet your needs.

Conclusion

Our modern security, communication, and data networks, along with all their related electronic devices and equipment, can represent a substantial investment. It makes sense to protect this equipment and support it with an infrastructure that is suitable for longevity and peak performance. Implementing electrical surge protection is the simplest and most cost-effective way to protect these vital systems from potential damage and downtime from electrical surges and spikes.

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