Backup Power Solution Keeps Algonquin College at the Top of the Class

Algonquin’s primary data center operates three 80kVA uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs) in parallel with accompanying battery cabinets.

Backup Power Solution Keeps Algonquin College at the Top of the Class

(Photo: Климов Максим, Adobe Stock)

Since its establishment in 1967, Algonquin College of Applied Arts and Technology has been a leader in Canadian post-secondary education. The Polytechnic Institute supports nearly 20,000 full-time students and more than 25,000 in continuing education on its main campus in Ottawa, Ontario, as well as two remote campuses in Pembroke and Perth, plus five satellite office locations.

Dedication to student success is  Algonquin College’s guiding principle ─ one that is demonstrated through the quality of its programs and staff, continual expansion of facilities and ongoing strategic partnerships. In the following case study, we’ll examine how the college was able to strengthen its commitment by driving high availability and clean power to connected equipment across all its campus environment.

A Syllabus for Ensuring Uptime

One of Algonquin’s greatest IT challenges is ensuring that all critical equipment, applications and services remain available to students and staff at all times. First, the college required online uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs) that could constantly adjust the incoming power delivered by the local utilities.

Equally important, Algonquin required UPSs capable of carrying its loads while backup generators power on during a loss of electricity, which generally takes several minutes. In the majority of cases, the college aims to hold the load with the UPS for 45 minutes in case the generator fails and it becomes necessary to access backup connections, or perform an orderly shutdown of the critical load.

Passing the Power Protection Test

To help ensure that learning opportunities happen by the books ─ with applications and services remaining available to students and staff ─ Algonquin opted to deploy a broad range of UPSs across its multiple locations. In addition to the main data center on the Ottawa campus, each remote campus supports a mini data center, where critical resources are served locally with independent internet access and backhaul to the main data center for additional resources and backup connections. Meanwhile, the college’s remote offices connect to the closest campus location to provide their resources.

Algonquin’s primary data center operates three 80kVA UPSs in parallel with accompanying battery cabinets, while additional units ranging from 4000 VA to 20 kVA safeguard other essential equipment, including remote data centers, core networking gear, servers, security appliances, distribution nodes, phone systems and security endpoints. The less critical power requirements of the remote offices, meanwhile, are addressed with the compact rackmount UPSs.

In addition to desiring the highest level of reliability, Algonquin sought UPSs offering exceptional efficiency. Deploying a double-conversion online UPS allows the college to achieve up to a 93% in normal mode. The combination of reliability and efficiency helps to ensure high availability and allows the Algonquin to maintain continuous, clean power to all connected equipment.

Staying Ahead of the Curve

Algonquin’s ability to accommodate changing power requirements has been another advantage provided by its new power solution. Supporting scalability through the addition of building-block power modules, the college is able to easily expand capacity, add a UPS in parallel to the existing installation or add a new UPS system and transfer the load to it.

Algonquin has also deployed managed rack PDUs in critical remote locations, which enable monitoring and control of critical factors such as voltage, current and power factor. The college reli Algonquin’s primary data center operates three 80kVA UPSs in parallel with accompanying battery cabinets, while additional units ranging from 4000 VA to 20 kVA safeguard other essential equipment, including remote data centers, core networking gear, servers, security appliances, distribution nodes, phone systems and security endpoints. The less critical power requirements of the remote offices, meanwhile, are addressed with the compact rackmount UPSs on disaster avoidance software, which provides the tools needed to monitor and manage power devices in both its physical and virtual environments.

Success Built on Service

Beyond its new product line, Algonquin is working with its technology partner’s service team to maximize the performance and reliability of its UPS components through preventive maintenance and regularly scheduled service calls. The collaboration gives the college’s IT team more peace of mind that highly trained technicians will respond promptly to any emergency.

In one instance, an Algonquin UPS absorbed a major voltage increase of approximately 400%, according to software logs. While the massive jolt damaged the UPS, the attached equipment remained protected because the college was able to bypass the UPS. Within three hours, local service technicians responded, sourced replacement parts and returned the UPS to service.

Algonquin also turned to its team for help in planning the evergreening of the power protection solution within its main data center, a trio of 80 kVA 9390 units operating in a parallel N+2 configuration. The service team is continuing to support planning and inspection effort for the installation which will be executed as part of a complete replacement of the college’s biggest electrical component in two years.

Earning High Marks for Service Availability

Since deploying its new power management solution, Algonquin College has ensured continuous high availability of services for students and staff – despite frequent power anomalies. With its comprehensive strategy, Algonquin College is also able to:

  • Save energy industry-leading UPS efficiency
  • Easily expand capacity through UPS modularity
  • Seamlessly monitor and manage all devices with power monitoring software
  • Keep all UPSs optimally performing – and rest easy that any emergency will be quickly remedied – through quality service plans

Algonquin’s solution serves as a good lesson for other colleges and campuses that may be looking to give their program a boost. Many schools will be studying their disaster avoidance plans and putting them to work for the onset of storm season just as students are starting off the school year later this summer. With the right strategy and tools in play, IT teams can be sure they’re able to ace their next test.


Ed Spears is a technical marketing manager in Eaton’s Critical Power & Digital Infrastructure Division. He can be reached at [email protected].

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