Centralized vs. Decentralized UPS Systems

One of the first steps in choosing the most appropriate UPS solution is deciding whether to use a centralized or decentralized setup. While both have their advantages, knowing how to answer this question depends on a number of factors.

Here are five things to consider when deciding between a centralized and decentralized solution:

1) Facility Size:
Centralized battery backup power is typically delivered via a single large load (VA) capacity 3-phase UPS system protecting multiple loads simultaneously. This type of setup is hardwired into a facility’s electrical panel and requires its own dedicated space—usually a separate room or space located away from the protected equipment. For that reason, a centralized power supply is best suited for larger facilities.

In a decentralized or distributed setup, multiple smaller load capacity single-phase UPS systems protect loads locally. Because this type of setup does not require a separate room, it is best suited for small- to medium-sized facilities.

2) Cost:
While the initial purchase price of a centralized solution might be lower than the price of a decentralized solution, installation costs are typically much higher for a centralized solution. This is because a centralized solution requires a facility to be rewired, adding the expense of outside personnel. Most decentralized power supplies are plug-and-play, meaning no rewiring is required.

3) Ease of Maintenance:
Although the installation of centralized power requires more planning and up-front costs, a centralized setup requires less maintenance overall, because all necessary components are located in a single space. A decentralized setup, while less complicated to install, requires servicing and monitoring of each individual UPS system. Simply put, it’s easier—and less expensive—to replace one UPS battery than it is to replace 20.

4) Reliability:
Because centralized solutions are built for mission-critical, high-availability applications, they tend to be more reliable than decentralized solutions. Many offer N+1 redundancy and feature on-line double-conversion operation. Most decentralized solutions, on the other hand, only offer line-interactive operation. However, when it comes to reliability, there is one major advantage decentralized solutions have over centralized solutions: most centralized solutions do not protect against a single point of failure. In other words, if any part of a centralized setup fails, all dependent systems are affected. In a decentralized setup, any UPS system can be easily replaced without affecting the entire operation.

5) Scalability:
When deciding on your solution, keep in mind that, at some point in the future, your power requirements may increase. In a decentralized setup, increasing backup power can be easily accomplished through the addition of a single UPS. In a centralized setup, all components are confined to a fixed location. This means the capacity for growth in a centralized setup is more limited, and scalability can be more costly.

So which solution and UPS system is right for you? Check out our buying tools to help you decide.

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