UPSes Provide Power in a Pinch

Don’t let your server get caught short when the lights go out. An uninterruptable power supply (UPS) is a must for file servers: losing power at the wrong time can wreak havoc on hard disks. The best way to keep things running properly is to get a UPS that shuts Linux down in a kind and gentle fashion so that when power returns, the system reboots cleanly. The key to a useful UPS lies in its power-management software. It’s just a dumb battery backup without it.

This review looks at offerings from six of the major UPS vendors supporting Linux. Some deliver the software in RPM form, which makes installation easy. In any case, installation was relatively simple and very similar for all products: plug in the UPS and use the supplied serial cable to connect the UPS to the PC. Then fire up Linux, mount the installation CD- ROM and run the installation program or follow the steps listed in the instructions. Reboot if necessary. It took longer to get the UPS out of the box.

Taking things a step further requires a bit more expertise. All the products shut down Linux in a systematic and timely fashion but most also support additional features like sending e-mail or beeper notification before shutting down. Most can run commands when a shutdown is indicated.

Many of the packages included a text or graphical client application for changing settings and displaying current UPS status. The latter typically includes battery recharge state, load levels, and testing details.

The units we tested were capable of handling small to medium-size file servers, although bigger and smaller units are available from each vendor as needed. In addition to Linux support, each of these products had a number of common features such as a user replaceable battery, site wiring fault indicator, and surge protection, (handy for protecting high-current devices, such as laser printers, usually not plugged into battery backup sockets).

Features we looked for included load shedding, which allows software to shut down outlets when a power failure is detected (thereby extending battery backup time), GUI interfaces to power management features, SNMP support and automatic shutdown and restart. Our test system was a Pentium II with 64 MB RAM running Red Hat Linux 6.0.

Review / UPS/APC
Gettin’ GUI: APC’s PowerChute Plus’ graphical interface is identical to that on other operating systems.

Smart-UPS 1400 NET

$625 with PowerChute Plus 4.5.2

American Power Conversion Corp.


APC’s PowerChute Plus has a long track record on many platforms. Thankfully, the Linux graphical client shares the same look and feel as PowerChute clients on other platforms. Most functionality is also the same across operating systems, but, unfortunately, the Linux version currently lacks network-based management.

The PowerChute Plus client shows battery and load status using bar charts. Shut down and logging options, along with various system tests, are accessible and can be easily initiated from the client. Installation is via an RPM file, making installation on Red Hat compatible systems a piece of cake.

We examined the PowerChute Plus software along with a Smart-UPS 1400 NET. The 1400 has six outlets and a SmartSlot. There are a number of SmartSlot modules including ones supporting multiple servers and SNMP and web-server management. The 1400 has a unique battery enable key that doubles as a link to an optional external battery.

The 1400 is a solid package, but PowerChute Plus is really the killer app. Between its ease of installation and its familiar and effective user interface, it does exactly what it’s supposed to do — make you feel like everything is under control at all times.

American Power Conversion Corp. PowerChute Plus 4.5.2

In a Nutshell

Rating:4 Penguins


* Graphical user interface

* RPM installation


* No network-based management

* No installation program

Review / UPS/MM
At a Moment’s Notice: MinuteMan’s Sentry is text-based but no less functional than the competition.

MinuteMan Pro 700 $349
with MinuteMan Sentry 1.49

MinuteMan UPS


MinuteMan’s Sentry is quite a handy UPS management package. Its text-based, menu-driven client interface isn’t as slick as the competition’s but it holds its own in terms of features. Chores like editing shutdown scripts are easy. The Sentry supports e-mail and pager notification and even handles scheduled self-tests.

The installation consists of extracting the contents of a .tar file and running an install script. The process is relatively painless on any Linux distribution.

The MinuteMan Pro 700 we used to test Sentry was a stylish black cube that sits on the floor. It has three battery backup outlets and a surge protected outlet, handy for a laser printer. It sports a pair of RJ-11 jacks for modem/telephone surge protection, too.

All in all, the Sentry is a solid package offering much useful functionality.

MinuteMan Sentry 1.49

In a Nutshell

Rating:3 1/2 Penguins


* Easy access to shutdown commands


* Text-based client interface

* No network-based management

Review / UPS/Opti
Up To Speed: Opti-UPS’ OPTI-SAFE+ provides plenty of gauges in addition to plenty of functionality.


$325 with OPTI-UPS OPTI-SAFE+ 4.0



Opti-UPS’s OPTI-SAFE+ is a great product. After an easy RPM install, we used its graphical client to set up and manage all our UPS management needs. Independently controlled outlets on the Opti-UPS PowerPS 800PS allow the shutdown script to perform selective load shedding.

Opti-UPS also comes with the only software-based network management support we ran into during this review with its SNMP agent. Unfortunately, it requires a third-party SNMP monitor.

The Opti-UPS PowerPS 800PS has true sine-wave output. Front panel status lights show exactly what is going on with each outlet. Two of the outlets are battery supported, two are surge protected. Overall, the PowerPS 800PS is an excellent server UPS.


In a Nutshell

Rating:3 1/2 Penguins


* SNMP agent

* Load shedding


* Network-based management uses SNMP

* Problems with non-Red Hat installs

Review / UPS/PW
Keeping Connected: Powerware’s LanSafe III lets you see exactly where the power is going.

Powerware 5119

$550 with Powerware LanSafe III 4.14



Powerware’s LanSafe III 4.14 provides load shedding support similar to OPTI-SAFE+’s. However, LanSafe III can also shut down adjacent servers on the network, which is very useful if more than one server is plugged in. The installation program worked on all the distributions we tested. And just in case you thought things were getting boring, LanSafe III’s GUI client shows an animated power flow through the UPS and has very flexible event controls. Neat.

The Powerware 5119 provides a hefty 1000VA of power through two individually controlled banks of three outlets, and the RJ-45 surge protection handles a modem or network connection. There is also an option slot similar to those found on APC’s and Best Power’s units.

Our only real complaint was, again, we had was again the lack of a network-based management system. Otherwise, Powerware LanSafe III is packed with lots of functionality at a reasonable price.

Powerware LanSafe III 4.14

In a Nutshell

Rating:4 1/2 Penguins


* Graphical user interface

* Independent control of outlet banks

* Shutdown control of additional servers


* No network-based management

* Battery backup not lengthy

Tripp Lite Corp. SU1000RT

$550 with TrippLite Power Alert Plus 10.1.94


Review / UPS/Tripp
Stay Informed: Tripp Lite’s PowerAlert Plus is graphical but lean, showing just the details.

TrippLite’s PowerAlert Plus provides a lean, efficient graphical client. Its minimaist nature makes it easy to use. It allows you to easily manage shutdown operations, and includes e-mail notification. The text-based installation program is simple and works with most Linux distributions.

We loved the flexibility of the black Unison SU 1000RT unit, working either as a floor or rack mount UPS. A set of legs provides a stable floor mount, which allows it to stand almost as high as a tower PC. The 1000RT comes with an option slot and support for external batteries, as well as two banks of three outlets.

Actually, one of the best things about PowerAlert Plus is its true adherence to the open source spirit — the source code is freely available for download from Tripp-Lite’s Web site!

In general, the 1000RT is a great choice, especially if migration to a rack mount system is in your future.

TrippLite PowerAlert Plus 10.1.94

In a Nutshell

Rating:4 1/2 Penguins


* Graphical user interface


* No network-based management

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