Servicing the Service Provider: Ascend Helps ECG Care for Its Participant Communities

The Challenge

When ECG (Electric Cities of Georgia) broke away from its parent company in 2009, the restructured operation needed to develop its own IT solution — including help desk support — from scratch.  With minimal technology expertise and a limited budget, Engineering and Energy Services Director Ellen Richardson and External Affairs Manager Michelle Holbrook needed a solution that would get them up and running quickly and cost effectively. They found the answer in the Novatech’s “Ascend” program, a hybrid cloud solution.

The Solution

“It was hard for us because we’d never done IT on our own. We needed someone to hold our hand and give us a roadmap to be seamless from the old company to the new,” says Holbrook. “Novatech purchased and installed the infrastructure, and we didn’t have to think about what to buy or evaluate specifications for equipment we didn’t know very much about.”

Novatech installed servers in three ECG locations and set up a joint-action service organization with hosted email, BlackBerry server and database support applications. Novatech now provides maintenance and support for the entire infrastructure, both cloud-hosted and on-premises, including automated backup of ECG’s systems and data. Novatech also provides Help Desk assistance whenever employees need it, in both the office and the field.

“Their Help Desk support is a big factor,” says Holbrook. “We had that at MEAG [Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia, the former parent company] and needed that same kind of expertise. We have a lot of people in the field, and having the hosted environment and support helps them around the clock with email and other needs. The field workers have come back to us and said, ‘Those people are great,’ and praise is hard to get from those guys.”

The Result

According to Holbrook, ECG is enjoying the same level of service from Novatech that it enjoyed from the in-house solution of its former parent company. “Novatech had us up and ready in a month, and we didn’t have any drop-off in service,” says Holbrook. “If something goes wrong, I send an email and say, ‘Hey, what’s happening?’ and they take care of it. If one of our servers goes down even in the middle of the night, they get everything back up and running.”

No Capital Expense

Although worry-free IT is a core benefit of Ascend, it was not the only factor in ECG’s decision, Richardson says. “We didn’t have a huge capital expense up front. Novatech purchased and maintains the infrastructure and guarantees us the best technology available for a fixed monthly cost. Considering we operate on a strict budget, the monthly fee is perfect for our situation.” Holbrook concurs, noting, “The best thing is that we know what they are going to bill us each month. We pay by the person, by the month, and that is it.”

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest, Holbrook says she gives Novatech at least a ‘’9” and would definitely recommend them to someone else. “The cost of dealing with Novatech as a small user is much less than a do-it-yourself solution,” says Holbrook. “A lot of people have no computer expertise. There are so many companies out there for which Ascend would be a perfect fit.”

ABOUT ECG

ECG provides economic and strategic services to community-owned utility systems that sell public power. As an advocate of local communities’ infrastructural and economic success, ECG partners with municipalities and industry experts to find cost-effective solutions that benefit the city, the community, and the utility customers. Recognizing that a community-owned utility boosts the local economy, ECG exists to provide resources to ensure structural reliability and economic growth. ECG currently provides services to 51 Georgia communities and 12 electric utility system operations in Florida through Florida Municipal Power Agency (FMPA). Most recently, ECG has expanded its service to Alabama municipal utilities. For more information, visit ecoga.org.

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