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Solarcentury transferred support for their eZ Publish web infrastructure from a previous IT supplier to EMC without a hitch. EMC then showed how much the right partner can achieve using Open Source Technology.

With 4 offices across Europe, Solarcentury is one of Europe’s largest providers of solar energy systems to both the commercial and domestic marketplaces. Founded in 1998, the company is well established in the renewables sector and offers a professional voice with a wealth of commercial experience. In 2008, Solarcentury was also the only UK company in sector to achieve the coveted two-star status accreditation for Best Companies 2008, recognising its outstanding workplaces and investment in its people.

Solarcentury needed a web presence that reflected its position as market leaders, and which delivered the rich functionality required by a growing international firm with over 110 employees and a large, complex network of customers, suppliers and partners. Solarcentury see their website as far more than just an impressive, static online brochure. The site helps employees, suppliers and partners to communicate.

The company’s marketing manager, Oliver Sylvester-Bradley, had recognised the cost and broader technical benefits of Open Source web content management as early as 2005. Working together with Solarcentury’s web supplier at the time, Sylvester-Bradley had built the company’s existing website on the Open Source eZ Publish enterprise content management system (CMS).

When the existing IT supplier announced that it was refocusing its business and would no longer be able to support the website, the company was forced to change. Solarcentury looked at other CMS solutions for the new site, but with so much time and energy invested in EZ publish he was keen to find another supplier from the eZ Publish partners who could take over the support of the existing site and continue with new development on the same platform.

After putting the new contract out to a competitive tender, Sylvester-Bradley decided to work with Enterprise Management Consulting (EMC).

“One of the great benefits of a popular Open Source solution is that it is relatively easy to change the support and development partners you work with. There is no real lock-in to one supplier,” comments Sylvester-Bradley on the company’s final choice. “EMC’s honest, straightforward working ethos just seemed to fit with our corporate culture. They had the most experience of working with Open Source technology on large commercial implementations and their prices were competitive.”

After a precursory audit, EMC was willing to assume responsibility Solarcentury’s existing site, ensuring that there was no gap in support during the transition between suppliers. And once initial project objectives had been laid down, EMC was also able to begin work immediately on updating the eZ publish infrastructure, providing full commercial support with software updates and patches and developing new functionality.

Solarcentury has one smaller website, Solar for Schools, which had been running on a different Open Source content management system. When this site developed problems, EMC suggested that it should be transferred to eZ publish in order to simplify Solarcentury’s overall architecture. Sylvester-Bradley could see the logic, but, given the expected cost, he needed time to discuss this with colleagues.

Meanwhile, EMC replicated the site in less than four hours. By the time Bradley called back to suggest a conference call, EMC were able to show him a working demo.

Solarcentury also had website development skill in-house, which the company wanted to utilise. Using an Open Source product with the support of a certified partner offered the ideal solution. Staff could explore the system and work on many tasks themselves, gaining a real understanding of how the content management system worked at the administrator and light-development level. But all the time they had the safety net of an experienced team of eZ developers to contact for advice and assistance.

“EMC have worked with us like a trusted extension of our in-house team. We work on the system to a level where we still feel comfortable and when we need help or advice the response is fast and effective,” continues Sylvester-Bradley.

When Solarcentury came to EMC asking for a quote to build a new intranet for the company, the response was typical: “You already have one!” The incredibly flexible permissions within eZ Publish, mean that any number of different sites or views of the same site can be created for different registered users.

With the core infrastructure already in place, Solarcentury was able to focus the budget onto developing dedicated functionality for intranet users.

“eZ publish allows us to constantly evolve our web presence and add new features and functionality. With no software or licensing cost, we have an ongoing budget for support and development,” concludes Sylvester-Bradley. “And we have complete control over that budget. When new functionality is needed, we can develop it, when budgets need tightening, we can cut right back to a minimal support charge. And given the cost, quality and flexibility of the support from EMC, I find it hard to understand why anyone would use a proprietary CMS.”

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