NEI Electric Power Engineering, Inc.
Headquarters: Lakewood, Colorado
Industry: Renewable energy services
NEI Electric Power Engineering, Inc. specializes in the design of dependable and sustainable power systems, including photovoltaic design, battery energy storage systems (BESS), wind collection, and other related solutions, taking projects from conceptualization to construction.
Within NEI, James Davis serves as a sysadmin, contributing to a dedicated team of four professionals that includes a manager and two help desk technicians. The NEI workforce comprises approximately 280 individuals, with roughly 60% working remotely. In-office employees typically operate from the primary office located in Lakewood, Colorado, for 3 days per week, while remote team members have the flexibility to work from virtually anywhere. They have one team member who works as he travels the world.
Moving systems off prem
With the aim of adapting to an increasingly dispersed workforce, one of the primary objectives for the IT team in 2023 was to completely transition systems off premises.
“In recent months," said James Davis, "we've made significant strides in reducing our reliance on VPN. Our time management system has successfully migrated to the cloud, and the licensing for AutoCAD, which plays a vital role in our industry, has transitioned to a user-based model since the beginning of this year. As a result, we no longer require on-premises servers to support it.”
With the system changes being implemented and the reduced need for end users to connect via VPN, James and his team now experience occasional months-long intervals without the need to establish device connections.
“We still need to manage and support remote devices, ensuring they have the software they need — but we have these gaps where we don’t see them.”
Reliably reaching remote devices
The team initially used Intune for managing remote devices but discovered a need for enhanced visibility and more precise control.
“I didn’t always have confidence that a deployment would hit when I wanted it to hit, which is not a great feeling — especially when a reboot is necessary.”
NEI was already an established user of PDQ Deploy & Inventory. James first learned about PDQ Connect and its open beta program through PDQ Live, and he was eager to give it a try. Throughout the beta testing phase, James observed that Connect was straightforward to learn, and all the packages and installations he tried were successful.
Now with all 350 of their devices managed by Connect, James and his colleagues rely on it almost daily.
“Being able to manage our remote computers and have deployments go out exactly how and when we want them to, reliably, has been huge.”
James has created a handful of custom packages in Connect for regular use, including AutoCAD installs, scripts, network scanners, and complex multistep packages for specific software. ETAP is one example.
“We use some unusual software in our space. ETAP is 15GB after it installs and needs 40-some files during the install — it’s pretty complicated.”
The team has long used Microsoft Defender to keep an eye on security requirements, and the ease with which they can automate patch deployments in Connect has made for a fully proactive approach to security.
“Web browsers, 7-Zip, and other software are regularly flagged for new vulnerabilities."
Using the Automations feature in Connect, James chose an unobtrusive weekly cadence to deploy the latest versions of common software apps he’s chosen from the Package Library.
“With Connect, I’ve set up automations to run weekly for these common programs and update computers on a set cadence. It’s really nice to just set it and forget it. It gives us that peace of mind that when we learn of a vulnerability out there, we know that those devices won’t be impacted because we’ve ensured they’re updated.”