If you’re accustomed to enjoying a refreshing shower in the morning, conveniently starting a load of laundry, or just getting a cold glass of water on a hot day, but you take for granted how the water arrived at your tap, you’re not alone.
Naturally, at Watercare Services, we have a different perspective. To deliver 400 million liters (106 million gallons) of reliable, safe, and sustainable drinking water to all 1.7 million residents of the Auckland, New Zealand, metro area every day—and treat a similar amount of wastewater—we’re fiercely dedicated to water and water security.
From an IT standpoint, we also layer on another mission: giving every Watercare employee an hour back in their week, every week, to make their lives better. A tall order even during the best of times.
This commitment to our employees led us to embrace zero trust and the Zscaler Zero Trust Exchange platform, including Zscaler Private Access (ZPA), Zscaler Internet Access (ZIA), and Zscaler Digital Experience (ZDX). Each plays a critical role in assisting our lean IT team with providing our employees, devices, and operational technologies with secure, high-performance application connectivity as well helping us keep our “give back” promise.
Read the full case study here.
Protecting an increasing connected water supply
As you might imagine, collecting, distributing, treating, and monitoring all that water has grown increasingly digital. Our massive physical infrastructure assets reflect an investment of approximately $12 billion (USD $8.6 billion) that includes catchment facilities, dams, water plants, pumping stations, reservoirs, energy generating facilities, and a total of nearly 18,000 kilometres (11,000 miles) of water and wastewater pipes.
Like other enterprises, we’re heavily leveraging mobility and cloud-enabled business applications for our 1,100 employees in the office and out in the field. In addition, we’re increasingly adopting IoT, IIoT (Industrial IoT), and direct network connectivity across our footprint.
Moreover, the Covid-19 pandemic brought us new challenges and opportunities for safeguarding all of our systems from cyber threats. In fact, the first wave of 2020 lockdowns caught us scrambling to secure all of our users’ home workstations. We ultimately combined our existing secure cloud gateway for internet access with a legacy VPN product for private application access. We also trialed ZPA with a limited number of employees.
Rapidly scaling out ZPA saves the day
Although everyone returned to the office after a couple of months, a second lockdown was looming. Just hours before we all went home again; our VPN solution suffered a catastrophic failure. We took a double-pronged approach to resolving this crisis. We set up two teams to fix VPN, and assigned a separate team to deploy ZPA to the remaining 800 employees who hadn’t received it during the trial.
ZPA caught our attention when we were able to scale it out to all employees in less than half a day. Its ease of deployment became more extraordinary when fixing the VPN dragged on for another few weeks. We were so impressed that Zscaler actually delivered on all of its promises, which is distressingly uncommon in the IT industry, that we also adopted ZIA. Because the lightweight Zscaler agent was already resident on user devices, turning up ZIA was as simple as contacting our sales team and negotiating licenses.
Yes, it really was that easy. And users love both solutions, unlike either the secure cloud gateway or the VPN, which they hated. For users, Zscaler runs completely in the background so they don’t even notice it’s there. For us, it saves an incredible amount of time and resources on maintaining security systems.
Optimizing application, device, IoT, and IIoT performance with ZDX
Another lesson from the first lockdown was around troubleshooting application performance issues on home workstations. As our existing troubleshooting tools lacked the ability to identify the source of many issues, it became an emotional roller coaster for users. Was it their router? Their internet connection? The application itself? Something else? And so on. That’s why we also implemented ZDX once ZPA and ZIA were in place.
With ZDX, we’ve reduced weeks of pain to minutes. Even when the answer to a performance issue is the user’s ISP, rather than something we can fix, they’re grateful to know how they can solve the problem. ZDX has been especially beneficial for sorting out issues with Microsoft Teams, which we adopted during the pandemic and is now a way of life.
Overall, we’re excited about the many ways we can leverage the Zero Trust Exchange platform. As we move into a multi-year, multi-billion-dollar investment phase, we’ll use Zscaler to securely supply direct internet connections to ever-more IoT and IIoT-enabled equipment, while leveraging ZDX to ensure it’s behaving optimally. Of course, our platform will also enable us to innovate around WFA and continue to give users more hours of their life back as part of our ESG (environmental, social, and governance) goals.
As the saying goes: never waste a good crisis. Although we’ll all be glad when the pandemic is over, at Watercare we appreciate that Zscaler enabled us to accelerate our zero trust adoption and gain the ability to continue innovating on behalf of the constituents we serve.
To learn more, I invite you to read the accompanying case study about our Zscaler adoption at Watercare.