The New York Times reported that “half the planet is on lockdown” as we all do whatever is needed to protect our families and friends from COVID-19. This also means it is more important than ever for Zscaler services to be able to handle increased demand so our customers can help to keep their employees safe and healthy through secure access to business applications and the web. Since January, Zscaler Private Access (ZPA) has experienced traffic increases exceeding 10X, so the expansion is critical, but it’s also unprecedented because—like many of you—our entire cloud operations team (and in fact the entire company) is working remotely.
This is why I’m so excited about the launch of the new data center in Vancouver, BC. Within two hours, more than 250 customers had taken advantage of the site with more than 30 million transactions. Over the past year, traffic from Canadian companies has doubled, and the new reality of COVID-19 is creating even more demand. The new data center will support both of our core products, ZPA and Zscaler Internet Access (ZIA).
One company that’s taking advantage of this new data center is West Fraser Timber, one of North America’s largest lumber manufacturers with 45 facilities in British Columbia, Alberta, and the southern United States. As the COVID-19 pandemic worsened, the company’s Chief Information Officer, Paul King, was charged with helping more than 1,000 employees to go 100% remote for the first time in its 60+ year history. West Fraser had just started using ZIA late last year to give employees secure web access, but Paul saw the possibility of using ZPA to complement ZIA during the crisis and help the workforce go fully remote.
From his first meeting about ZPA to contracts and procurement, then to full deployment across the entire organization, it took less than two weeks for West Fraser to be entirely up and running on ZPA.
He discussed his decision with the Zscaler team, saying, “Like many organizations, we are entirely focused on keeping our employees safe and healthy. It’s my responsibility to give them the tools they need to be as productive as possible while working from home. This simply would not have been possible with a VPN, which would have taken a minimum of two months to scale-out—time we don’t have right now.”
He added: “Being able to replace our VPNs with ZPA in less than two weeks has had a remarkable impact. Our employees are proactively calling IT to say thank you instead of calling about login or access issues with a VPN. Now, the company has strong cloud security for web traffic and full access to the business applications we need to do our work.”
Prior to the Vancouver launch, Zscaler had a data center in Toronto, but having two data centers in Canada helps our customers in a number of ways. The first is user experience. With compute capabilities, SSL interception, and the security services running at the edge, we connect people with business applications over the shortest path, and that’s key to a fast user experience. This new location also enables Canadian companies that are sensitive to data sovereignty to keep all of their data within Canadian borders, using one data center as their primary and one as a backup.
The Vancouver site adds another point of presence to Zscaler’s global cloud services, which are delivered from Zscaler's own cloud, hosted in geographically distributed, hardened locations that are redundant in power and connectivity. These data centers are classified as essential infrastructure and can run even if the power grid is offline. And these facilities are shared with other critical infrastructure providers such as telecoms, banks, and government services.
With over 10 years of cloud experience and more than 150 data centers already up and running, the Zscaler team has the process of deploying a new data center down to a science, even when Zscaler operations teams are working remotely themselves. Because there is no compression algorithm for experience, the teams are not missing a beat and they are some of the best professionals I have ever worked with. Due to the mission-critical nature of our cloud, we prepare for crises with business continuity and disaster recovery drills. Finally, the fact that we run our own cloud forces us to be creative and build automation and workflows that are not dependent on us being physically present.
Despite these trying circumstances, all Zscaler teams will continue to work around the clock to operate and expand the cloud in order to support our customers and their employees who are running hospital systems, major critical enterprises like lumber manufacturers, schools and government. You can always check the status of our cloud service at trust.zscaler.com.
Misha Kuperman is the Zscaler Sr. Vice President, Cloud Operations & Ecosystems