TVA’s IT on Frontline for COVID-19 Pandemic Safety

Employees around the nation are heeding the call to limit their personal interactions by teleworking.

In the process, teleworking has stressed IT networks and is spotlighting cybersecurity concerns for businesses around the world.

TVA IT prepared for mass telework by running drills to simulate a real-life activation of enterprise-wide work-at-home procedures. (Photo/Tennessee Valley Authority)

“First and foremost, TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) IT continues to work around the clock to ensure business continuity and identify, protect, detect and respond to issues that could threaten critical cyber assets,” said Jeremy Fisher, TVA’s Chief Information Officer. “We continually invest in our IT and cybersecurity programs, and the team is working to keep employees connected and the power flowing in the midst of the pandemic.”

The move for employees to work remotely is challenging the nation’s IT resources in an unprecedented way.

Tech giants such as Google and Microsoft are rushing to secure and enable systems to support exponentially higher use of VPN and other systems, such as WebEx, that enable successful telework.

NetworkWorld reported on March 19 that research by one VPN vendor shows that VPN usage in the U.S. grew by 53 percent between March 9 and 15, and it could grow faster. In addition, Cisco reported its WebEx platform increase 33 times over two weeks ago.

According to Fisher, TVA has seen virtual connectivity grow from 1,689 users on March 18 to more than 4,700 on March 19. Fisher said this is more than double the usage for a normal day, and TVA IT maintained a 99.8 percent application availability. 

“We could not have doubled our users overnight without proper planning and a great team of IT professionals,” said Fisher. “We have a structure that allows all our IT employees to contribute to the mission of keeping power flowing to nearly 10 million people.”

TVA IT prepared for mass telework by running drills to simulate a real-life activation of enterprise-wide work-at-home procedures. To help increase employee support, TVA’s internal IT Help Desk increased hours to address any emergent concerns or the increase of employee IT questions during this time.

“We’ve hit a few peaks and firsts for IT this month,” said Fisher. “The overall response from the IT team during the Coronavirus outbreak has been outstanding. This is an “all-hands-on-deck” situation, and the team has a commitment to collaboration, problem-solving and communication as issues have come up.

“Not only have we had to respond to issues with our own systems, but we are also tackling issues that are taxing even the biggest tech companies. We are seeing the value of IT in action.”