Give and go: New Orleans Hornets and Array Networks
Give and go: New Orleans Hornets and Array Networks

The NBA's New Orleans Hornets needed to provide a highly mobile staff with a secure method for communicating, reports Greg Masters.

While fans cheer the action unfolding on the court of the New Orleans Arena, away from the drives, dishes and dunks, another less visible, but vital, team is also hard at work. 

The players and coaches of the New Orleans Hornets garner the adulation, or ire, of the home crowd and the celebrity status and hero worship nurtured by local and national media outlets, but behind the players in uniform, also in constant motion – though fingers flying across a keyboard faster than a full-court press – sits a 160-person professional sports organization. And, it's not just the visiting basketball teams coming into the Big Easy that pose a challenge for the franchise. Enabling staff to communicate securely in an age when personnel bring their own devices to work and travel frequently proved a stern test for Tod Caflisch, vice president of information technology, and his three-person IT staff.

“We needed a solution for making employees productive on iPads from any location,” says Caflisch (left), who is responsible for voice and data technologies for the Hornets' headquarters offices, arena, practice facilities and team events. In addition to iPads supplied by the team, employees were also bringing personal iPads to work. And, aside from internet access and email, there was no way for the team's workers to use the tablets for business in a secure environment. Agents, scouts, salespeople and other field staff needed to lighten their load by moving to tablets, but at the same time requiring access to the information and applications essential for their jobs, says Caflisch.

For example, scouts required iPad access to personnel reports and video footage saved on their office PCs in order to evaluate and compare prospective players in real time. Caflisch says his staff also wanted to move away from virtual private network (VPN) access, due to security concerns and the cost of purchasing and managing laptops and ancillary security hardware and software. Also, he sought a solution that would put an end to employees using flash drives to take work home, a practice that was prone to data leakage and other issues caused by incompatible application software and versions.

Caflisch was the primary evaluator and decision-maker in determining how to address these challenges. He worked with iSecure, an IT partner with whom he says he has a good relationship to review options.

He and his team looked at VPNs and what could be done in conjunction with mobile device management (MDM), and also virtualization solutions for providing tablet access based on a server-based computing model.

They also examined which solution was going to provide the best combination of ease-of-use, security, speed, cost and ability to mobilize applications. After evaluating a number of products and services, they chose a DesktopDirect appliance from Array Networks for review and evaluation.