Best practices in mobile data communications

     The Orange County Sheriff's Department (OCSD) covers an expansive geographic area that includes the communities of San Clemente, Aliso Viejo, Dana Point, Orange, Rancho Santa Margarita, Santiago Canyon, Stanton, Lake Forest and Laguna Hills. The...

     Restarting takes time; it requires re-logging onto the network and retyping any work in progress. In our case, application stability issues dramatically impacted the productivity of OCSD's mobile users by causing frustration and requiring our IT support team to field numerous calls from complaining officers telling us that they could not get connected or that their applications were not working.

     • Wireless roaming and rollover

     With the proliferation of OCSD Wi-Fi networks across the county, we wanted to make sure that officers had the ability to connect with them to log onto domain accounts, to send and receive large files, upload reports, or receive software updates.

     However, managing multiple network connections would have been a manual process. With officers having to manage the switch between Wi-Fi and cellular data themselves, productivity was reduced and their focus was placed where we didn't want it — on their laptops as opposed to their primary public safety duties.

     Our officers needed us to find a way to have this switch be automatic without their intervention. We also wanted to find a way to have this transition occur automatically to whichever was the fastest available network.

     • Data security

     End-to-end data security was also paramount in our wireless plan. OCSD's investigators and patrol officers spend most of the day on the road connecting via wireless networks to local and state databases containing sensitive personal information. This meant that they needed to ensure data transmissions were secure. With federal security standards such as FIPS 140-2 as well as potential California Justice Information System (CJIS) standards for data security on the horizon, we wanted to ensure that we were protected and that we were planning ahead for future requirements.

Mobile solution best practices

     In the case of OCSD, we found the best option to solve our wireless and connectivity challenges was to install specialized mobile virtual private network (VPN) software on our officers' laptops and our back-end servers.

     In our case, we chose Mobility XE Mobile VPN software from NetMotion Wireless because its solution is widely used by hundreds of law enforcement and public safety agencies around the country. With this software, if an officer's laptop should lose wireless network connectivity, the mobile VPN server software manages and maintains the applications and connections on the back end, with the client software holding the applications in place on the device until a network connection can be restored. Once restored, the client and server software resume the application sessions.

     • Handling coverage gaps and interruptions

     Once we implemented, the issue of stability for both applications and connections was resolved. We were able to manage the connections between applications and networks, and to shield applications from lost coverage or interference that would otherwise cause them to crash.

     The result is that the software essentially "tricks" the computer applications into thinking that the network connection is fine — no matter what the condition of the connection — and so prevents computer crashes and other issues that arose without the software.

     It worked as planned: Once the mobile user returned to a good wireless coverage area, his or her applications restarted exactly where they left had off. Our officers did not have to spend time reconfiguring or modifying anything on their laptops. In fact, from the users' perspective, the sporadic losses of coverage that did occur were nearly imperceptible, because our mobile VPN managed and resumed the connections seamlessly behind the scenes.

     • Addressing the need for wireless roaming and rollover

     Due to the mobile VPN's client and server design, applications moved seamlessly from one connection type to another. So OCSD was able to present its investigators and officers with a seamless roaming solution. As users approach OCSD hot spots, the software senses the higher-speed network availability and automatically moves the users' applications to the faster network. During times when only the wide-area network is available, the mobile VPN optimizes and compresses the data transmission so OCSD's investigators and patrol officers will see considerably faster data transmission times across the networks.

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