CIO Summit: How IT keeps elite athletes running

The IT game at the NSW Institute of Sport

The NSW Institute of Sport is renowned for fostering the talent and dedication of Australia’s elite athletes. However, as IT manager, Greg Baxter, told the CIO Summit in Sydney, a lot of IT work goes on behind the scenes to help it maintain this reputation.

The NSW institute — there is one in each state, the biggest being the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra — currently caters for 24 sports, seven of which are ranked as top priority or those most likely to get Australia an Olympic medal, as such these receive the most focus.

See all the action from the event in the CIO Summit 2011 slideshow.

The institute has been home to a number of Aussie Olympic athletes including Ian Thorpe, Mathew Mitchum, Torah Bright, Liz Ellis and Louise Savage.

In addition to their training, the facility focuses heavily on having athletes know that after sport they need to do something as sport won’t last forever. Each athlete has a career education plan, and can work closely with universities and educational institutions to help them plan what they can do once sport is over.

Baxter told the CIO Summit that the organisation’s 100 employees, some of which travel domestically and internationally to sporting competition and for training, operate out of the head office in Sydney Olympic Park in Homebush as well as a small remote facility in Jindabyne.

About 12 years ago, the institute operated under the NSW Sport and Recreation using its domain and network, which was supported by an ADSL connection. This was the case until 1996 when the institute finally built its own building which it operates out of today, granting it its own domain and internet access.

“With the new building came new systems including unified communication, Voice over IP presence, Office Communicator Live Meeting, My Tell for our phones and SonicWALL for our firewall,” Baxter said. “It gives us quite a few capabilities especially content filtering and reporting I find that’s essential for me because of the diversity of the users using the network.”

According to Baxter, staff working remotely from home can do so with non-domain computers, through their iPad or through their iPhone.

“We have staff that work across the state – sport psychologists – we call them our network staff as they always require access,” Baxter said. “We also provide 12 PCs at Homebush in the athletes lounge and once they’ve done their training they can sit down and do their school work or browse the Web; this meaning things like Big Time and Facebook can become bit of an issue sometimes.

“Our remote site out at Jindabyne has a small SonicWALL appliance, it supplies a phone and Telstra Next G card and connects to the network to provide staff who are travelling with complete access to our office including our internal phone line.”

The SonicWALL viewpoint reports provide a very granular view of the firewall, Baxter said allowing him to see what, when and where people have been viewing or downloading content on the computers, including downloading things they shouldn’t be.

The institute also videos “everything”, Baxter said, boasting some 15 terabytes (TB) of storage just for video.

“We video training, competitions, strength and conditioning, a whole range of different things, and we then put software applications on top of that for analysis.”

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