Best in Tech 2010: Web Filtering
Today, using the Web is an education necessity. Getting there is easy, but securing a district's Web assets requires planning-and a bit of help. Our district leaders review their own Web-filtering choices to help you decide how to keep your school safe.
Lightspeed Total Traffic Control
Goal: Initially we needed content filtering and network monitoring/reporting. We've added spam filtering, power management, detection of virus-infected computers, and proactive discovery of abuse in our educational environment.
Response: These tools will allow us to keep federally mandated filtering policies in place while allowing use of valuable online tools and materials.
Learning Curve: After vendor installation, we have performed custom configuration on our own. Limited specific instruction was very helpful for continued configuration.
Usage: Content filtering, spam e-mail filtering, desktop computer power consumption control, network traffic reporting, and group/user policy configuration for different user group needs
Future Plans: We definitely plan on contining to use Lightspeed for filtering, virus protection, and reporting purposes, including specific enhancement requests. It will help us with deploying Web 2.0 tools for classroom teachers. —Terrell Tucker
Phantom Technologies iBoss Enterprise 4550
Goal: We needed a good Web-filtering solution to replace our old one. The filter needed to use Windows Active Directory authentication for our elementary school, and Novell eDirectory for our other schools.
Response: There was an immediate noticeable improvement in the speed of our network. It's a good fit, with few user complaints.
Learning Curve: Initially there were some difficulties getting users authenticated, but there is an excellent product support team. The reporting tools are fantastic, and it is very easy to block or allow sites.
Usage: Students can request a site to be unblocked, which saves teachers from having to make all of the requests, and it is easy for me to review the site to determine whether or not it should be allowed.
Future Plans: Judging from the usage reports, we will continue to use the iBoss for our Web filtering. —Matt Brooker
Sophos Web Appliance/Endpoint Security and Data Protection
Goal: To provide information access to students and staff in a safe environment, and differentiation of Web access to various groups
Response: No complaints. Any Web address that needs to be accessed, or denied, is easily configured, and the Internet runs smoothly. Our computer environment has been virus-free.
Learning: As an administrator, the dashboard of information is easy to understand and generates an enormous number of useful reports.
Usage: We use the products daily and have successfully used the Web filter reports to identify users who misuse the Web.
Future Plans: We will continue to utilize the reporting features to enhance our Internet efficiency, and will use the information to better monitor and serve staff and students. —Aaron Sadoff
SmoothWall Network Guardian
Goal: We needed a comprehensive, user-friendly, and cost-effective Web-filtering solution.
Response: The response from the administrators and teachers is very positive. They are happy that they are able to comfortably view and test websites. Great customer support.
Learning Curve: My tech department found the software easy to use. Usage: In addition to the basic usage, which we find it does very well, we find it easy to pull logs for specific users, time frames, and various websites.
Future Plans: Our next step is to look closely at SmoothWall's network appliance solution and possibly their firewall protection. —Rachel Dombrowski
Bloxx Web Filter
Goal: To prevent students from using proxy servers to bypass the filter
Response: Staff are now confident that the students are surfing safely.
Learning Curve: For each user group, we are able to tailor Internet access and define different policies. User productivity has increased through this flexibility, without being too restrictive.
Usage: We use Bloxx reports when teachers complain about students. I can provide a staff log-in to create and run reports without IT involvement.
Future Plans: We're looking at installing Bloxx Media Filter, which allows safe access of YouTube. —David Holmes
Kaspersky Anti-Virus for Windows Workstations
Microsoft Exchange and Administration Kit
Goal: We needed to protect our end users from known and unknown threats. We needed an affordable solution, scalable, lightweight, intuitive; plus it had to be easy to manage, deploy, and configure.
Response: Initially, we had the normal negative comments about a product that restricts access. But it's easy to navigate, and we can enable multiple modules on our aging computer systems.
Learning Curve: Definitely the easiest enterprise deployment I have ever used in 16 years. We are always tweaking the system for efficiency; it takes no time. With the assistance of our nine-member team, my system administrator was able to get the deployment system up and running in no time. It even has multiple "canned" scripts to remove the former software we had.
Usage: Kaspersky is installed on every desktop, laptop, and server in the district. It protects us from viruses, spyware, malware, and client- level spam protection. We can also lock down USB ports.
Future Plans: We plan to continue our Kaspersky partnership, and to refine our deployment settings to maintain a level of usability on older machines. —J.R. Rea
Sunbelt VIPRE Email Security for Exchange
Goal: We needed something to stop the inundating flow of spam, viruses, or other threats through our e-mail system.
Response: Teachers and administrators seem to be pleased with the solution. As with most things IT, if it works, you don't really hear about it. We don't get any calls about spam, inappropriate e-mails, or attachments.
Learning Curve: It is one of the few products that we use that runs well out of the box. We've added a few rules that are unique to our environment using a simple menu-driven wizard.
Usage: VIPRE Email Security for Exchange allows us to quarantine potentially unsafe attachments, as well as allow the end user to manage possible spam mail through Allowed Senders, Blocked Senders, and Quarantine and Spam folders-directly into their mailbox. If an attachment does get quarantined, the end user receives a notification and can request that
the attachment be sent through by the technology department.
Future Plans: With good pricing, we decided to go with a multi-year license and focus our attention on other needs in the district. —Bryan Brown
Six More Ways to Protect Tech
Threats to a school system's tech are constantly evolving. Fortunately, there are enough solutions to suit every district's security needs.
This company offers Web filter, spam, and virus firewall protection, as well as the Barracuda Web Filter for blocking sites, pop-ups, and spyware, and improving bandwidth. They also provide backup services to protect against loss of important district information.
M86 has solutions for malware, spam, cyberbullying, and anonymous proxies, while maintaining delivery of Web 2.0 applications, using a multilevel security strategy for inbound and outbound Internet-based communication streams.
McAfee prevents malware and spyware, and blocks potentially malicious programs. Its Total Protection for Endpoint Essentials includes VirusScan Enterprise, AntiSpyware Enterprise, Desktop Firewall, Host Intrusion Prevention for Desktops, and SiteAdvisor Enterprise Plus for safe searching and site blocking.
Tech coordinators can avoid unwanted or malicious alterations to the computing environment, and protect against the loss of critical files and applications with this program. With eight different technology education management products, districts can avoid unauthorized changes-and most computer downtime.
iPrism 6.4, for Mac or PC, is designed for education and library Web filtering. It has real-time, customizable blocking for URLs, IMs, and spyware. It also offers multilayered network protection from viruses and malware. Check out their new remote filtering solution for off-site student and teacher laptops.
Its Norton products protect and manage teaching and learning information. Symantec's multi-tier protection helps to avoid malware disruptions that can bring technology use to a standstill.