This year at BETT I had one area of particular interest which was looking at solutions for webfiltering. We have been using a very well known and popular product for a few year but having been having increasing problems with it recently overblocking (due to miscatergorising sites) and more frequent crashes. So I decided to see what had changed in the world of web filtering over the last few years…
There seems to have been a few changes in the market over the last few year, particularly with a move away from filtering based on calculated ‘scores’ to one based purely categorisation. Most products seem to now offer some form of real-time categorisation for sites not in their databases, and one or two have some other interesting features. Another area where web filtering seems to have improved over the last few years is with respect to reporting – this process seemed to be much simpler and more powerful then it was a few years ago…
For me the standout products at BETT this year for web filtering were:
BLOXX – http://www.bloxx.com/ – This uses a service they call Tru-View which categorises the website (there are details of the way this works on their website). The also offer a MediaFilter which enables teachers to submit certain YouTube videos to create a personalised YouTube collection which can then be accessed by the students – this would be a really useful service for allowing schools to give controlled access to certain YouTube videos without having to open all of youtube up to the younger students.
Lightspeed – http://www.lightspeedsystems.com/ – Lightspeed offers a wide range of services including web filtering as part of a service they call total traffic control. Their Web Access Manager operates in a similar way to the BLOXX one but also offers an installable client which will continue to monitor and filter traffic even when they are not going through out internet connection – this would be very beneficial for monitoring student access via 3G dongles etc. They also include a similar YouTube library service and a product called MyBigCampus which they are targeting as a controlled Facebook for schools – it’s not perfect but it certainly looked interesting!
Additionally their suite include a Security Manager and a Network traffic Manager which would monitor machines on the network and enable bandwidth limiting and prioritising as well as granular controls over application, computer and user network usage.
NetSweeper – http://www.netsweeper.com/ – Netsweeper mostly work with LEAs rather than individual schools but offer a similar service to the others and are used by around 1/3rd of all pupils in England (so they claim due to having several LEAs including LgfL).
Another one that has caught my eye but wasn’t at BETT (at least I didn’t see it!) was:
ScanSafe - http://www.scansafe.com/ – Recently purchased by Cisco this content filtering service is entirely cloud based and requires no hardware at all on site, and again offers us the ability to filter and monitor the boarders when they are not connected via our internet connection.
Web filtering is an essential area in schools as we all try to manage to difficult path between protecting staff and students from the less pleasant parts of the web whilst ensuring they have access to everything they need… There are a few products here that look like they may help us walk that path a little more effectively.
Anyone seen/used any of these products or anything else they want to recommend?