Web filtering is a real issue for schools and colleges to protect pupils and staff from viewing inappropriate content, to relieve pressure on bandwidth and to protect networks from malicious intrusions and, ultimately, downtime.
Traditionally, not-for-profit organisations have supplied web filtering tools to the education sector but these have not been flexible enough to give IT and network managers the tools required to manage their own access parameters as and when required.
They certainly have not allowed for decentralised control, which gives heads of year the ability to temporarily grant access to a website for a specific class at a set time based on teachers’ lesson plans.
New solutions are now available that do offer that flexibility.
Modern web filtering solutions allow IT and network managers to set ‘Who, what, when and where’ parameters using a user-friendly GUI.
The filters work on static machines, such as school PCs, and mobile devices, such as school tablets, as well as on devices brought into school.
At a recent seminar for school and college IT and networks managers, South West Communications Group’s sales manager Colin Woods said: “It does not matter what device they are on, the way you want them to authenticate their identity can be accommodated. In the case of mobiles and mobile devices, we will automatically push them to a splash page so they have to identify themselves in the same way as if they were on a static machine.”
This allows the school to control what pupils and teachers view on any device while they are using school’s network. Crucially, this solution also allows reports to be created on the content viewed.
These reports are extremely accurate as modern web filtering solutions can identify more than 100 types of traffic and their actual content.
Mr Woods added: “We are drilling right into what people are actually requesting; what they are trying to look at. We are using deep packet inspection so we are actually looking at what they are trying to do rather than the traffic type. This is enabled by layer 7 aware filters.
“There are no blind spots. Whatever the traffic or content is, you will have vision of it and you will be in control of who you do or who you do not allow access.”