An Internet content filtering solution is an essential tool for organizations concerned about cybersecurity. Internet content filter solutions help to prevent web users from visiting webpages harboring malware, viruses, and ransomware and stops them inadvertently downloading malicious software onto their organization´s computers or network.
An Internet filtering solution can thwart email phishing campaigns and, when used as an Internet access control solution, block access to productivity-draining websites in the workplace. An Internet access control solution can also help to overcome potential HR issues such as employees wasting work hours on online shopping. Organizations can also use web content filtering solutions to control bandwidth use by blocking access to bandwidth-heavy websites such as streaming sites.
What is Content Filtering and Why is It So Important?
Content filtering is the term given to controlling the types of web content that employees, guests and customers can access while connected to a business’s wired or wireless network. Businesses may want to apply controls over the types of content that can be accessed to stop employees slacking off online. By restricting access to certain types of website such as social media platforms, gaming sites, gambling sites, and dating sites, employers can improve productivity.
Content filtering also ensures malicious websites cannot be accessed, such as those used for phishing or distributing malware. Malware and ransomware attacks on businesses are increasing and phishing is a major business risk. By implementing this extra layer of protection, businesses can block cyberattacks and prevent costly data breaches. Content filtering is also a requirement for schools to prevent children from accessing age-inappropriate web content and is a requirement for CIPA compliance.
How to Evaluate Internet Content Filter Solutions
There are different types of Internet content filtering solution available to businesses. A physical appliance can be purchased and installed on-premise, internet content filtering software can be installed on an existing device, and it is now possible to filter internet content in the cloud. When evaluating which is the most suitable web content filter for your organization, you should first be clear about what you hope to achieve, how many resources you are prepared to dedicate to administrating the Internet access control solution, and how much financially you are willing to invest.
Compatibility, flexibility, and scalability are quite often the three factors overlooked when evaluating Internet content filter solutions. This article aims to illustrate why these three factors are so important, and recommends key features you should look for in an Internet content filtering solution to reduce the amount of evaluating you will have to do.
Compatibility, Flexibility and Scalability
Compatibility is an important factor in web filter solutions. You do not want to commit to a purchase of a hardware appliance or the installation of software without knowing that the Internet content filtering solution is actually going to work on your existing system. Best that you advise your Internet filter solution vendor what system(s) you currently have in order that they can supply the APIs to allow integration with your existing deployment, billing and management tools.
Depending on the size of your organization, the flexibility of your Internet content filtering solution may also be vital. Flexible – or “granular” – Internet content filter solutions provide the opportunity to filter by department, user group or individual. They might also have time-based filter controls so that, for example, you can prevent “cyberslacking” during working hours but adopt a more relaxed acceptable use policy once the working day is over.
Again depending on the size of your organization, scalability could be an important consideration. Internet filtering solution pricing is discussed later in this article, and one of the factors that is mentioned is being able to increase or decrease your filtering capacity as your organization expands or contracts. Finding the right Internet content filtering solution can be a time-consuming process, and you do not want to have to go through the process again in one, two or five years’ time.
Key Features of an Internet Filtering Solution to Look For
Before getting into the key features of an Internet filtering solution, it may be wise to spend a minute discussing how Internet content filter solutions block access to unsafe, inappropriate and bandwidth consuming websites. The three most common methods used to block access to filtered-out web pages are blacklists, category filters and keyword filters:
- Blacklists are lists of websites known to contain malware, pornography or other inappropriate material. Blacklists are freely available on the Internet, but should be supplied and updated by your Internet filtering solution vendor. Whitelists also exist to enable access to specific websites that might inadvertently be blocked by an over-zealous Internet access control solution.
- Most Internet content filter solutions enable to block content by category. Categories can include pornography, online shopping, and sports fan sites for example. If your organization suffers from bandwidth issues, you can use category filters to block access to video streaming sites such as Netflix and YouTube or specific video file formats.
- Keyword filters enable you to block access to specific web content that may be too specialized to be considered a category – although many Internet content filter solutions allow you to customize your own categories. The keyword filter tool can be used in reverse to allow certain user groups to have access to certain web sites if, for example, the user group was engaged in research.
Between them, these three methods of Internet access control should provide sufficiently accurate filtering to suit your organization´s requirements. What you may have to consider is how many manpower hours will be needed to set the filtering controls, adjust them as necessary to implement acceptable use policies for different user groups, and monitor activity on the Internet content filtering solution to identify users who may be trying to circumnavigate your Internet access controls.
Other features of an Internet filtering solution to look for include:
Web-borne infections and inappropriate material are not exclusive to the English language. Even if you do not have multi-lingual employees in your organization, it is advisable to implement an Internet access control solution that filters out content in multiple languages.
Automatic Updates and Reports
Having automatic updates can save a great deal of maintenance overhead. Report scheduling is another task that can be automated in order to save time and have the information your organization needs to enforce acceptable use policies always at hand.
Integration with Directory Services
It was mentioned earlier about vendors supplying APIs to allow backend integration. If your organization uses directory services such as Active Directory, LDAP or NetIQ, you should be able to configure your Internet filtering solution to integrate with your directory service.
Internet content filter solutions work by checking a user request against blacklists, categories and keyword filters, and then allowing or blocking access to the requested website depending on the parameters you have created. The time lapse should be imperceptible.
Technical and Customer Support
Irrespective of how much time you have dedicated to evaluating an Internet content filtering solution, there will likely be a time when an event occurs that you are unprepared for. You need to know that, should this happen, technical and customer support will always be available.
White Label Options
If your organization provides managed services for small to medium sized businesses, and you would like to offer Internet filtering as a service to your clients, the availability of a white label Internet filtering solution will prevent the scenario of your clients directly approaching the Internet filtering solution vendor.
Internet Content Filtering Solution Architecture
Once you have established what you want your Internet access control solution to achieve, and the features that you need in order to achieve those goals, you have to consider what type of Internet filtering solution will do the job for you. There is usually a choice of four different types of Internet content filter solutions, and the architecture of each type may influence which Internet access control solution you ultimately select:
Client-Based Internet Content Filter Solutions
Client-based Internet content filter solutions are installed on individual devices. Because of the low initial cost, this type of Internet access control solution is favored by organizations with a small user database. However, each Internet filtering solution has to be updated and managed separately, and the controls on client-based Internet content filter solutions are often the easiest to circumnavigate.
Server-Based Internet Filtering Solution
A server-based Internet filtering solution tends to be more practical for organizations, as the software for the solutions operates through the server and does not need to be installed, updated and managed on each individual device. The drawback for a server-based Internet filtering solution is that it is likely to require hardware purchases and on premise installation of the software.
Gateway-Based Internet Access Control Solution
A gateway-based Internet access control solution is an enterprise grade tool that is a step up from a server-based Internet filtering solution. Unlike the server-based Internet filtering solution, a gateway-based Internet access control solution can be installed on an organization´s existing hardware – providing the solution is compatible. This solution is often favored by organizations looking to avoid the expense of purchasing dedicated hardware applications.
Cloud-Based Internet Content Filtering Solution
As an alternative to a gateway-based Internet access control solution, a cloud-based Internet content filtering solution does not require the purchase of hardware or the integration of software into the organization´s existing system or network. In order to filter the Internet with a cloud-based Internet content filtering solution, the organization only has to point its DNS to the service provider´s servers.
Internet Content Filter Solutions for MSPs
If your organization provides managed services, finding a suitable Internet filtering solution can present an even greater challenge. Managed service providers (MSPs) have to find a solution that not only meets the requirements of their clients, but one which is easy to administer and that – preferably – can be hosted in their own infrastructure.
Consequently, the best Internet access control solution for MSPs in many scenarios a cloud-based solution. Cloud-based Internet content filter solutions require no on-site software installations and can be configured remotely by the MSP to meet clients´ requirements. All that the client needs to do is point their DNS at the MSP´s servers.
As mentioned in our list of features to look for above, Internet content filter solutions for MSPs that provided in a white label format prevent the scenario of your existing clients sourcing their own Internet access control solution directly from the service provider. With a white label Internet content filtering solution, MSPs are also able to attract new business in addition to up-selling their existing clients.
Internet Filtering Solution Pricing
When evaluating Internet content filter solutions, one of the most important factors to consider is Internet filter solution pricing – not only the initial costs of installation, but also ongoing costs of managing the solution.
Ongoing Internet filtering solution pricing can sometimes vary according to how many users will require Internet access at the same time or how many TCP/IP connections will be required. Subscriptions for Internet content filter solutions can also vary according to the length of contract.
Some Internet content filtering solution vendors offer discounts for long-term contracts, whereas others allow organizations to spread the cost of a subscription monthly. This latter option can be of benefit to organizations who acknowledge the benefits of an Internet content filtering solution, but who do not necessarily have the budgets to commit to a multi-year agreement.
Internet Access Control Solution Cost Comparison
Because of the many different motives for implementing an Internet content filtering solution, the varied types of solution that are available, the different features they have, and the different payment structures for each one, it is impossible to provide a like-for-like Internet access control solution cost comparison.
What it is possible to provide is a cost comparison to not implementing an Internet access control solution – with the result that your computer system is infected with malware due to employees visiting inappropriate websites harboring Trojans during working hours.
Depending on how badly the malware has infected your system or network, it may cost many thousands of dollars to remove. The employees who accessed the inappropriate website during working hours are also likely costing your organization thousands in lost productivity. In terms of a cost comparison, an Internet content filtering solution costs practically nothing compared to the amount of money it can ultimately save.
The WebTitan Suite of Internet Content Filter Solutions
It was mentioned near the beginning of this article that compatibility, flexibility, and scalability are often factors that are overlooked when an organization starts evaluating Internet content filter solutions. Once these factors are taken into account, many organizations find WebTitan´s suite of Internet content filter solutions tick all the right boxes.
The WebTitan suite of Internet content filter solutions has been developed to make Internet access control as straightforward and as cost-effective as possible. Irrespective of the goals you want your Internet content filtering solution to achieve, WebTitan has an Internet access control solution to meet your organization´s requirements:
|WebTitan Gateway||WebTitan Gateway offers a solid defense against web-borne infections. This Internet filtering solution is a powerful 100% software-based application that requires no hardware purchases and that can be hosted within a virtual infrastructure or installed onto an organization´s existing computer system.|
|WebTitan Cloud||WebTitan Cloud provides organizations with a high-convenience/low-maintenance Internet content filtering solution that can be accessed via a web portal from any device. This DNS-based Internet filtering solution can be implemented within minutes without having to download software or install a client.|
|WebTitan Cloud for WiFi||WebTitan Cloud for WiFi gives the same levels of convenience and maintenance as WebTitan Cloud, but provides additional protection for Wi-Fi networks and the devices that connect to them. WebTitan Cloud for WiFi supports dynamic and static IPs and delivers fast Internet access with imperceptible latency.|
Although the benefits of each solution are varied, all of the WebTitan suite of Internet content filter solutions have the same features in common:include the following features:
- APIs are provided for integration with all back-office systems.
- Highly granular controls with time-based and bandwidth-based filtering options.
- Excellent scalability and adjustable subscription structures – both up and down.
- No restrictions on bandwidth, the number of users or TCP/IP connections required.
- Easy to configure settings with or without directory integration.
- Low maintenance overhead with the option of administrating the solution remotely.
- Automated reporting to assist with the enforcement of acceptable use policies.
- White-labeled Internet content filter solutions available for MSPs and resellers.
Evaluate Our Internet Content Filter Solutions for Free
If you are concerned about cybersecurity in your organization – and you would like to take steps to reduce your exposure to web-borne threats such as malware, ransomware and phishing – you are invited to contact us and discuss your requirements with one of our Sales Technicians. Our Sales Technicians will be happy to answer your questions, and will offer you a free trial of the WebTitan solution most appropriate for your specific circumstances.
Our free trial will give you the opportunity to evaluate our Internet content filter solutions in your own environment, control the websites your users can access, and fine-tune the filter´s parameters in order to determine the best combinations for your needs. If, at the end of the trial, you choose to continue using our service, we will be able to offer you a choice of cost-effective subscription options based on your preferred deployment and payment cycle.