Irrespective of the size of an organization or its nature of business, choosing the most appropriate web filtering product can be a challenge. There are many products on the market to evaluate and compare – and different organizations will have different dominant factors in the decision-making process.
This article has been compiled in order to provide further information about web filter platforms – what they are, what they do, how they do it, and the options that exist when choosing a product for website content filtering. We hope the article assists you with the decision-making process and helps you find the best web filtering product to suit your organization’s requirements.
What is Web Filtering Platform?
A web filtering platform is effectively a program or piece of software that can be configured to screen incoming web pages in order to determine whether they should be displayed to the end-user. Web filter platforms are most commonly used to prevent access to inappropriate or illegal website content. However, they can also be used to block or limit access to productivity-draining websites, apply bandwidth restrictions to end-users, or to stop customers and employees from inadvertently downloading malware or visiting phishing websites.
A web filtering platform is a requirement in many regulated industries and services – especially those in which the Internet might be accessed by minors. The Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) was enacted by Congress in 2000 to address concerns about children accessing obscene and harmful website content and, under this legislation, a web filtering product must be implemented by educational institutions and libraries in order to receive discounts through the E-rate program. In some states, the implementation of a product for website content filtering to prevent access by minors is compulsory.
Even when legislation does not demand the use of a web filtering platform, there are many benefits to be gained from filtering Internet content. A web filtering platform can help to improve the productivity of the workforce and prevent HR problems from developing. It can reduce bandwidth wastage, or improve an organization’s security posture. Indeed, many organizations within the legal services, financial services and the healthcare industries have chosen to implement a web filtering platform as part of their compliance efforts and to better protect their networks from cyberattacks.
How Does a Product for Website Content Filtering Block Inappropriate Content?
A product for website content filtering blocks websites – or parts of websites – in a number of ways. The most convenient method of blocking unwanted Internet content is to use categories. Categories can range from sports websites, to online shopping websites, to those which are known to contain adult material or malicious content such as viruses, malware and Trojans. Most filtering solutions use a selection of pre-defined and custom categories to control the content that can be accessed over a network.
Any website that falls into a specific category will be blocked unless the site or URL has been added to a whitelist – a list of websites or URLs to which access is allowed. Conversely, blacklists can be used to block specific websites or specific URLs that do not fall within a pre-defined category. There are many organizations that provide free blacklists to download that can be used to block a wide range of non-categorized malicious content, and these organizations frequently update their blacklists as new viruses, malware and Trojans are identified.
A product for website content filtering can also block URLs by keyword terms. If a URL has not already been rated or included in a database, the webpage or site is inspected and assigned a score based on specific keywords on the site. If a keyword score threshold is exceeded, the webpage will be blocked. This option is useful for blocking brand new websites or webpages that do not yet appear on a blacklist.
The Types of Web Filter Platforms
When searching for a suitable web filtering product, you are likely to come across a number of different options. These will fall into two main categories:
- Hardware-based web filter platforms
- Software-based web filter platforms
Hardware-based web filter platforms require the purchase of a physical appliance. The appliance must be configured and maintained, which means on premise IT support will be required, not only to install and configure the device, but also to administer updates. The cost of an appliance can be considerable depending on the requirements of the organization and these solutions often lack scalability.
Software-based web filter platforms do not require the purchase of additional hardware, and are more scalable than hardware-based web filters. Internet filtering software can be installed on individual devices or on a server. The latter is preferable for business users, as it is time-consuming to install software on individual devices. If the software needs to be updated or filter configuration changed, it is easier to do this on one server than on multiple machines.
The Benefits of a Cloud-Based Web Content Filtering Product
Software-based web filter platforms that are hosted in the cloud are now becoming a popular choice due to the ease of implementation and management. They can be set up in minutes, implemented on fixed or Wi-Fi networks, and configured from any location. A cloud-based software product for website filtering is often the most cost-effective solution for small to medium-sized organizations trying to filter the Internet on a budget.
- Cloud-based web filters are DNS-based and have virtually no latency effects – meaning that Internet speed will be unaffected by the implementation of a web filtering product. There is no need to install software or purchase any hardware as installation only requires the DNS to be pointed to the provider’s servers.
- The service provider is responsible for updating the software, definitions and the anti-virus engine. Since updates are managed by the service provider, and the filter can be configured from any location via a web-based interface, on premise IT support is not required.
- A cloud-based web content filtering product is therefore the perfect choice for managed service providers that want to offer web filtering as-a-service to their clients. When the product is provided in a white-label format for MSP branding, this can have a significant impact on uptake.
Choosing the Right Product for Website Filtering for Your Organization
For most organizations, the best web content filtering is one which does not require a major initial financial outlay, is easy to install and simple to configure. When evaluating the most suitable product for website filtering, it is advisable to consider how easy it is to maintain the product, update Internet policies, and generate reports. Look for a product for website filtering that has a low management overhead, as this will reduce the cost of operating the web filter over time.
Depending on the size of an organization, it may be a good idea to restrict your choice to web filter platforms that integrate with Active Directory, LDAP or Novell eDirectory software. Integrating a product for website filtering with these protocols will save a considerable amount of configuration time and make it much easier to set filters for different department or user groups.
Web Filtering Product Pricing
The cost of a web content filtering product is not high when considered alongside the savings most organizations can achieve by filtering the Internet. By controlling access to inappropriate website content, employers can see major increases in productivity. A web filtering product also offers protection from phishing, malware, ransomware and other web-borne threats. The cost of resolving these threats can be considerable and certainly more than the cost of implementing a web filtering product.
Web filter product pricing can be variable. Some web filtering vendors offer a monthly payment plan to spread the cost and make a web content filtering product more affordable. Other vendors may require an annual subscription. Web filtering product pricing is usually dependent on the length of the subscription period – the longer the subscription, the less expensive the web filtering product will be. To reduce the cost, many vendors offer the opportunity to take out a subscription over a number of years.
WebTitan – The Easiest Way to Filter the Internet and Protect Against Web-Borne Threats
We developed WebTitan to make filtering the Internet as easy as possible. Our choice of products enable organizations to protect themselves, their brand and their employees or customers from the risks that reside on the Internet.
Each of the WebTitan products can be configured in a few minutes and offer excellent protection against malware, ransomware, phishing, and other Internet threats. All feature highly granular controls and an intuitive interface for simple management in order to ensure compliance with your organization´s or industry´s usage policies.
We offer choice of deployment options, a white label web filtering product for MSPs and resellers, and operate a competitive pricing policy with the option of paying in monthly installments. We also have industry-leading customer support to guide you through the implementation and operation of WebTitan.
To find out more about how WebTitan can benefit your organization, to receive advice on the best product for website filtering to suit your requirements, and for details of pricing, contact our sales team today.