3 Pitfalls of Using an Appliance for Your School Web Filter (and How to Avoid Them)

If you’re currently using an appliance for school web filtering, you’ve checked the box on complying with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). You may also be unknowingly making your job harder than it needs to be. 

Relying on a physical device may be the way you’ve always handled web filtering. But there are at least three reasons why appliance-based web filters often aren’t the best choice for busy school IT teams.

Appliance Web Filters Are Labor Intensive

When you’re using an appliance web filter, you’re the one responsible for keeping the device current and operating optimally. You have to manually install updates and troubleshoot any issues they may create. Should an outage occur, you’re also responsible for getting the appliance back online and functioning. And we all know that these emergencies happen at the worst possible times. 

Keeping your appliance up to date and operating to the best of its ability may seem like an effective use of your time. But imagine what you could accomplish if you got that time back. When you no longer have to do the work to keep your school web filter up and running, you can focus on strategic priorities that really move the needle on your school’s technology and digital learning initiatives

Appliance Web Filters Have Limited Scalability and Support for Device Mobility

A web filter appliance can realistically support only a few hundred devices. That may be fine for a small school, but it won’t support the needs of a growing 1:1 device program. To support the increase in devices, you also need to purchase additional appliances. And we’ve already discussed the associated time and resources you must dedicate to managing and maintaining them. 

A stressed IT technician is working at a laptop next to a pile of ethernet cables in a large server room

Even if you do manage to address the scalability limitations of a web filtering appliance, it will struggle to keep up with demands once those devices go home. Since all of that data needs to be routed back to your appliance for filtering, the network runs the risk of being overwhelmed. This results in slow and unresponsive internet access, which isn’t just an annoyance for students, it impedes their learning.

Because many appliance web filters were originally designed for enterprise applications, they often require add-ons or workarounds to fit the needs of K-12 education. As just one example, many appliance filters ban all video streaming. While there’s no shortage of video content on the internet that isn’t educational, there’s also plenty that is. Mass blocking of video content makes no sense for schools since many teachers use YouTube videos to enhance students’ learning

While we’re on the topic of school-specific features, the filtering needs of a school aren’t even remotely similar to those of an enterprise or business—nor are the users. The requirements of keeping a student safe on a school-issued device were most likely never considered by the developers of your appliance web filter. In contrast, a filter specifically designed for K-12 school web filtering understands and accommodates your unique filtering needs.

Avoid the Pitfalls of Appliance Web Filters with a Cloud Web Filter Specifically for K-12 Schools

If you’re still relying on an appliance for school web filtering, you’re no doubt already familiar with the challenges they create. But here’s something you may not know: making the shift to a cloud-based and school-specific web filter can eliminate these issues entirely.

A cloud filter specifically for schools like Securly Filter can literally save you time and money. You can:

  • Keep students safe on their devices anywhere, not just on the network
  • Protect all devices and operating systems, from Chromebooks and PCs to iPads and Macs
  • Support unlimited scalability and concurrent connections
  • Simplify and streamline authentication
  • Be up and running in minutes

The day-to-day responsibilities of an IT professional are complicated enough. Why would you make web filtering any harder than it needs to be—especially when making the switch from an appliance to a cloud filter is simpler than you may think

Read the blog to learn more about what to look for in a school web filter. 

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