Is a Free School Web Filter Really Good Enough in 2023?

An illustration of a sad IT Director using an old, tired web filter as he walks past a new, improved model of web filter

Perhaps the charm of getting something for nothing has you holding on to a free web filter. Or maybe you’re overwhelmed by the number of filter options on the market, so you’re sticking with what you know. But as schools’ technology requirements and internet usage continue to grow and evolve, free school web filters just can’t keep up with the demand.

We all love a good freebie. If you’re currently utilizing a free web filter for your school, you’re meeting the minimum criteria for complying with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), and at no additional cost. But, as is the case with most things, you get what you pay for—especially when it comes to web filtering.

Free Web Filters Can Introduce Security and Safety Risks

The internet is constantly changing and evolving, and your school filtering solution in 2023 needs to be able to keep up with this pace. Unfortunately, free web school filters rarely offer this kind of efficiency. Updates are usually few and far between and lack the comprehensive scope of a paid filtering solution. This can cause significant threats to your school’s network and your students’ safety, as new malware could slip through the net before updates are released or applied.

Applying those updates isn’t always straightforward either. Many free filters require manual implementation of upgrades, adding even more to your workload. These blanket updates have been known to have browser compatibility issues, too. The problems will quickly become evident if your school has a BYOD policy or if students download unapproved browsers.

Free Web Filters Lack the Support Busy School IT Teams Need

When you’re responsible for technology support in a school setting, you have no shortage of issues to resolve. The last thing you want to do is troubleshoot your school web filter when bigger problems are fighting for your attention. If you do run into a problem you can’t figure out yourself, free filtering options rarely offer the timely and responsive support you need, even if you’re paying for it.

Your specific requirements may also require you to customize your free web filter. But with free tools, there’s often no-one to turn to when you have questions about how to make these changes. Reaching out to other IT and Technology Administrators in online forums or user groups is an option. But getting an answer could take days (if you get one at all). When you’re juggling multiple priorities and need efficient support, scouring the web in search of an answer is far from ideal.

Free Web Filter Scalability and Customization Options Are Very Limited 

Free web filters are often sufficient for a smaller school’s needs and scale. But what if those requirements grow? As your 1:1 device program expands, you need the ability to scale up your filtering solution. This can present big problems when relying on a free school filter. Sometimes the option simply doesn’t exist, or there are strict limits on the number of devices that can be covered.

A female teacher is helping a young female student who is working at a desktop computer alongside her classmates

Customization is typically limited, too. Free web filters tend to rely on user-generated blacklists, resulting in the need to add sites one by one, making your day even busier. Free web filters also have more rigid policy management options, and we all know one size rarely fits all. Older students may require access to sites which are inappropriate for younger students, or some of your teachers may want access to certain sites that other teachers want blocked. Your free web filter won’t make these common requests easy. 

If you’ve been working with a free web filter in your school, these complications are probably very familiar ones. But what might not be so familiar to you are the benefits of upgrading to a cloud-based web filter that’s purpose-built for K-12 education.

A cloud filter designed especially for schools like Securly Filter will not only save you time and headaches, but it will also give you the scalability, customization, security, and safety you need. Imagine being able to:

  • Ensure CIPA compliance — without expensive filter appliances or complicated setup
  • Get the filtering features you need to make your job easier
  • Customize to meet the needs of all of your teachers and students
  • Filter every device everywhere they go, from iPads and Macs to PCs and Chromebooks
  • Have expert help and support at the ready when you need it

As a busy IT professional, your days can be hectic enough without the extra demands of managing a free web filter. Plus, making the move to a cloud-based school web filter is easier than you may think. 

Read the blog to learn more about how to choose the right web filter for your district or school in 2023.

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