By Tom Walker
A Brief History of Web Filtering in K-12 Schools
When I started my career in K-12 IT, web content filtering in schools was a fairly new creature.
The Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) was still in its early stages and various approaches to content filtering began to emerge.
A handful of companies began to surface as the leaders in providing appliance web filtering solutions to deploy in the K-12 infrastructure. Open-source alternatives were also available, but tended to require a bit more expertise to implement and manage.
In any event, the options were there, but could be costly, time consuming, and ultimately ineffective in the long run.
Whether it was using an out-of-the-box purchase for a content filter or testing an open-source alternative, I remember the first thought I always had was, “Is this even going to work?”
I would spend numerous hours going over network configurations to make sure the filter was working in the manner it should. Even if it was working correctly, the students could seemingly always find a way around the web filter.
There was always a new, non-educational website that would come through each day. It seemed like I was blacklisting websites on a regular basis that our filters simply were not catching.
Lastly, teachers always needed a site whitelisted for a project or other education-related function. I always felt like I was constantly opening and closing doors.
A Changing Landscape
As time passed, so did the dynamics of how we were doing things in technology. The once familiar large servers used for e-mail, archival, and other roles began to vanish into the cloud. It was a good transition.
No longer did I have to worry about our own physical issues with downtime and I was able to shift my energy over to other projects.
At the same time, I still had several in-house web filtering appliances throughout our schools that were in need of replacement.
As we had already gone cloud-based with so many other services, it made sense to take our filtering to the cloud as well. This not only was cost-effective, but also ended up saving countless hours in the process.
Filtering has become smarter, easier to manage, and at the same time, a variety of safe search options have also become more prevalent. While the filtering concept hasn’t changed, it is getting more intertwined into the fabric of K-12 IT through cloud-based solutions.
The Road Ahead
As we begin 2016, the future is bright for content filtering. Cloud-based solutions have simplified a once laborious process, all the while helping to maintain CIPA compliance.
For something I used to worry about on a daily basis, filtering is now another established cloud based service that I can fully depend on.
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