Web filtering and reporting tools for the small business

Surprise! Your router might be your best defense against legal liability and objectionable content

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Current routers offer parental controls
Although smaller environments (like a home or very small home business) may seek software-based solutions, many modern routers come with a new set of parental control tools. These may be more cost-effective than the Web-filtering appliances that some larger enterprises use to monitor their employee activity.

The value of the hardware-based solution is that you can put it right on the edge of your home, home office, or small-business environment. It filters all traffic coming into and out of your environment through your ISP connection. It also solves the problem of the 12-year-old kid or savvy employee who knows how to circumvent the Windows parental control software's protective elements. In addition, it safeguards virtual machines, laptops off the grid, and creative website hops.

If you've ever looked into using your router as an access control or filtering solution, you likely came away with the same I impression as I did -- that the filtering options were much more limited than what parental control software can do. But when I investigated the issue recently, I found that every major home and small-business router vendor (Netgear, Linksys, and D-Link) provide the best of both worlds: a hardware solution with software-class parental control features.

Adding these capabilities hasn't substantially raised the routers' prices. And the feature set is comparable across the board: All offer some form of activity monitoring, a method for remote administration so that you can make adjustments and check logs even when not in the office, email notification, block/allow lists, filtering based on category selections, rule configurations based on individual connectivity (by user or computer), and the ability to protect and control not only connected PCs but also connected mobile devices and gaming consoles like the Wii.

One tool stood out for ease-of-use. The iBoss filter (one I had never heard of) from Phantom Technologies kept coming up in my searches for a quality hardware-based router for the small business. I finally had to try one for myself.

Routers tend to be somewhat complicated for the average person to set up, although they are getting better. Setting up iBoss is as easy as it can possibly get, thanks to big button options with very clear instructions. It was connected and logging activity within five minutes. Ten minutes in, I had enabled filtering and configured my entire network of about a dozen servers and clients to protect them from Internet elements that I consider to be offensive.

Whether you choose a software-based or hardware-based solution, make sure you protect both your family and your business from harmful content and legal liability. The cost of not doing so may be greater than the expense.

This article, "Web filtering and reporting tools for the small business," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of J. Peter Bruzzese's Enterprise Windows blog and follow the latest developments in Windows and information security at InfoWorld.com.

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Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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