Hybrid Web Filtering For Schools: The Best in Cloud & On-Premise Security Together

While the debate of the pros and cons of an appliance-based web filtering deployment pitted against a cloud filtering environment is inevitable, there is another model that can offer the best of both worlds.

A hybrid solution features elements of both on-premise and cloud, leveraging the benefits of both. A hybrid deployment usually retains a less powerful hardware appliance on-site and is combined with client deployment for a portion of student devices.

These deployments may start as heavily skewed towards the existing on-premise solution where an organization is migrating to a more balanced hybrid setup. On-premise systems are generally considered a capital expense whereas cloud-based systems are typically considered an operating expense.

What is a hybrid web filtering solution?

A hybrid web filtering solution (or hybrid content filtering solution) is a type of model or configuration for how a web filter is deployed to users in the network. The model combines the benefits of a cloud filter and an on-premise physical filtering appliance. Having both types of configurations allows for easier management as both the on-premise and cloud solutions are united through a central interface where policy sets can be customized and pushed out throughout the network.

A hybrid web filtering deployment model makes use of both the central deployment and the cloud deployment, allowing the customer to leverage the benefits of both to support BYOD environments, school-owned devices, and iOS devices.

The hybrid model also allows for 360-degree granular reporting, on a per-user basis, regardless of the filtering deployment utilized by the filtered user. This allows the customer to leverage all the benefits of the central filter deployment model for unmanaged devices and the client deployment for compatible managed devices. The on-premise appliance reports will be held centrally on the reporting server which customized to the school district’s requirements and can be backed up by the cloud reporting solution.

In this model, school districts can use an appliance for their BYOD network and for application control while Cloud filtering would handle the rest.

With the Smoothwall Cloud deployment, delivered as a client, there is no requirement to utilize man-in-the-middle (MITM) decryption and inspection, offering ease of deployment – there is no need to create exceptions. The client will then manage authentication and ensure all users are always authenticated, with no exceptions, offering peace of mind that all activity will be associated with a named student or staff member.

The Cloud client also has the advantage that students will be filtered, regardless of their location, without needing to trombone back into the Smoothwall cluster. The appliance will then be utilized for BYOD/iOS/IoT traffic plus any devices where the client is not deployed.

How can a hybrid deployment work for school districts?

A hybrid solution can be the best solution for some schools or districts that may be concerned about any of the following:

Load distribution – As internet traffic increases, the need for powerful filter hardware can also rise. With bandwidth costs decreasing, it can be expensive to keep up. Cloud filtering can alleviate the bottleneck at the gateway edge and extend the capability of more modest hardware.

Authentication – By introducing the cloud solution for some devices, the need for additional authentication methods can be removed, improving the accuracy of filtering and logging, and ultimately improving digital safety outcomes.

Managed devices off-site – There is a growing need for schools and districts to filter managed, school-owned devices off-site. If that applies to your school, and you wish to still retain your on-premise filtering policies, a hybrid solution will allow you to add a cloud solution to all devices that go off-site and may be an ideal option.

Flexibility – A hybrid solution can provide your school or district with the flexibility to match changing needs. For example, you may wish to choose how to distribute bandwidth depending on available resources. Likewise, you may be a school planning to roll out programs such as a 1:1 initiative, which will involve adding more devices over time. A hybrid model can be ideal for meeting flexible and changing requirements.

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) – Some schools and districts require the benefits of the cloud but also want the most effective filtering for BYOD. Hybrid allows you to achieve both.

How hybrid web filter can help your school district

Smoothwall’s hybrid web filtering solution adds the flexibility of the cloud to the power of our unique content-aware dynamic analysis. Our hybrid web filter provides more than just a URL filter to provide the maximum protection for users onsite or offsite, on any device. Along with our customized granular reporting, Smoothwall gives schools the tools to detect risks to users such as cyberbullying, self-harm, and violence by analyzing the content and context of online activity.

With fully CIPA-compliant filtering, Smoothwall’s hybrid web filter provides your school district with maximum protection. If you would like to learn how Smoothwall can help your school district, contact us to schedule a demo – we’d be happy to help.

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