How to Pick a Web Filter

Picking a Web filter can be a complex task. If you're not careful, it can be nearly impossible to find one that will do what you need it to do, and not do things you don't want it to. Taking a brief break from the trenches, Brett Littrell, network manager of the Milpitas Unified School District, tells how things went for him: when they worked-and when they didn't.


There is nothing worse than buying into something and then finding out that it is merely a shadow of what it was advertised to be. I was unfortunate enough to find out first-hand that more testing, and a little more research, is definitely better to do first-before basing a purchase decision on a company's good track record with another product.

Being a customer of the Barracuda spam filter, I was very happy and impressed by its cost and functionality. When we had to look at a replacement for our Web filter software, I was inclined toward Barracuda. This was because of the product's price and from my previous good experience with the company. Next, however, is what I learned after purchasing its Web filter software.

If you can get an appliance, then get one. The reason is simple: There are no issues with server memory, hard disk storage, etc. We took this approach as we looked at various Web filter vendors such as Blue Coat, SurfControl, Cisco Systems and a few others. What we found was that most of them cost a whole lot of money. We went with Barracuda due to the affordable cost and the trust we had that it could deliver a quality product similar to its low-priced spam filters.

Filter Interoperability is Important

First thing to look at in a Web filter, appliance or not, is the interoperability of the filter with your own environment. For my school district, we usually use LDAP and Syslog for interoperability. Most of the Web filters we looked at did not have both of these pieces. Most of the reporting done from the other solutions was sent to another server the Web filter company supplied (at a price). Barracuda, however, fit the bill for both of these requirements, so that was another plus for it.