Securly is the product I’ve been looking for for 2 years and it’s set to completely disrupt the education web filtering market.
Originally published in 2015: About 2 years ago we realised we had a problem. We were planning iPad and Chromebook 1:1 roll outs for our students and we had no clue how we were going to monitor the devices. In school filtering was fine, but when the students went home we had no way to meet our safe guarding requirements. School web filtering really only comes in three flavours:
- School hosted managed services — flexible but expensive, and are a nightmare to get working outside of the school.
- Cheap but complicated open source software that was a nightmare to manage.
- ISP level filtering — cost effective but generally not flexible.
We needed our web filtering to be flexible to meet the changing demands of teachers and students, work across multiple sites and from home, and be simple to manage. Surely that’s not asking too much! A collegue and I sat scribbling our ideal web filtering service on a scrap of paper. It was a cloud hosted filtering service which could be accessed by any device with an Internet connection. It would be managed through a web browser, would recognise our students, and be automatically updated, and it didn’t exist!
Then I found Securly
Securly is a cloud based web filtering solution specifically designed for secondary (K12 in the US) schools, and it’s going to revolutionise school web filtering. The service is simple to set up, simple to manage, and it doesn’t care where your devices are located — it just works.
If you’re using other cloud services like Google Apps, Securely fits right in allowing Google authentication so it knows which level of filtering to apply to which user.
Securly answered all of our problems. As school technology becomes more decentralised, and services cross the boundary between school and home, siloing services like web filtering inside the school walls no longer makes sense.
The service can be implemented in one of three ways:
- DNS fowarding.
- A Chrome plugin.
- Proxy mode.
I’ve been trialling Securly for a few weeks and I can honestly say that it’s extremely school focused and the company is very responsive to suggestions. I can now manage and monitor school web filtering from my Chromebook, and make sure my school’s eSafety policies are being met at all times.
Managing Securly is a dream
When you login to Securly you’re immediately presented with a dashboard displaying the latest information from your users. You get a list of recent searches, the top blocked sites, and a list of the top offenders in your school.
Drill down and you can access a data rich audit trail of all of your users activity. You can search the audit logs by keyword, user, site, or category, and see exactly what each user has been accessing.
There are several ways to manage web filtering in Securly. The first is through the pre-defined filtering categories, the second is through manual black and white listed sites, and the third is through automated keyword scanning. You can also enforce Google, Bing, and Yahoo safe search, YouTube Safety Mode, and YouTube EDU with just the click of a button.
Different filtering policies can be set depending on the Google Apps OU that the use is in, and you can also define a separate policy to apply when the user is at home. For example, in school you might want to block Facebook, but at home Facebook is something you might want to allow.
Filtering policies can be set based on Google Apps OUs, so each user always gets the right access.
You can also set options like banning users who continually get blocked for a period of time, and black or whitelist sites globally.
Setting up Securly
I was amazed how simply it was to set up Securly. If you’re using Chromebooks it’s simply a case of pushing out the Securly Chrome plugin to your devices, and that’s it, all of your uses are now filtered by Securly. If you’re looking to use Securly with desktops a simple change to your internal DNS forwarders makes Securly work in seconds.
We did have few issues getting Securly to work through our Borough’s upstream proxy server (Securly recommends you don’t go through a proxy), but with a few nudges to our Borough admins we got it working.
But the most exciting thing about Securly is its potential. This isn’t a box which sits in your server room and you update once a year with new features. Securly is in constant development by a team of industry professionals.
You can generate a personal quote from the Securly website, but we found Securly to be significantly cheaper than competing self-hosted solutions like Bloxx and Smoothwall. There’s also a free version set to be released in the next few weeks which is perfect for primary or smaller schools.
There are some features that an internally hosted proxy and filtering solution provide that Securly does not, but that’s reflected in the cost. Securly is strongly focused on school web filtering and data analysis. They gather the web data from your users and present it in a useful way.
Unlike most filtering services, I would be very happy to give my teachers access to Securly to allow them to monitor their class’s web access. In the same way that Google Apps distributes control to file storage across your organisation, Securly gives more people access to more information about how your students are using the Internet.
If you’re looking for a robust and innovative school web filtering solution that will continue to evolve, is simple to set up, and lets you break down the walls of your school, try Securly. You can sign up for a free trial now.