Internet filter offers security, flexibility for CA schools

California’s Lassen County Office of Education (LCOE) is located about 220 miles north of Sacramento and covers 4,557 square miles. Its mission is to promote the educational development of its 4000 students by providing essential resources, services, support and leadership to the 12 public schools and districts in Lassen County.

To that end, the Office of Education is halfway into its five-year technology plan, which acts as a guide for schools setting policies and practices for integrating technology to improve student learning, provide technology access and support, enable communications between home, school and the community and facilitate professional development.

An important element of the LCOE mission is to ensure the safety of students while accessing online material --, shielding them from inappropriate sites while on campus but still providing Internet use to its full education potential. But how could LCOE implement a standard web filtering system that would be flexible enough for the disparate policies set by each school district? So called “blanket” filtering doesn’t work well when staff has different needs for Internet access -- but the individual management of such differences was far too costly for the small local agency.

“Our big issue is that each site has its own firewall limiting the ability to provide flexible filtering policies for specific teachers, programs and students,” said Robert Talley, Technology Coordinator for the Lassen County Office of Education."We needed to incorporate Internet filtering solutions at each site and have the ability to manage them centrally."

During LCOE's search for cost- effective solutions, it discovered Phantom Technologies, a global provider of Internet content filtering and security solutions, including the iBoss.“After reviewing most major solutions, we chose the iBoss with the clustering feature," said Talley."This allows all sites to be managed through one appliance and consolidated reports from all sites into one centrally managed appliance.”

The system reports violations, traffic usage, network activity and bandwidth consumption in a format that allows administrators to view action and infringements from entire groups to individual users. Usage reports outline all port, application, and category IP accesses to and from the network. Additionally, the iBoss platform can generate and email graphs to show activities based on time, allowing the Office of Education’s technology staff to adjust network layouts, customize filtering and identify risks before they become a problem.

“We can extract most needed information right after an occurrence and, in doing so, significantly reduce our liability concerns,” said Talley. “As important as it is to have a robust Web filtering solution, it’s equally vital to monitor and manage the system."