Cloud web filtering software is used to sanitize the Internet by removing phishing and malware threats and preventing access to illegal and unsavory web content. Businesses that offer free Internet access to their customers through a Wi-Fi access point, can use the software to control access to the Internet and prevent customers from visiting web pages that host unsavory web content such as pornography, thus providing family-friendly web access. Schools and libraries can use a cloud web filtering solution to achieve compliance with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), which requires restrictions to be implemented to block access to web content that could be harmful to minors.
Most businesses can benefit from restricting the web content their employees can access. It is possible to make significant productivity gains by preventing access to content that serves no work purpose or restricting access to those sites during business hours by using time-based controls. Time-based controls can also be applied to conserve bandwidth, such as preventing access to video streaming websites during busy times.
Using Cloud Web Filtering Software to Block Web-Based Cyberattacks
These benefits are all important, but perhaps the most pressing reason for using cloud web filtering software is for cybersecurity. Phishing attacks on businesses have been increasing, with these attacks often conducted via email. A link to a malicious website is provided in the email, and social engineering techniques are used to convince the user to visit the linked website. Those websites host malware or phishing kits that steal credentials.
Spam filters provide some protection against phishing attacks, but malicious links can be difficult to identify, and cybercriminals are constantly developing new methods of bypassing spam filters. Having an extra layer of security provided by cloud web filtering software will help to block sophisticated attacks that bypass the spam filter. Cloud web filtering software provides time-of-click protection against malicious links in emails and will block access to known malicious websites and can analyze web content in real-time and will refuse to connect if malicious content is found.
A cloud based web filter will also prevent users from visiting malicious websites from general web browsing, and from being directed to malicious websites by malicious adverts. As an additional layer of protection, the filter can be configured to block certain file downloads from the Internet, such as executable files and office documents and spreadsheets that contain macros. This control is also useful for curbing the use of shadow IT – unauthorized applications and programs downloaded from the Internet without the knowledge of the IT department.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Cloud Web Filtering Software
Filtering the Internet is important for compliance, cybersecurity, and for making productivity gains, but there are options for businesses. A web filtering appliance or virtual appliance can be used to achieve the same purpose, although filtering the Internet in the cloud does have several important advantages.
Cost of Cloud Web Filtering
On-premises web filtering solutions need to be purchased, which involves a significant initial outlay of capital and infrastructure needs to be in place to support the solution, with appropriate redundancy built in to ensure availability. The hardware needs to be set up and maintained, which will involve further hardware purchases over time. On-premise solutions need to be maintained, which means skilled staff members are required. If a software solution is used, then it must run on hardware, will need to be installed, and licenses must be bought. Regardless, there will be a significant capital expense. Those costs are avoided with cloud based web filtering solutions which are paid for monthly or with an annual subscription, with no hidden costs or emergency hardware purchases. Web filtering becomes an operational cost that is easier to budget for.
One of the biggest advantages of cloud computing is scalability. No matter how much extra capacity is required, it is provided on demand. The same is true if a business needs to downsize. Capacity can be right-sized on demand. Increasing capacity with on-premises solutions requires the purchase of additional appliances, and software licensing is typically purchased up front, with no reductions in costs provided until the end of the contracted term.
In the event of a hardware failure, such as the failure of a web filtering appliance, all filtering will stop. While it will be possible to maintain Internet access, malicious content will no longer be blocked. Cloud service providers build redundant systems, so in the event of a server outage or other failure, the service will be maintained. It is not cost-effective for businesses to build that redundancy into on-premises web filtering solutions.
With cloud web filtering, the hardware and software are maintained by the service provider and the cost is spread across many thousands of customers. There are no upgrades required and the software does not need to be updated, so there will be no patching burden. Everything is handled by the service provider apart from configuring the solution. That provides a considerable cost saving and allows businesses to focus their resources on more strategic projects, such as proactively managing the filter to block more threats or dealing with other aspects of cybersecurity.
Disadvantages of Cloud Web Filtering
There are disadvantages to using a cloud-based service and wile they are limited, they do need to be considered. Businesses operating in highly regulated industries should be aware that Internet traffic is fed through the service provider’s servers, and that may have compliance implications. In healthcare in the United States for instance, compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is mandatory. The service provider could be classed as a business associate if electronic protected health information is accessed via the Internet. Using cloud-based services may also be an issue if the service provider’s servers are not located in the same country as the user. As stated, uptime is better in the cloud, but cloud service providers may be subject to DDoS attacks, although they typically have the redundancy and solutions in place to limit the effects.
WebTitan Cloud from TitanHQ
Cloud based web filtering is provided to SMBs, enterprises, and managed service providers through WebTitan Cloud, which can protect users from web based threats and control access to Internet content whether they are on or off the network. Off-network users simply have a WebTitan on-the-go client installed on their devices which filters the Internet wherever it is accessed. Wi-Fi hotspot operators can apply filtering controls for their hotspots using WebTitan Cloud for Wi-Fi. Set up is quick and easy, requiring customers to simply change their DNS server to point to WebTitan Cloud. For businesses that prefer to manage their web filtering in-house rather than use a cloud web filtering solution, TitanHQ provides an on-premises solution called WebTitan Gateway, which is installed on existing hardware as a virtual appliance.
If you have yet to start filtering the Internet, or if you are unhappy with your current provider or want to reduce the cost of web filtering, give the TitanHQ team a call. Our helpful support staff will help you choose the best solution and get up and running. You are invited to take advantage of the free trial to see for yourself how easy the solution is to implement and use, and how effective it is at blocking threats and controlling access to the Internet.