16 Questions to Ask Before You Buy a Web Filter

Thinking about purchasing or renewing a web filter? Before you do, make sure you get the answers to these top questions.

1. Does it filter all devices? How does it filter iPads?
Your network has a mix of devices and you need a filter that can handle them all. Otherwise, you’re adding complexity to your daily routine instead of simplifying it.

Relay is a genuinely multi-OS cloud filter with patent-pending Smart Agents for Chrome, Windows, Mac, and iOS — and with solutions for every device on your network.

2. How does it filter BYOD devices that can’t have anything installed?
Even if your district doesn’t have an official BYOD program, you constantly have BYO and guest devices joining your network.

Relay includes a BYOD Filter that ensures CIPA compliance across your guest and student-owned devices, without requiring you to install anything on them.

3. How does it handle unknown/uncategorized websites?
Millions of sites are added to the internet every day — and most of them are inappropriate for schools. Any filter that doesn’t allow you to block unknown/uncategorized sites exposes your students to adult content, security risks, and more. AI, real-time page-scanning of these sites to block or allow them simply isn’t enough because it adds a delay (during which bad content is often available). Also, AI isn’t yet capable of accurately processing many images, videos, and foreign languages.

Relay has the most comprehensive database — and it has an option to block unknown/uncategorized sites and videos. Because of the size of our database, we are the only company that can do this without overblocking educational content. And unknown sites don’t stay unknown for long: We process more than 2 million sites each day. Other K-12 filters process only 2,000 sites each day!

4. Does it include a parent solution?
Even if it isn’t today, the day will come when you need or want to share web activity information with at least some parents. You need an easy way to do that.

Relay includes a Parent Report Generator, which automates sending weekly web activity digests to the parents you designate through a simple import from your SIS. There are no portals or websites where parents must log in — just high-level, useful data on their children’s device use, delivered right to their inboxes.

5. How does it decrypt SSL traffic?
You need to see search terms. You need to know which videos students watch. These require SSL decryption. This has been a huge hassle for schools, requiring banks of trusted man-in-the-middle proxy servers, PAC files, and trust certificates — until now.

Relay Smart Agents have a self-contained proxy engine; you don’t need to set up or manage anything, and you get the decryption you need for policies and reporting across OSes. No other filter does this.

Relay customer Rob McCartney of Sioux Central CSD said, “The way Lightspeed is going to handle SSL decryption — no one else in the market is doing it. Why not take advantage of APIs when you can? When SSL decryption changes, I will already be ahead of the game.”

6. How does it categorize gaming sites?
Next to adult content, gaming sites can cause the most trouble for schools because they can create big distractions — but educational games are often key parts of curriculum.

Again, Relay’s database is key here. We have millions of gaming sites split into multiple categories, including educational games and mature games. It’s easy to block what you want and allow the games students and teachers need.

7. How does it handle YouTube?
Here are some common answers to this question:
“Our filter allows you to enable YouTube Restricted Mode.”
“Our filter lets you allow and block videos by YouTube category or age.”

These methods are inaccurate and lead to students accessing inappropriate content. Also, these methods don’t easily allow teacher- or school-generated educational channels.

Relay’s Smart Play feature solves YouTube once and for all. Because categorizations from YouTube and video uploaders themselves are wildly inaccurate, we’ve categorized videos ourselves. With a simple click, you can allow more than 40 million educational videos; block sidebars and comments; add teacher channels; and ensure a safe experience on YouTube.com — and Youtube videos embedded on other sites.

8. How does it protect students from violence and self-harm?
Web filters need to do more than block inappropriate content; they also need to keep students safe. A good filter provides analysis of online content (not just URLs) and real-time notifications.

Relay includes Threat Check, the first solution to use web activity information to identify and proactively address threats before they happen. It flags suspicious activity on online documents, emails, and social media; it also provides analysis of visited sites, blocked sites, searches, and more. Threat Check’s advanced AI gives you reporting as well as real-time alerts.

9. How does it handle social media?
“Just block it” doesn’t work for a lot of schools, which are incorporating social media into their own communication strategies as well as curriculum.

Relay’s Social Media Controls feature lets you block and allow top social media sites in a click – and easily set different policies for teachers or students; elementary or high school students; school hours and non-school hours. You can even set social media sites to read-only, so students can view, research, and learn — but not post.

10. What does reporting look like?
Once your policies are set, you’ll spend most of your time in the filter in reports. You need to be able to get the information and answers you need out of them, so take a close look at the reporting engine.

Relay’s advanced reporting goes from high-level dashboards to drill-downs on sites, users, individual pages, domains, and more. If you have a question, Relay reporting can help you answer it. Plus reports are easy to share.

11. How does it filter off-site?
Most schools have at least some devices going home with students, increasing equity and advancing 24/7 learning. You need a filter that can easily filter any device, no matter where it is.

Relay’s Smart Agents ensure 24/7 safety. They’re installed on the device, they can’t be removed, and they make filtering seamless as devices move from network to network. You can also easily adjust policies for after school, opening up additional access.

12. What directories do you integrate with?
A solution based on a single directory source isn’t going to work for every school. And you don’t have time for manually adjusting users and groups in your filter.

Relay integrates with G Suite, Google Classroom, Active Directory, O365, and your SIS so user and group management is automated, up-to-date, and seamless.

13. How much can I personalize it?
Filtering isn’t one-size-fits-all. Schools have different needs – just as groups and users within each school have different needs.

We’ve built best practices, based on our 20 years of experience filtering schools, into Relay’s default policies. However Relay also makes it easy to differentiate policies with custom allow and block lists; custom categories; and customizable policies by user, group and school.

14. What classroom solutions are included?
There are a few likely answers here:
“We don’t have a classroom solution.”
“We’re working on a classroom solution.”
“We have a classroom solution available for an additional cost.”

Relay includes Classroom at no additional charge. Classroom’s revolutionary AI saves teachers time, keeps students on task, and ensures devices are well-used and easily managed across your schools.

15. How many URLs are in its content database?
An incomplete filter database means you have to do more work and your users are exposed to greater risk. Inappropriate content can get through, educational content can get blocked, and you’ll be left to manually categorize everything the database’s engine missed.

Relay’s Adaptive AI Database includes more than 65 million websites and IPs. It leverages AI, machine learning, and the infinite cloud for the most accurate and comprehensive categorization of the Web. This means you save time not having to recategorize URLs and you can count on students staying safe without over-blocking.

16. Does it have geolocation?
You need a way to find lost and stolen devices to keep your device initiative’s ROI high. If the filter you choose doesn’t include precise geolocation tools, you’re going to start losing money the minute a student misplaces a device.

With Device Detective in Relay, you can track down lost and stolen devices with smart geolocation tools to keep your ROI high. It’s easy to tag your devices and locate them by IP address. We also provide a clearable lost-device list so you can keep an eye on missing inventory.

Ready to check out Relay? Fill out this form for a demo and quote now!

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