Cloud Web Filtering Software

Cyberattacks on businesses are becoming much more sophisticated. Defending against these attacks requires a defense-in-depth approach using multiple layers of protection. One of those layers can be provided by cloud web filtering software.

Why Businesses Need Cloud Web Filtering Software

Cybersecurity solutions used by businesses to block phishing and malware threats include firewalls, email security solutions, and anti-virus and endpoint detection solutions, but many businesses fail to implement cloud web filtering software, even though these solutions are low cost and add an important extra layer of protection against web-borne threats.

Secure email gateways and spam filters protect against phishing by blocking malicious emails, and while they perform a good job, they will not block every malicious email. Once a malicious email has been delivered, the user is free to click the link and will then be directed to a malicious site where credentials are harvested or malware is downloaded. Few email security solutions provide time-of-click protection against malicious links in emails, which is why cloud web filtering software is needed.

Cybersecurity solutions offer no protection against malicious websites that are encountered through general web browsing. Cybercriminals use SEO poisoning to get malicious websites appearing high in the SERPs for key business search terms and use malicious adverts on legitimate websites and social media networks to direct web users to their malicious web content. If a web filter is not used, there will be no protection against visits to these malicious websites.

These cloud based software solutions are used to protect against web-based attacks by blocking access to malicious content when a user clicks a link, or an attempt is made to send the user to a malicious website. Cloud web filter software, which is often DNS-based, will prevent the visit to the malicious site without loading any content. Instead of being directed to the site, the user will be directed to a local URL that states why the attempt to visit the URL has been blocked.

The software can also be used to control the content that users can access, which allows businesses to block access to risky categories of websites to further improve protection against web-based threats, and also to prevent employees from accessing illegal content or web content that serves no work purpose. By controlling access to certain websites, productivity can be improved, and businesses can conserve bandwidth.

Advantages of Cloud Based Web Filtering Software

Traditionally, web filtering was achieved using an on-premises appliance or a software solution installed on existing hardware as a virtual appliance. Cloud based web filtering software is provided under the software-as-a-s-service (SaaS) model by a cloud service provider. The software is hosted on the service provider’s server, so there is no need for any software installations or costly hardware purchases. Typically, these are DNS-based solutions, so to get started, all that is required is to point your DNS to the service provider – a simple process that will take just a couple of minutes. The solution is then accessed through a web-based interface, which is used to apply content control settings. Almost instantly, businesses will be protected against online threats and can carefully control what users can do when connected to the network. These cloud-based solutions are often provided with an “on-the-go” agent that can be used on laptops and other devices to protect users that are working remotely.

The main advantages of cloud web filtering over appliances and on-premises software are ease of use and cost. With set up and configuration easy, all businesses can protect against web-based threats, even if they lack skilled in-house IT staff. Wi-Fi hotspot operators and businesses that provide Wi-Fi to their customers can easily exercise control over the content that can be accessed when connected to the network through these easily implemented solutions.

One major advantage of cloud web filtering software is you only pay for the capacity you need. With appliances, you will be paying for additional capacity, and if your requirements change you will need to purchase further appliances. Filtering in the cloud is much more flexible, and benefits from the scalability of the cloud. You can increase or decrease the number of users to right-size the service to the exact needs of the business.

The cost of cloud web filtering software is lower than other content filtering solutions since no hardware has to be purchased and maintained. The software solution is maintained by the service provider, who will also handle all software updates and patching. The cost of the hardware maintenance and updates is spread across all users of the solution, so the costs are much lower.

The cost of a cloud web filter will naturally vary from service provider to service provider, but as a general rule of thumb, you can expect to pay no more than $20 per user, per year. Some solutions are available that provide excellent protection and have highly granular filtering controls that are available for less, with some companies offering monthly billing to make their cloud web filtering software even more affordable.

Things to Consider When Choosing Cloud Web Filtering Software

The cost will no doubt be a key factor when choosing cloud web filtering software, so do some research as there is considerable price variation between SaaS companies. You should also consider ease of setup and maintenance, as some SaaS solutions can be complicated to implement and time-consuming to manage. You should look for a software solution that has granular controls and allows precision filtering based on category, the presence of keywords, and supports the use of blacklists. Most businesses will need to apply different filtering controls for different locations, departments, and user groups, so having a solution that integrates with your directory service (AD or LDAP) will make applying those controls more straightforward.

Implementing controls over the web content that can be accessed by employees can result in productivity gains, but if you want more flexibility, choose a solution that allows time-based controls to be set, so you can relax the content restrictions outside office hours and during lunch breaks if you so wish.

Many SaaS providers offer free trials of their solutions, so do take advantage of these trials to test how easy the solutions are to use and see how well they perform. Also, be sure to check independent business software review sites to get feedback from businesses that already use the solutions to help with the purchasing decision. G2, Capterra, Spiceworks, Gartner, PeerSpot, and Expert Insights have valuable information on the best cloud web filtering software for businesses, and these sites can save you considerable time in your search and will help you find the right solution that meets the needs of your business.