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Editor's Blog and Industry Comments

Content Filtering Tools With ROI

01 June, 2010
Bloxx goes beyond web filtering with two new products providing e-mail productivity improvements and intelligent access to YouTube media without comments
Web filtering specialist Bloxx was exhibiting again this year at the Infosecurity Europe event in London in April and I decided to drop by the stand and discuss the latest range of web protection products that have been added since the last time I spoke to them.

Bloxx is an interesting company to follow not only from a technical standpoint but also regarding the way the company operates. It hasn't become bogged down by corporate inertia and it isn't trying to become a provider of panaceas to cure all the ills delivered through the internet. As a result, the company is focussed and its products are good at doing what they're meant to do, preventing access to internet content that you don't want.

Originally delivering a web filter that actually analyses content rather than consulting black lists, the company has now added further sophistication to its portfolio while still basing its logic on its proprietary Tru-View technology.

I spoke to Ruth Broers, Bloxx' Marketing Executive, who explained the company's e-mail filter. "Our new mail filtering product uses TVT to examine content contextually to filter out non-business related deliveries and allow them to arrive at the end of the working day or at set times such as lunch time", she told me.

She went on to say that this product is more of a productivity tool then simply a filter. It goes beyond spam or malicious e-mail detection by categorising e-mail based on content to make sure that important, business related e-mails are delivered when needed without the recipients also being distracted by such things as newsgroup mailings, personal e-mails, newsletters and other wanted but badly timed correspondence. This is not spam and will be delivered at the appropriate time which can be set based on policies or individually by user.

The CEO at Bloxx, Eamonn Doyle pointed out that this is a real productivity benefit that delivers genuine ROI to a company who can justify the purchase of an IT solution based on something other than cost avoidance.

I asked him to what degree of sensitivity the filter can be set and he explained that there are 50 categories on which to filter based on such things as the presence of links, the content or the source of the e-mail plus the Tru-View Technology rules engine so the level of filtering can be quite sophisticated.

The e-mail filter operates at the Gateway which means that it works independently of the e-mail client which is generally good. In addition to this, users of Microsoft Exchange 2010 can run the filter within the e-mail server so that internal e-mails can also be examined for content and similarly categorised.

The other innovative enhancement to Bloxx' web content filtering is the Media Filter which is a great way of enabling the use of YouTube as a business or educational tool without blocking the YouTube site completely. This is particularly important in the education sector where there is valid educational benefit from accessing YouTube content. The problem lies in exposing pupils and students to the vast amounts of inappropriate material hosted on the site. Blocking access to the site takes away the benefits of such media but allowing unrestricted access leads to abuse.

To overcome this conundrum, Bloxx has produced the media filter enabling a library of approved video addresses to be assembled and then accessed. It works by submitting a video URL for approval, reviewing and adding to the library. Once approved, the video can be accessed without restriction. Bloxx achieves this by directing the browser to the YouTube URL and stripping out the video comments and "related video" panels, presenting just the video, headers and, by necessity, any adverts that accompany the video. Multiple libraries can be created depending on user needs.

It was clear to me that this was something of a breakthrough in content approvals and delivery which has gone far beyond the binary URL blacklisting stage and enabling content from a single domain to be selectively white-listed and delivered in a form that is suitable for the browser. "Was this something designed specifically for schools?" I asked Eamonn.

"The education sector is around a quarter of our business so it's very important", he told me. "However, we also have a very large commercial customer base and our products are aimed at a much broader market than schools".

Businesses have already gone beyond the point of Draconian restrictions on the use of the internet and there is increasing internal pressure within commercial enterprises to employ filtering more intelligently to enable the use of social networking and other previously taboo areas of the internet to gain the benefits that they clearly offer. Webinars, YouTube, Blogs and Social Networking are increasingly leaning more towards business tools than entertaining gadgets. Bloxx recognises this and has taken the first steps towards creating filtering tools that provide business benefits.
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