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Web Lec

Web filtering at Technology Institute improves student productivity.

InfoSecurity Europe : 24 January, 2008  (Application Story)
Aiden Gillanders, Systems Administrator at the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology explains the benefits he achieved with web filtering from Bloxx.
Originally founded as a Technical College in 1972, under the Regional Technical Colleges Act 1992, the college gained higher education autonomy and took on the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) title, as well as new non-teaching activities like research and consultancy. GMIT's 9,000 students are spread across its five specialised schools of study in the disciplines of Science, Engineering, Hotel and Catering Studies, Humanities and Business Studies, students are based at one of its five campuses of Castlebar, Cluain Mhuire, Letterfrack, Mountbellew and old Dublin Road, Galway.

"GMIT is a college of many firsts, being the first RTC to receive degree recognition for a course, the first college of our type to inaugurate a joint degree with a university and a pioneer of European Union student exchange," explained GMIT Systems Administrator Aiden Gillanders. "We have also recently been lucky enough to be awarded Institute of Technology of the year 2007 by the Sunday Times."

GMIT requires seven web servers due to its substantial user base of 9,000 students, and 650 staff. Gillanders found it a challenge to monitor the Internet usage of almost 10,000 users to ensure that their daily surfing was within the college's acceptable usage policy.
"We were having a particular issue with the social networking sites, with Bebo becoming hugely popular with the students but causing worrying knock-on effects on the servers and network," explained Gillanders. "Our downloads jumped from 30 GBs to 90 GBs almost overnight due to Bebo, with students beginning to complain that the bandwidth issues was impacting their ability to do their projects and theses."

Previously, Gillanders tried SquidGuard, an open source URL redirector that used limited blacklists to block social networking sites such as Bebo and other, more unsavoury, sites. However, Gillanders found it cumbersome and time consuming to manage so wanted a solution that would take up less of his valuable resource bandwidth.

Due to the problems with Squid, Gillanders looked at what other solutions were available on the market and came across Bloxx web filtering appliances. "As we are an educational institution this meant cost was an understandable consideration, but I also particularly liked the idea of having a reliable appliance-based solution and Bloxx quickly became the obvious choice," he said.

GMIT installed two separate Bloxx web filtering appliances to act as web proxies; one primarily to handle the web traffic on the corporate network and one to handle web traffic across the wireless network, which the college had set up in communal areas.
Bloxx web filtering technology is an easy, drop-in hardware solution which uses internationally patent pending technology to analyse and block web sites quicker and more accurately than other web filters using manual classification and keyword scoring alone. Bloxx helps establishments such as GMIT proactively manage users' access to web content which might lower productivity, expose the organisation to risk and liability or pose a network security threat.

"After implementing Bloxx, the benefits to our network and students have been tangible. Since blocking social networking sites and Bebo, in particular, the advantages have been substantial; students can now get on with their studies without the distractions of these sites and the increase in bandwidth means they can access materials relevant to their studies much more quickly. There are now no technological barriers for students completing their course work," added Gillanders.

Due to the diverse nature of further education, many different types of sites need to be accessed legitimately by users. The flexible group policies within the Bloxx internet filtering solution provides for these diverse requirements. "There is an obvious need to block websites categorised as discrimination, drugs, gambling, illegal, offensive, pornography, proxies, violence and weapons and in general we block these; however, certain teachers and students need to access these types of websites from time to time, so we have set up a variety of grouping policies," explained Gillanders.

Through the solution's thorough and clear reporting, Gillanders can ensure that the group Internet policies are working sufficiently or if they need fine tuning and provides invaluable real time monitoring to see which users are frequently violating policies. "Whilst we don't actively monitor what sites students are accessing, if a potential breach is highlighted to us by another student or member of staff, Bloxx can provide us with concrete proof of which sites that person has been attempting to access," commented Gillanders.

Overall, GMIT has been quick to realise the benefits of implementing Bloxx technology. "Bloxx is a very easy to implement 'out of the box' solution that hides all the usual technicalities normally associated with setting up a web filtering solution. The intuitive and easy to use management interface enabled us to get it up and running in record time," added Gillanders.

"We have a proven track record of providing web filtering for the education sector and fulfill many schools, colleges and universities' web filtering needs," comments Bloxx Sales and Marketing Director, Paul Irvine. "As GMIT has discovered, the value of Internet in education is undeniable. More and more, classes rely on information and courses delivered via the web. Although the Internet is a fantastic educational resource, the potential impact of social networking sites such on Bebo on network performance can be huge. Our solution provides an effective way for education establishments to quickly get the problem under control."

Bloxx is exhibiting at Infosecurity Europe 2008, Europe's number one dedicated Information security event. Now in its 13th year, the show continues to provide an unrivalled education programme, new products & services, over 300 exhibitors and 11,700 visitors from every segment of the industry. Held on the 22nd - 24th April 2008 in the Grand Hall, Olympia, this is a must attend event for all professionals involved in Information Security.

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