No, I am not talking about Ann and Nancy Wilson (just flushed out the over 40’s in the crowd). Nor the nasty fish which, if cooked right, is really not too bad. I am talking about the Barracuda webfilter.
We have one of these at work and I refer to it as “the nasty playground lady”. Every piece of internet traffic, email, etc. goes through here first. It keeps our kids safe. It cuts down spam. It is a wonderful thing. It watches everything. Most things it settles right there. If it needs to, it’ll rat you out.
The other thing I really like is when you call support, you leave a message and they call you back from….drum roll….California! I don’t mean to be hyper critical, but I have NEVER had a positive experience when dealing with support from overseas. The best I have ever had was “acceptable”. It invariable takes too long, is too patronizing and just a general waste of my time. Now, if I am looking at two competitive products, if one is 20% more, but support is USA, I will think hard about it. Just buying my time back.
Just the threat of it stops the “creative types” in our youth group from experimenting. The youth director informs them that “If they go anywhere they aren’t supposed to, Barracuda will stop them and the Business Office will know where they went, what time they went there, and from what computer.”
We have had it for a year and have had only one instance where bad stuff got through. A teacher was researching a local community college website that had been hijacked. As a result of the reports, we could verify that that was what she was doing. Not that we had any doubts at all. But it was nice to be able to tell here that we could prove to her that we had no doubts that she was a victim. After that incident, a new “rule” in the filter was set up, and that prevents the same thing from happening.
I really love this thing because it is easy to manage. Granted the report log is a little detailed because not only does it give you every page that is visited by everyone, but it gives you every add, hyperlink, image, etc. on every page. Reports are fairly cutomizable. If I had a complaint it would be the length of time it takes to filter reports. Say you have the log of EVERYTHING. But you just want “Blocked sites”. Well, it takes a bit to filter those out and return the results to you. (I know, take my meds and lay off the Monster drinks and it won’t seem so long).
With our new school building opening and a whole slew of new teachers, we are naturally assigning each their own user name and password to override. This will allow them to go to an uncategorized site. Many sites are too new to be categorized as “education” “entertainment” etc. That is how the bad one got through. Also, some of the educational sites the teachers use are classified as “games” by Barracuda. These password accesses allow the teachers to go where they need to, but if they walk away from their computer and it sits idle for just a few minutes, it automatically logs them out. That way if they forget to log out, and little Jimmy happens by, he can’t be a victim of his own curious mind on our property. We take this stuff seriously.
There is a lot of good stuff out there. There is a lot of bad stuff out there. When it comes to the employees, we trust them and have no reason not to. If we couldn’t trust them with this, we would have much bigger issues. But having a secure filter is like having multiple people in the room when counting the Sunday offering. Doesn’t mean you don’t trust Ed who has been the head usher for 20 years. You want to protect him and you want him to know you are protecting him from false accusation.
And when it comes to the kids, there is no substitute for the “Nasty Playground Lady”.