One thing I've noticed in my hundreds of (dog) years working with K12 schools is that they all seem to have a bandwidth problem. Even the schools with new technology struggle with this. And it's not just that I “feel” that way … the 2012 FCC report “Measuring Broadband in America” found that 80% of school districts do not have adequate broadband connections to meet their educational and business needs.
Why is that?
The biggest issue that schools face with this is that the nature of educational traffic has changed. Teachers are integrating more online material into the curriculum, and schools are required to deliver assessment tests online. Outside of the classroom, business offices and ancillary departments are dealing with file transfers, data uploads, GPS or mapping downloads, and more. Meanwhile students and the public are generating their own internet traffic through their personal devices. Without proactive bandwidth management or unlimited funds, districts cannot handle the demand for connectivity.
Most schools use web content filtering to provide safe Internet access to their students. Blocking inappropriate content is usually what comes to mind when we talk about web filtering, but web filters can be used to help manage bandwidth as well. The Barracuda Web Filter has a few specific tools that you can use for this purpose.
Let's start with the reporting features. There are dozens of reports available in the Barracuda Web Filter. They allow the admin to examine activity by domain, category, time spent online, and bandwidth consumption. And our reporting engine is native to the appliance, which means that you don't need to add a database or any other software to manage it. This reporting feature is an awesome beast, and we're going to come back to him later.
Next up is the application awareness capability. This is one of our more obvious bandwidth management tools, because this is what allows the admin to regulate activities such as streaming media, Skype, P2P file sharing, messaging, and so on. Policies securely enable application access for those who need it, and block access to those who do not. For example, you may want to allow multimedia sites to be available only to a certain class, career-related websites available only to HR, and Skype access available only to faculty and staff. Layer 7 protocol analysis + LDAP integration allows you to enforce all of this through group policies.
Now comes SSL inspection, which is available on select models of our web filter. Because so many websites and social media platforms are using SSL, admins need a way to examine the SSL traffic coming into the school network. With our SSL inspection capabilities, admins can specify domains and categories for the web filter to examine. The web filter will decrypt and enforce policy compliance on the targeted SSL traffic. Our friend Ben Bartle will be back with more details on how this works.
All of these tools are used to manage who gets access to what content, and that's why they are great tools for optimizing bandwidth as well. By examining reports of Internet usage, you can identify bandwidth consumption that needs to be addressed. Some unknown SSL traffic causing a bottleneck? Take a closer look with SSL Inspection and design a policy to resolve the issue. Network seem really slow in the morning? Check your reporting to see what everyone is doing when they start the day. Maybe you can address it with policies, or maybe you have to address it with the administrators. Either way, your data can do the driving when you have the right report. Awesome Beast is on your team.
And finally, let's not forget that the Barracuda Web Filter has built-in spyware and virus protection, as well as spyware and malware removal capabilities. Your network is protected from malware that sucks the bandwidth (and data) out of your network and into the hands of the bad guys. In the event that malware makes it into the network through USB drives, personal devices, etc., the Barracuda Malware Removal Tool identifies these threats and provides option for their removal.
If you would like to try the Barracuda Web Filter, head on over to this page, where you can a risk-free 30-day demo. Drop it into a test environment and get creative. You can run all kinds of “what if” scenarios. And when you have a question, you can just pick up the phone, reach out to us on social, or consult the 30-day eval guide that was written just for you 😉
For all the particulars on the Barracuda Web Filter, check out these resources:
- Barracuda Web Filter product page
- Barracuda Web Filter Vx product page
- Technical documentation
- Product blogs
- Live demo (user: guest pwd: [blank])
- Risk-free 30-day free demo unit
Christine Barry is Senior Chief Blogger and Social Media Manager at Barracuda. In this role, she helps bring Barracuda stories to life and facilitate communication between the public and Barracuda internal teams. Prior to joining Barracuda, Christine was a field engineer and project manager for K12 and SMB clients for over 15 years. She holds several technology credentials, a Bachelor of Arts, and a Master of Business Administration. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan.