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The Facts About Web Filtering at Schools

Technology has transformed education. Students have access to an endless supply of information, and teachers can leverage online tools to enhance lessons in every subject. However, there are drawbacks to allowing students unlimited use of the web through school-supplied desktops, laptops, and mobile devices.

Here are some facts that you need to keep in mind in order to make smart decisions about web filtering at school.

Web filtering at schools… and the law

When internet access started to become mainstream, schools were excited to have new research options to offer their students. Unfortunately, parents and teachers soon noticed a significant problem:

Unrestricted web-based technology made it possible for children to be exposed to obscene and dangerous content. Many cybercriminals took to opportunity to start collecting confidential data on school-based internet users. In addition, some of the more technologically-savvy students leveraged their school-based web access to partake in illegal hacking.

Congress developed a comprehensive response to these concerns by passing the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) in 2000. This law created requirements for web filtering at schools in exchange for participation in the E-rate program. The E-rate program gives educational institutions discounts on web-based technology.

CIPA requirements

If you choose to move forward with web filtering at schools, there are minimum standards you must meet to comply with CIPA. The most critical are as follows:

  • You must provide notice and hold at least one public hearing to discuss implementation of web filtering at schools.
  • You must also create an internet safety policy that covers monitoring the online activity of minors, access to inappropriate websites, safe use of email and other forms of electronic communication, illegal activity, and unauthorized collection and use of students’ personal information.
  • Additionally, you must offer education for students regarding appropriate online behavior and online safety.
  • You must choose software that can block access to obscene images, child pornography, and anything else considered harmful to minors.

It’s important to note that adult staff members are permitted to override web filtering at schools. Sometimes, they’ll need to so that they can conduct legitimate research or complete other appropriate activities.

Choosing software for web filtering at schools

A variety of technology vendors design and implement software for web filtering at schools. As a result, the specific results of a filter can vary. The biggest drawback? Web filters can sometimes block legitimate sources of information, causing problems down the line. For example, students may wish to research breast cancer, but they are unable to access the resources they need because the filter blocks all mentions of the word “breast”.

When choosing a provider and specific software for web filtering at schools, convenience and reliability are paramount. Administrators must install, configure, and maintain the software with ease. Additionally, they should have the ability to easily adjust the configurations as needed.

Most web filtering at schools functions through a combination of category and keyword filters. Ideally, you will be able to fine-tune these as necessary. Naturally, you’ll base this on your audience and the needs of your student population. Consider software that offers multiple access levels, so that teachers can conduct appropriate research without going through a lot of digital red tape.

Finding a school security partner

We’re experienced in scholastic IT solutions that take the burden of selecting, installing, and maintaining web filters out of your hands. Our experts specialize in full-service IT support, so that you can focus on your primary role as an educator.

Want to learn more? Reach out to us – we’re happy to answer your questions.

How to Manage Your Business Technology

Modern organizations have a lot to worry about. Of course, there are the day-to-day aspects of actually running their operations. But there’s also a dreaded tool that needs constant maintenance and performance tweaking.

We’re talking, of course, about technology.

Here’s the ultimate truth about technology and business: it’s a broad topic.

Really broad.

That’s why we’re breaking it down into sections. We want to make it easier to decide where to start and how to manage the technology for your specific business.

In the end, you should have a solid understanding of the building blocks of technology management. Ready to go? Start right here.

Sections Covered:

Save Time with IT Outsourcing

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’ve already got an IT infrastructure in place. You might even have some in-house IT staff, or a go-to “IT guy” that you turn to when things go wrong.

In theory, a few IT guys should do the trick, depending on the size of your organization. They can handle daily issues, like email sync issues or rattling fans. But this type of support isn’t proactive at all – in fact, it’s just a reactive response to issues that are likely to keep happening.

There are many business benefits to outsourcing your IT support, including a more strategic approach to handling the technology of your business. Outsourcing your IT support also allows you to tackle projects and infrastructure modernization strategies.

But how can businesses save time with their IT management?

In short, working with a team of pros allows you to implement better technologies while minimizing overall risk. The outsourced team handles the issues for you, freeing up resources that you can allocate to other areas of your business.

There’s something else to keep in mind – outsourcing your IT support doesn’t mean you can’t keep existing IT staff. If you strategically divide and conquer your IT challenges, you can improve your overall technology posture and get on track to better technology management.

When Do I Need an MSP?

A managed service provider (MSP) is an expert in all things technology. They’re the guys that you turn to for outsourced IT services. But how do you know when it’s time to talk to them?

Start by asking yourself some of these core questions.

  • What are my business goals? — Remember, you’re not using technology for the sake of using technology. If you buy a new server or get a new application, you’re doing it to improve the way your business operates. Start by solidifying your end goals before you contact an MSP.
  • What challenges do I face today? — You don’t have to note every problem that you’re experiencing. However, it’s important to give them an idea of the challenges you face. Maybe your computers are running really slow. Perhaps you’re facing a slew of common PC issues. You could even be facing bigger infrastructure challenges. Ultimately, it’s the job of the MSP to consult with you and nail these issues down.
  • How much can I spend on an IT budget? — This is a tricky one. It’s hard to nail down exactly how much your IT budget should be if you don’t know the technology you need. But if you can ballpark your IT budget, you can work with an MSP to choose a service level package that works to fit your needs.

These 3 questions should help you narrow down when you need an MSP and how soon you’ll need their help. With an MSP on your side, you get guidance from IT experts without breaking the bank.

In other words, it will become much easier to manage your business technology.

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Related: The Time to Switch IT Providers Is Now

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Handling Internal Security Risks

Modern businesses can’t even start to think about managing technology without considering security. There are two types of security risks:

  1. Internal security, which refers to potential risks that happen within the network. That can include malicious users, lost IT devices, social engineering, incorrect permissions, and more.
  2. External security, which is probably what you usually think of in terms of security – hackers, viruses, ransomware, and more.

Internal security risks pose a serious threat to organizations. After all, how can you manage your business and its data if you have to worry about threats coming from inside the network?

The answer is to take a proactive stance to security.

Start by enacting policies to keep your IT devices safe. With a robust security policy in place, you can decrease the chances of data breaches and security violations happening in the first place.

You must also actively work to keep your staff up-to-date on the latest security threats. Be sure to pass along information on how to avoid the top internal security threats. You can also conduct regular tests and audits to make sure that your staff is following security best practices.

Without security protocols, you can face fines, downtime, lost business, a damaged reputation, and more. That’s why keeping security in mind is an essential part of managing your business technology.

Protection Against External Security Risks

External security threats are a great cause for concern for businesses of all sizes. 60% of small companies actually go out of business within six months of a cyberattack.

In other words, they can be devastating. You need to avoid them at all costs.

Managing your business technology means understanding your goals and which of your technology tools will help you achieve them. But in the end, it’s all just a frail house of cards without adequate protection from external threats.

A solid security strategy begins with information – it’s vital to first understand what the threats are and how to stop the threats from attacking your business in the first place.

Protection against these external threats includes a healthy mix of proactive preparation and technology, such as antivirus programs, firewalls, and web filters. Much like internal security risks, it’s still critical to understand how to avoid the top external security threats.

Building an IT Budget

As mentioned previously, it’s really important to set realistic expectations on how you budget for IT expenses. Most companies enjoy slashing the IT budget because of a flawed logic:

Everything works! Why am I even wasting all this money on IT services?”

Or

Nothing works! Why am I even wasting all this money on IT services?”

These concerns stem from both overspending and underspending.

The truth is that IT budgets need to be built around current and future needs and strategy, rather than immediate wants and problem patch-jobs.

Building an efficient IT budget requires you to understand the current state of your IT infrastructure and where you’d like it to be. Of course, along the way you’ll want to focus on ways to reduce your overall IT spending.

In other words, there are things that you should be investing a lot in, and things that you can afford to cut back on. Mastering the IT budget is a critical step in mastering the management of your business technology.

You can always turn to a pro MSP at any point to get expert consultation on the matter.

Industry-specific IT Solutions

Managing technology is a challenge shared by organizations through all verticals, but each industry faces unique challenges. Therefore, it’s important to understand that different IT solutions exist for different verticals – you don’t have to try and shoehorn them in to address your needs.

Here’s an example.

Let’s say you run a private school. You’re in dire need of a laptop to deploy to each student. You’re looking for the best laptop for students.

Is it safe to assume that any laptop will do? Not necessarily.

There are technology partners and IT solutions that fit your specific needs. You may find laptops that come pre-equipped with scholastic tools that can save you money in the long run. But without consulting for industry-specific tools, you wouldn’t ever know about those options.

It’s not just limited to hardware, either. There are services and solution packages specifically designed to speak to your industry. You might find helpful resources on managing industry-specific IT or even helpful tips on how to filter content.

Talk to an MSP to see how they can help you explore and choose the right solutions for your organization. With the right tools at your disposal, you can manage your business technology far more easily and effectively.

Managing Your Business Technology with EaseTech

We’re here to help you implement and master the technology your organization needs to succeed. When you partner with us, we take care of your IT management so that you can focus on your business.

If you want to know more about IT solutions or how we can help you, feel free to reach out to us.

What You Need to Know About the Equifax Cybersecurity Breach

It’s happening. Again.

Another major cybersecurity breach is making headlines. And this one is truly unsettling. 44% of Americans are affected by it. That’s 143 million U.S. citizens. What’s worse, the target of the cyber attack was the credit reporting agency Equifax.

The story actually began months ago, but the big news broke last week when we learned the extent of the damage.

Cyber criminals gained access to Equifax data back in May, taking advantage of a web-based vulnerability. Then, as is all too common in these stories, they waited and watched. Over the course of roughly two months, they acquired some alarmingly critical data. We’re talking about names, birth dates, drivers license numbers and social security numbers.

News sources have already hit the credit giant with scathing criticism. For example, Business Insider observed, “Equifax . . . didn’t just have one of the worst security breaches in American history; it also handled the situation like a drunk teenager trying to hide the aftermath of particularly destructive house party.”

Ouch.

Protecting yourself.

First things first. You likely want to know if your personal information was part of the data breach. There’s an easy way to find out.

Equifax has already set up an online tool to let you know if your data was potentially exposed. Just go to www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. Enter your last name and the last 6 digits of your social security number.

If your info is safe, you’ll get the all-clear. If your data might be at risk, you’ll get a vaguely worded warning and an offer from Equifax for one free year of credit monitoring.

Keep in mind, though, that your social security number is with you forever. If your information was compromised, you’ll want to keep an eye on your credit report for several years as cyber criminals may not take advantage right away.

Protecting your business.

Of course, you’re a business owner. Protecting your personal assets is only half the story. You also need to protect your business.

Even if your company is small, there’s still significant cybersecurity risk. 50% of SMBs experienced a cybersecurity attack in the last year. Just because your operation isn’t global doesn’t mean cyber criminals will give you a free pass.

You still need a solid cybersecurity strategy.

The complexity of cybersecurity.

Cybersecurity is a complex, ever-changing field. It would be great if there were a quick-and-easy DIY approach. But this is not one of those things you can easily tackle on your own.

Why?

First, because cyber criminals are creative and persistent. As soon as cybersecurity professionals close all the known security gaps, cyber criminals find another. What it takes to keep your business safe today could easily change next month. Or next week.

Second, because even small networks have more vulnerability points than you might think. There are all kinds of ways to hack into a system. Addressing every possible point of entry requires high levels of expertise and experience.

And finally, because the stakes are high. If you suffer a cybersecurity breach, you’ll lose valuable data and your reputation will take a significant hit. Remember that quote from Business Insider about Equifax? Do you really want to risk folks saying the same kinds of things about your business?

Cybersecurity you can trust.

Our recommendation is simple. Rather than trying to manage your company’s cybersecurity on your own, call in the professionals.

An experienced cybersecurity partner will be able to provide the kind of protection you really need. These experts know how cyber criminals think, they stay up-to-date on the latest threats, and they’re ready to adjust as cybersecurity evolves over time.

Yes, professional cybersecurity comes at a cost. But it’s totally worth it.

If you’re interested in learning more about protecting your organization, the team at EaseTech can help. We have the experience, the tools and the knowledge to cover all your cybersecurity needs.

Plus, we take a down-to-earth approach. Not only do we want you to be safe – we want you to feel comfortable, too.

Give us a call today to find out how we can protect your business from cybersecurity threats.