Articles discussing the benefits of cloud-based web filtering can often confuse readers by listing benefits that are not cloud-exclusive or by adding benefits that might only appeal to a limited number of readers. Realistically, there are only two benefits of cloud-based web filtering that matter to businesses – cost and security.
There are many articles discussing the benefits of xyz software, but many of them can be confusing if the reader doesn´t already understand the basic concept of the software being discussed. A good example of this is articles discussing the benefits of cloud-based web filtering – especially those who proclaim cloud-based web filtering prevents users visiting malicious websites.
All web filtering solutions – whether hardware, software, on-premises, or in the cloud – can be configured to prevent users visiting malicious websites, even the default security tools provided by free web browsers such as Google and Edge. Similarly, most commercial web filtering solutions support content filtering by role and include a reporting suite.
What really matters to most businesses is “how much will it cost us?” and “how will it make our business more secure?” Unfortunately, the answers to these questions are often lost among irrelevant or superfluous information, so this article simply focuses on the two benefits of cloud-based web filtering that matter – cost and security.
The answer to this question has two elements – direct costs and indirect costs. The direct costs are easy to determine because commercial cloud-based web filtering is usually priced per user per month. Discounts are usually available depending on the number of employees that will use the service and the length of the subscription. Generally, you should expect to pay no more than $20 per user per year for cloud-based web filtering.
The indirect costs are harder to calculate because you have to factor in the cost of researching and evaluating web filtering solutions before deployment, and then the cost of deployment, configuration, and maintenance. Depending on the size and complexity of the business, this could run into many thousands of dollars, so it is an important consideration to take into account when answering the question “how much will it cost us?”.
By comparison, the direct cost of a hardware web filtering solution can be anything from $50 to $50,000 depending on the capabilities of the hardware and its user capacity. However, although the cheaper end of the market may seem like a bargain, the indirect costs associated with hardware solutions can be much higher due to licensing and servicing costs. Also, you may have to factor in the costs of updating and running the hardware; and, if the hardware dies on you, you have to replace it.
This is a harder question to answer because it depends on the capabilities of the web filtering solution and its ease of use. Some cloud-based web filtering solutions are very advanced and include features such as phishing prevention, zero-day attack mitigation, and DNSSEC authentication that you rarely find in hardware solutions. Features such as these will make your business more secure against Internet threats subject to how easy they are to use.
Ease of use is too often overlooked in the context of online security because any security solution is only effective if it is configured correctly. If a cloud-based web filtering solution is too complicated to configure or administer, any mistakes can lead to users visiting malicious websites in error or falling victim to phishing attacks that should have been prevented. Consequently, it is always important to evaluate any security solution in your own environment before committing to it.
Capabilities and ease of use aside, one advantage cloud-based web filtering has over other web filtering options is redundancy. This means that, if the cloud server on which the filtering solution is hosted experiences an outage, the filtering solution will automatically switch to a different cloud server ensuring continuity of service. This is not the case if a hardware device dies on you – in which case the business would have to revert to unfiltered – and unsecure – Internet access.
Prior to organizing a free trial of any security solution to evaluate it in your own environment, it is always a good idea to request a free demo. This will give you an idea of the capabilities of the solution and how easy they are to configure before incurring indirect evaluation costs. A demo will also give you an opportunity to ask the software vendor questions relating to the benefits of cloud-based web filtering that matter to your business.
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