I am not one to advocate a Big Brother-esque environment for business as that does little for morale or instilling a two-way sense of trust. But there are companies out there that must lock down machines, for whatever reason, and need the tools to do so. Home use, of course, is a different story - where young children are susceptible to falling into the clutches of the wealth of mature content the web has to offer.
When you need to block content, it's a relief to know there are plenty of tools out there that do the job. I have identified five such tools that I believe can do the trick for anyone willing (or needing) to take the time to get these products set up and running properly. Some are a bit easier than others; but, in the end, they all do a great job of protecting you, your company, your employees, or your children.
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1 Net Nanny
Net Nanny is one of the most popular content filtering systems. Net nanny is a powerful solution that categorizes in real time (so it doesn't rely on white/black lists), offers remote management, has a flexible alert/reporting tool, and can handle the usual suspects for parental controls/content filtering (time controls, profanity masking, IM management, and more). Net Nanny is one of the easiest tools in the category to use and although it is primarily targeted to home/parental-control use, it can be deployed in a business environment as well.
K9 is another outstanding solution focused primarily on the protection of children. With this tool you can block entire categories of specific content, block specific websites, take advantage of "Safe Search", and even rate content. K9 also includes a powerful anti-malware tool that will protect your machine from malicious software. Unlike Net Nanny, K9 uses a web-based interface to configure and monitor the system.
3. Save Squid
Safe Squid begins to dive into waters more business-oriented. Safe Squid offers a much more powerful set of filtering tools as well as more detailed logs, user authentication filtering, redundant-level content filtering, re-programmable content filters, programmable templates, caching and pre-fetching, and much more. Safe Squid is an HTTP 1.1 Proxy server and can help you prevent employees from misusing resources. Unlike both Net Nanny and K9, Safe Squid is much more geared toward businesses. Do understand that Safe Squid isn't nearly as easy to install as is Net Nanny or K9. Safe Squid is also available for both Linux and Windows.
DansGuardian is an incredibly powerful proxy filter that is about as flexible a content filtering system as you will ever find. Using phrase matching, PICS filtering, and URL filtering, DansGuardian does not filter based on a ban lists. The one downfall some users might find is that DansGuardian does not have a fancy GUI for configuration. You will need to edit flat text files in order to configure the system. DansGuardian can be set up on a local system or set up as a remote proxy (clients will then have to be set up to use that proxy in order for the system to work.)
OpenDNS offers solutions for everyone from households to enterprise businesses. OpenDNS offers industry-leading maleware and botnet protection, web filtering, fast/reliable DNS, a globally distributed cloud, and an incredibly easy web-based administration interface. And for the larger clients, OpenDNS offers Enterprise Insights which is enterprise-grade security and control delivered through the cloud.
No matter your size or your situation, you'll find a content filtering product that perfectly fits your needs. Whether you're looking for a simple content filter for your children or a global tool to lock down your enterprise, the tools exist and are right at your fingertips. Give one (or more) of these a try, you're bound to find one that solves your problems.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.