Why Implement a Business Cloud Web Filter?

For many businesses, a cloud web filter may seem like an unnecessary expense. Yet for less than $20 per user per year, businesses can better protect their systems – and the data stored in them – from malware, ransomware, and credential theft. Additionally, business cloud web filters can also enhance productivity and help develop a culture of online security.

It may surprise some businesses to learn that employees are already using a cloud web filter without being asked to. In fact, anybody who uses Google or Microsoft Edge to search the Internet is protected by the browsers´ default security settings that prevent users visiting malicious websites or downloading apps that might cause “unexpected behaviors”.

This raises the question – if browsers´ default security settings are already protecting users from malicious websites and apps, why implement a business cloud web filter? The answer is quite simple. Browsers´ default security settings only go so far in protecting users. If they were a complete solution, the Internet would be a safe place. But it isn´t.

Why Browsers´ Default Security Settings Only Go So Far

Browsers´ default security settings only block access to a malicious website or warn users of the risk of continuing to an unsecure website when users search for the website. They don´t provide any protection when users type in a URL or click on a link in an unsolicited email unless enhanced protection (Google) or enhanced security mode (MS Edge) have been activated.

Most users are not aware these settings exist, and although it is possible for a business to apply these security measures in the workplace, this is not a practical solution for corporate security. Every device would have to be configured so employees could only use browsers with enhanced protection – including employees´ personal devices if they connect to the business network.

Thereafter, the administrative overhead of managing a strategy of this nature would be colossal if employees raised a ticket with IT every time access to a website was blocked. It is also the case that browsers´ enhanced security settings may not prevent zero-day attacks (Microsoft updates its security settings retrospectively) nor stop employees pursuing productivity-sapping online activities.


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What a Business Cloud Web Filter Can Do

The exact capabilities of a business cloud web filter vary from vendor to vendor, but most have the same basic functionality. This functionality enables businesses to apply policies to workplace Internet usage to prevent employees visiting malicious websites (mostly in real-time), websites that may cause offense (i.e., pornography), or website that decrease productivity (i.e., social media).

Policies can be applied universally, by user group, or by individual user. Therefore, if your business has a marketing department that requires access to social media websites, an exception can be created for the marketing department. Similarly, if your business shares its Internet connection with customers, you can apply one set of policies to employees and another to customers.

Many business cloud web filters have more granular controls that enable businesses to apply policies by category of website or by keyword – also universally, by user group, or by individual – or by time, so that if you are happy to let your employees use their workstations to catch up on social media events during their lunch break, you can create an exception to accommodate them.

Why a Cloud Web Filter for Business?

There are several different types of web filters for business, but a cloud web filter has multiple advantages over the others. For example, there are no capital expenses associated with cloud web filters – you pay as you go, and only for the number of employees using the web filter. Consequently, you are not paying for more capacity than you need as you might if you purchase a hardware filter.

Previously, the administrative overhead on the IT department was discussed. With a cloud web filter for business, there is virtually no IT overhead. All updates are automatic, the service has automatic failover if it goes down, and user queries go to the vendor´s support service rather than to your IT department. You don´t even have to pay for the electricity to power the cloud web filter.

A business cloud web filter also allows increased flexibility of work practices. This can be relevant if some employees work from home and need access to a website which is blocked by a usage policy. The employee can simply send a message to the system administrator (who can also be working from home), who signs into the web portal, and whitelists the required website remotely.

The Secondary Advantage of Implementing a Business Web Filter

The primary advantages of implementing a business web filter – regardless of whether it is deployed in the cloud or on-premises – are the prevention of malware, ransomware, credential theft, and data loss, and the prevention of productivity-sapping online activities that could even create relationship problems in the workplace if the online activity causes offense.

However, there is an important secondary advantage of implementing a business web filter and that is that it can help develop a culture of online security in the workplace. This concept is based on the ABC of enterprise threat prevention in which the implementation of a business cloud web filter raises awareness (“A”), which changes behaviors (“B”), which contribute towards the development of a culture (“C”) of online security.

Consequently, even if employees are never exposed to web-borne threats, they may become more careful about how they treat unsolicited emails, choose passwords, and respond to suspicious internal communications. Although the benefits of “ABC” cannot be quantified (because you cannot quantify the cost of an event that never took place because of greater awareness), implementing a business web filter could be the first step towards a more secure workplace.