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22 Dec 2016

2016: A Year in Review

At the end of December I like to reflect on the year that’s been, looking at global to local news, tragedy to delight, with a spattering of light hearted fun and a recap of Smoothwall’s progression.

I'm sure you can all relate with me in saying what a year 2016 has been, summarised by the now trending meme "me at the beginning of 2016 vs me at the end of 2016".

On the subject of memes, this was really the year for them, right? The year of memes is summarised perfectly in this article.

So, where to begin?

First of all, I can’t really write this blog post without of course mentioning politics. For the UK, it was Brexit, the Leave VS Stay campaign that saw the UK divide in its vote in the EU referendum, with the very close result of 51.9% of UK voters electing to leave.

Understandably with such a close vote, there were many people upset with the result, and the value of the pound instantly dropped (we’re now slowly recovering from this).

As of yet, Article 50 has yet to be triggered by PM Theresa May, meaning at the time of writing this the UK are currently no clearer as to what Brexit truly means for the nation.

This conversation also couldn’t be had without mentioning the new President of the United States of America, Donald Trump. This year saw the Republican candidate, Donald Trump, go head to head with Democrat party leader, Hillary Clinton, to run for the position of POTUS and to take the place of Barack Obama.

With such diverse campaigns and experience, the outcome inevitably rocked the nation, and many US celebrities hoped for a revolt by the Electoral College to overturn the vote, but this didn’t happen and on 19th December 2016, Donald Trump was formally elected as President.

In more entertaining news, England managed to claim some sporting victory at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Brazil, earning 27 gold medals and coming second place to the USA.

In November 2016 Brit Andy Murray became the World No. 1 Tennis Player after a win in the Paris Masters, which all helped to make up for the miserable result for the UK in the Euro 2016 Football Championships.

In tech news, we saw Facebook’s acquisition, Instagram, go from strength to strength, with it’s active user base doubling in the past two years, and to bolster their offering they released Instagram Stories to rival Snapchat.

Microsoft signed a deal to acquire corporate social media platform LinkedIn for a deal worth $26.2 billion, and other companies making notable acquisitions included Oracle and IBM.

The big news we saw in Education was the updated version of the Keeping Children Safe in Education document that was released in September 2016, making it a legislative requirement for all schools to have appropriate filtering and monitoring in place.

This has brought online safety to the top of schools agendas and has caused a surge of interest in filtering and monitoring. Which leads me nicely into what a year it’s been for Smoothwall…

We kicked off our e-Safety Roadshow in March 2016 in Leeds, which welcomed renowned safeguarding specialists to the stage to talk about the latest safeguarding and online safety challenges in school.

From here, we visited Basingstoke, Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Bristol and London, reaching more than 400 school leaders with our message of online safety and keeping children safe online.

The message was well received as we saw more and more schools look towards industry bodies for direction with their online safety strategy and policies. In response to the demand to safeguard children online, Smoothwall also launched it’s new safeguarding reporting suite, generating reports for schools based on user activity within seven safeguarding category rulesets; radicalisation, suicide, abuse, substance abuse, bullying, criminal activity and adult content.

The new suite helps to highlight the intent and behaviour surrounding web activity, rather than just a singular event, and will flag a warning ranging from caution to danger.

This new functionality has been a firm favourite with our existing 7000 UK schools. Talking of our product, this year really has been one for development at Smoothwall as we also introduced market leading BitDefender to power our anti-malware engine, along with giving our firewall a new look and feel.

This year also saw the launch of our brand new Smoothwall Community, which allows customers to see demonstrations of features we’re looking to release, and give us feedback and make suggestions to our product.

Alongside the Smoothwall Community, our website, online help and product documentation have all had a facelift too. Smoothwall also joyfully celebrated our 15th birthday this year, and we’re proud as to how we’ve evolved.

We now employ over 150 people across three offices in Leeds, Fareham and Charlotte, North Carolina, and we’re growing every day.

We’re proud to this year have kicked off our fundraising initiatives, and so far have raised over £500 and donated gifts and prizes to worthy causes, mostly charities that help disadvantaged children.

I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s been a busy year! It’s easy to get bogged down by the negatives happening around us, but it’s always worthwhile taking some time to reflect on how far you’ve come.

I certainly think 2016 has been a good year, and we have a lot of exciting developments lined up for 2017 which I’m sure you’ll join us in getting excited about...

In 2017 we gear up for our biggest year at Bett yet, with an augmented reality game taking centre stage on our stand (C381). We’ll also be launching our brand new advanced monitoring solution, Visigo, which monitors keystrokes on a device and is moderated by a third party to access any potential safeguarding risks, before reporting back to the school.

This product helps to further bolster our portfolio of safeguarding tools for schools.We are also enhancing our partner programme for 2017 (you can read all about it here) meaning there has truly never been a better time to work with Smoothwall.

If all this isn’t enough, there’s still plenty more to come, but I think we’ll keep the rest under wraps for now…

Thanks for reading. Please leave your comments below and let us know what your highlight of 2016 was, and what you’re looking forward to in 2017.

Further Reading
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