Given that this is a hard enough process already, it’s sensible to see how your web filtering and safeguarding partners will stand up to the job.
The human element in switching systems can be one of the most difficult to get right. Local IT power users may be ingrained in their use of different pieces of software, and in Safeguarding, a change can be seen as a big problem.
The best way to alleviate this pain of integration is to train the new users in your preferred systems. IT users will feel much happier when they are experts in the new system and can answer their users’ questions with confidence. Those responsible for safeguarding are always more comfortable when they know everything in their old process maps neatly to the new world, and nothing is lost. Rightly, their concerns are over missing a key issue for a young person in their care.
Ensure your provider can offer training – either on-site or remotely, and is willing to reengage when you add a new site.
|Area||Who to inform||What to cover||Who should cover it|
|Web Filtering||IT team||New user interface, reporting and application of policies||Vendor, local or remote|
|Web Filtering||Safeguarding team||What can be reported on, what’s being blocked or allowed by the new filter system||Local IT team|
|Web Filtering||All staff||Advance warning of changes||Email update or similar|
|Digital Monitoring||Safeguarding team||New UI, Alerting procedure||Vendor, remote or local|
|Digital Monitoring||IT team||How to install||Vendor documentation|
|Digital Monitoring||All staff||What’s being monitored, and why||Email update or similar|
|Record keeping||Safeguarding team||New UI, process flow||Vendor, local or remote|
|Record keeping||All staff||How to report a concern||Training delivered by local Safeguarding team|
Many systems work well when used with one organisation, yet poorly across multiple sites with different organisational structures. It’s important to be easily able to bring in your new school with minimal changes to their configuration.
Firstly, a configuration system which allows for ordered policies will provide the capability to “layer” trust policy on top of that of the new school, producing a superset of both. This caters for that transitional period where a new school needs to be immediately up to your standards but may need some intermediate gradual change management.
Secondly, the configuration should be manageable centrally where possible. A “master” configuration allows those trust wide policies to be pushed straight out to all filter units – or, in the case of a central deployment applied to all tenants. This saves time and ensures consistency.
Finally, look for a vendor willing to help with translating configurations. If your new school has a niche system or something uncommon in education, it may be more challenging to export their web filter rules and merge them with the trusts.
Contracts and costs
New sites are often under contract for filtering and safeguarding products. Many of these contracts are 3 or 5 years in length. Of course, you would rather have a single vendor across the trust for ease of support and operation. This is frequently one of the biggest pain points when bringing on a new school – as budget may not be available for changing all these systems. How can your vendor selection help here?
Ask upfront about scaling the licence. Some vendors will treat each School as a new sale, and not provide the discount appropriate to the scale of the trust. Ask your vendors – in writing – to ensure they’ll give you an option to extend your agreement to cover this situation.
It’s possible your vendor will help you financially if there’s an onerous contract with the incumbent. This is unusual, but it’s worth asking. Education focussed vendors who are used to dealing with MATs are more likely to be able to help out in these kind of situations.
If you’re planning to bring on extra sites – but the plans are still in early stages, or dates aren’t finalised, it’s sensible to work with your vendor upfront. Share as much as is feasible in your situation and you will usually find there’s flexibility.
Network and connectivity
Bringing a new site on board always means adding another internet connection. We don’t always get lucky and find the new academy is on the same ISP as the rest of the trust. Even then there can be migration difficulties. But what can your choice of web filter vendor do to influence these challenges?
Firstly, a vendor which is tied to their own connectivity might find it difficult to quickly deliver filtering to your new site. It’s understandable that there are advantages to having ISP and filtering with the same people, but most of these advantages can be achieved by choosing a vendor and ISP or service partner who work together. This will allow the partner to disaggregate filtering and connectivity, giving you more flexibility in how you roll out to the new site.
Secondly, if your filtering and safeguarding vendor can offer tactical solutions such as an IPSec VPN, this might bridge the gap between waiting until the end of the term to align the new site with your MPLS network, or paying handsomely to do it now.
Finally, if your filtering, safeguarding and record keeping products are all capable of cloud deployment, it should be much easier to work around any temporary issues with your network.
Use this checklist to see how well prepared you are for the inevitable new site.
|Item||Solution in Place?|
|Pricing scalability for existing suite|
|Contract buy out strategy available?|
|Configuration management plan|
|Plan to support sites not on MPLS or our WAN|
If you have a question or would like to learn more about how Smoothwall can take the challenge away from your integration, please get in touch. We’d be delighted to help.