Thurstable School – Smoothwall Filter Case Study
What’s the background?
Thurstable School, Sports College and Sixth Form Centre in Essex has over 1,011 pupils aged between 11-18 years and over 160 members of staff. The school houses an impressive e-Learning Centre and prides themselves in innovative educational technology applications and conduct a wide variety of staff training.
Scott Everett, E-Learning: Technical Champion and Centre Manager, reinforced the School’s enthusiasm for new technology applications, saying, “You name the technology – We are testing the possible educational benefits of it!”
What was the challenge?
Thurstable wanted real-time content scanning to block unwanted material on the internet before the school became aware of an issue. The School needed a faster, more reliable way of filtering by request. Scott said that they also needed to monitor in sync with their Google Chromebooks even when they were connected outside of their network.
After using Lightspeed Systems for a couple of years, once their contract was up for renewal, they discovered that they weren’t providing what they needed and the School liked Smoothwall’s Web Filtering tools and Google Integration.
They had been using the old method of authenticating with Google Apps Directory Sync – but this was no longer working for the school because their Google Apps domain was different from their Active Directory domain.
Now, Five years on, Everett stated that “With due diligence – prior to renewing our contract with Smoothwall, we had a look around at competitors to evaluate if we are getting the best value for money and resources – it was a resounding yes.”
How Smoothwall helped
Using the brand new Google directory feature released in Framlingham (March 2016) allowed the school to resolve the issues they were having. Now, the school is able to filter against their Google Apps domains, negating the need for Google Apps Directory Sync. The installation went very smoothly without a hitch. As soon as the new directory was set up and synced (which took far less time than anticipated), everything just worked like magic.
As many of the college level students at Thurstable take classes at the University of Essex, it was key for Scott, and the School, that students access would be monitored even outside of their network. They decided to utilise the Google Integration tool as part of their Smoothwall Filter solution, which enabled them to prevent non-domain log on, force Safesearch and comprehensively filter Google sites. It also allowed them to consistently monitor and filter students internet activity via their Google Account, even when they were away from the school. This was enabled using Smoothwall’s global proxy functionality.
Using Smoothwall’s Content Aware Analysis allows them to identify brand new content on the web in real-time, long before URL blocklists. Thurstable are able to utilise Smoothwall’s Bandwidth Optimisation to limit the bandwidth and time settings for individual users. They use the Content Modification features within Smoothwall, so that they are able to filter out comments on YouTube whilst still enabling their college students and staff to view the video content. The school are also able to allow staff allocated time settings for the use of social media and YouTube on their devices.
With due diligence – prior to renewing our contract with Smoothwall, we had a look around at competitors to evaluate if we are getting the best value for money and resources – it was a resounding yes.