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Web content filtering is a necessity in the enterprise. It’s a second line of defense if a false-negative message reaches a user’s inbox.

Must-Have Features in a Web Content Filter Solution

Before choosing a solution, it’s important to have specific features that effectively block malicious websites. Administrators must be able to configure the solution so that they can whitelist specific websites in case it’s necessary for job productivity. Most solutions have their own value-added proposition, but without the necessary features, a solution can be unreliable and won’t fit into your organization’s culture.

A few necessary features every web content filtering solution should have:

  • Phishing and social engineering security: A good content filtering system blocks websites known to be a part of common attacks and owned by known cyber-criminal groups.
  • Compliance: Depending on your industry, the organization is bound by specific compliant regulations. The web content solution you choose should be compliant with local laws and regulations.
  • Follows company policies: The solution that you choose should fit into your corporate culture and security policies to avoid interruption of user workflows.
  • Block streaming services: Most organizations do not want to allow streaming while working, so administrators must be able to block common sites.
  • Torrent blocking: Administrators should be able to configure a solution to block content browsing and illegal file-sharing sites.
  • Adult content blocking: Whether it’s illegal content or inappropriate content, administrators must be able to configure a solution to block content based on categories.

Types of Web Content Filters

Not every web content filter is built the same, and one distinguishing factor is the way a solution is deployed. If you choose the wrong type of solution, it can be difficult to deploy or may take additional resources and costs to support it. The types of web content filters are based on where the solution is installed.

The four types of web content filters are:

  • Client-based: Administrators install the solution on the local client machine, and it runs when the user connects to the network. Although this is not a good enterprise strategy, it’s best for small offices that don’t have the IT staff to support other types.
  • Server-based: The solution is installed on a central server, and all web traffic is first routed to the server and validated with the content filter database. It’s beneficial for mid-sized offices where administrators prefer local hosting instead of cloud-based solutions.
  • Gateway-based: Similar to a server-based solution, a central gateway server hosts the web content filtering solution where client internet traffic exits the network.
  • Cloud-based: This deployment solution is the most preferred by managed service providers and enterprise organizations. Web content filters are provisioned to the cloud where DNS lookups are performed and domains blocked.

Did You Know?


businesses experienced a DNS attack


malware & spyware domains categorised a day


predefined categories by default


of websites tested by Google for malware were infected

Common Business Requirements for Web Content Filters

Features are important, but businesses also have their own specific requirements. Some requirements are common across all industries, and your organization likely has the same concerns.

A few common business requirements:

  • Pricing: Although the cost of a solution is not often a top priority, it still must fit into your IT budget.
  • Scalability: Your organization might have only a few dozen employees now, but it could have hundreds in a few years. Web filtering solutions should be able to scale with your growing company, or you must spend money to replace it in the future.
  • Flexibility: Not every organization has the same requirements, so a web content filter must provide configurations to make it flexible for any organization. The solution should include access controls, granular configurations, and custom whitelists and blacklists.
  • Compatibility:  A cloud-based solution is generally compatible with any environment, but any solution you choose should have the ability to incorporate seamlessly into your own environment.
  • Dynamic database updates: Every day, new threats are created on the internet. A web content filter should have the ability to update frequently to include the latest threats detected in the wild. These updates should be automatic without administrator intervention.
  • Easy to manage: Too much administrator overhead puts stress on IT staff and costs money in lost productivity. Your chosen solution should be easy for administrators to maintain and continue to configure as the business environment changes.
  • Reporting: Stakeholders need to know that their investment is giving them a return on their investment. Administrators should be able to run reports and review them for any possible targeted attacks on the organization.

"Reasonably priced, great support, and easy to set up and block what I need to block."

Top Web Content Filter Solutions

TitanHQ WebTitan: WebTitan is TitanHQ’s own solution that offers on-premises and cloud-based deployments. It’s highly scalable and rated very well by MSPs and customers. Administrators love that WebTitan is easy to manage, and it has a fully automated reporting system. WebTitan includes 53 predefined categories including social media, gambling, adult content, and entertainment, and the database continues to grow as more threats are found on the internet. Customers report that WebTitan support is top-notch, and tickets are quickly acknowledged and resolved.

Barracuda Web Security: Barracuda Web Security offers virtual, cloud-based, and local installations. It mainly deals with spyware and virus protection, but also offers protection from domains hosting malware. Administrators can remotely support clients to configure or troubleshoot installations. The growing database contains thousands of domains identified as malicious and hosting malware. Pricing is tiered with Barracuda, so clients must know what they want before they choose a solution. Usability is reportedly intuitive, and maintenance requires low effort from administrator staff. An added benefit is Barracuda’s Chrome extension which can be installed across all workstations working with the Chrome browser.

Cisco Umbrella: The Cisco Umbrella solution is completely cloud-based, which means only corporations with a cloud environment will be interested in this product. It has a DNS-based web content filter, which is the preferred method for blocking content. Any web content policies are available out of the box, and the Cisco Umbrella database continues to grow with new IPs, URLs, and malicious domains. Cisco Umbrella plugs into firewall products and logs traffic activity. Customers package their options to get specific pricing, and customer support includes phone and online options. Cisco Umbrella is easy to deploy and easy to maintain.

Comodo Cybersecurity: Comodo has every type of deployment including cloud-based and on-premises. Because it’s made for enterprise environments, Comodo Cybersecurity scales well with growing organizations. It’s easy to maintain, and administrators can configure policies to filter based on location, endpoint, mobile device, IP, subnet and user network account. Comodo has a long history in the cybersecurity industry, so its gateway and filtering services database has a large storage containing numerous threats. The Secure Internet Gateway Gold is free, which is a nice bonus for enterprises on a budget. Support is available 24/7, and additional support is available to Platinum subscribers.

DNSFilter: Unique from all the other mentioned filters, DNSFilter is an API-based solution. An API solution lets developers create their own products using DNSFilter’s database and filtering system as the backend. It’s beneficial for enterprise organizations with a large developer team, or developers with a desire to build their own solutions. DNSFilter uses artificial intelligence to analyze domains and determine if content should be blocked. Customers can perform queries and run reports to determine if their filtering solution works. DNSFilter has a low per-user cost, but it has good support with a comprehensive online knowledge base to support developers in integrating the solution into their products.

Susan Morrow

Susan Morrow


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